10/21/2004

Caution is the watchword on eminent domain — (Cumberland County NJ) Daily Journal, 10/21/04

Editorial Opinion

Millville Mayor James Quinn said he couldn't "let the city down." He said he wouldn't be able to sleep if he didn't support, and the City Commission didn't approve, an ordinance giving the city power of eminent domain over businesses standing in the way of a new shopping center along Route 47.

Considering what the shopping center would do for this city — 1,000 new jobs and millions of dollars in property tax revenue — it's easy to understand the mayor's point of view.

The mayor says the facts are in black and white. We suggest, however, that before the city uses its eminent domain power, it not only calculate the numbers but also count and weigh the human cost and possible loss of trust that could accrue if the city were to relocate or shut down an established business in favor of a new one. City officials must consider the fact that these businesses have provided jobs to local residents for years and during tougher economic times for Cumberland County.

Opponents of eminent domain say it's unconstitutional in this case — using it to condemn property to favor one business over another because of the ratables and jobs a business will provide. The power of eminent domain originated to further the public good for projects such as roads and bridges.

We urge city officials to use all their powers of persuasion to get the developer (Goodman Properties) and the businesses involved to work out a fair agreement that is satisfactory to everyone. Eminent domain is a powerful tool that should be used as an act of last resort, if at all.

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