Supreme Court to look at eminent domain
Daytona Beach news Journal, 9/29/04

by Jay Stapleton

An agreement by the Supreme Court to decide when local governments may seize people's homes and businesses against their will – to make way for projects that produce more tax revenue – will not impact pending eminent domain proceedings here, the city's attorney believes.

By agreeing Tuesday to hear a Connecticut case early next year, justices plan to take up the matter during this term, which begins Monday and ends in June. Justices last dealt with the issue 20 years ago, when the court ruled Hawaii could take land from large landowners and resell it to others.

At issue is the scope of the Fifth Amendment, which allows governments to take private property through eminent domain, provided the owner is given "just compensation" and the land is for "public use."

A number of parcels along the boardwalk in Daytona Beach are in eminent domain proceedings as a result of being declared blighted by the City Commission, City Attorney Bob Brown said.

Florida is one of eight states that forbids the use of eminent domain when the purpose is not to eliminate blight. Florida law sets forth how redevelopment can take place and the powers of cities in community redevelopment projects.

In the latest case, Susette Kelo and several other homeowners in a working-class neighborhood in New London, Conn., filed a lawsuit after city officials announced plans to bulldoze their homes to clear the way for a riverfront hotel, health club and offices.

The residents refused to budge, arguing that taking their property was unjustified.

Daytona Beach's Brown said he didn't think a decision would affect proceedings here because the New London case appears to be over generating tax values. "That's not what we're trying to do in our redevelopment," he said.

The goal here is to "eliminate the conditions that existed at the time it was determined blighted," he said.

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