Land grabs ruffle feathers in Triangle
(Raleigh-Durham NC) Triangle Business Journal, 10/10/04

As the Triangle Transit Authority and cities increasingly take land, the U.S. Supreme Court readies to rule on eminent domain
By Amanda Jones

As local governments in the Triangle increasingly lust after privately held land to convert to "public use," the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to rule on the legality of the time-honored but little-tested concept of eminent domain.

In two high-profile development projects, officials with both the Triangle Transit Authority and the city of Raleigh are invoking eminent domain to forcibly buy land needed for rail lines, transit stops and a new convention center.

Just this month, the city of Durham began tearing down the dilapidated Heart of Durham motel - a property it bought after suing in the wake of eminent domain condemnation.

Whether local governments are appropriately taking privately owned property for economic development projects is at issue in a case accepted for review by the justices of the nation's top court. The case will mark the first time the Supreme Court has issued a ruling on eminent domain law in 20 years.

The case specifically challenges plans by a Connecticut town to condemn privately owned property so a private developer can build a hotel, a conference center, office buildings, housing and parking.

Taken state by state, court rulings have produced a patchwork quilt of case law addressing eminent domain. Seven states allow condemnations for private development alone. Eight forbid the use of eminent domain when the purpose is not to eliminate blight. Three states are ambiguous. And 32, including North Carolina, have not addressed the issue.

George Autry, a lawyer with Cranfill, Sumner & Hartzog in Raleigh, looks forward to Supreme Court clarification on the issue, especially given the increased use of eminent domain in this market. "There's not been much urban redevelopment that would spawn case law," he says of the Triangle. "But it's beginning to happen, like with downtown Raleigh's urban renewal plan."

Over the years, North Carolina communities have used eminent domain condemnation to claim properties for public roads and even for public facilities. Eminent domain also has been used since the 1960s to claim "blighted" properties in urban areas - the most recent example being the Heart of Durham case.

Before condemning a property, local governments try to negotiate a purchase price. If a price cannot be agreed upon, the land may be condemned, upon which the government sues and takes the property at the stipulated price unless it loses in court.

The city of Raleigh has one eminent domain case pending, and it involves property needed for the new convention center. York Family Properties has disputed the $3 million compensation the city has offered for its two-acre property and office building at 205 West Cabarrus Street, says Assistant City Attorney Francis Rasberry.

York's lawyer, Charles Francis of Francis & Austin in Raleigh, says the York family does not question the "public use" aspect of the project, only the amount of compensation.

"The York family supports downtown redevelopment," says Francis. "It's just a question of being paid just compensation. That's not even close to the value of that property."

Francis believes the Supreme Court will rule narrowly by addressing the issue of whether land can be taken under eminent domain and then turned over to private interests for development. Even though he doesn't believe the York case would be impacted by any ruling, he's watching closely.

"That issue was somewhat controversial here, too, in southeast Raleigh in the early '90s," he says. "A lot of people resent the power and think it's a tool of gentrification. That's what they are arguing in the (Supreme Court) case.

"It's of great interest to all of us practicing eminent domain law," Francis says.

The Triangle Transit Authority has one eminent domain case pending and two others in which condemnation proceedings probably will be filed within weeks, says Scott Smith, the TTA's real estate manager.

The TTA expects to condemn two Durham properties owned by Keeter & Associates of Charlotte and by Starr Lassiter, owner of Flintom Service Inc. Both owners have rejected TTA's purchase offers.

In downtown Raleigh, the TTA in June took over businessman Dan Wilson's property at 200 South West Street after the two parties could not settle on a price.

Autry, Wilson's lawyer, says, "These types of takings cause all kinds of hardships. Dan had tenants in his building who also took the position of wanting just compensation. It penalizes Dan."

Autry also represents the owners of Tire Supply Inc. on Raleigh's Lane Street, where a TTA rail station is plotted. Tire Supply owner Larry Hester says he has been waiting a year for the TTA to make an offer. "We've got a niche here, being so close to state government," he says. "It's difficult to pull up and go somewhere else."

Autry says most states' eminent domain laws are "just all over the place. You can't tell from one state to another how it's going to be interpreted," he says. "I'm looking forward to a further definition of what threshold to take."

The Supreme Court is expected to provide new guidance as soon as July.

The Triangle Business Journal, online through MSNBC: http://msnbc.msn.com


When does 'public use' become abuse of power?
The (Central IL) Pantagraph, 10/5/04

Editorial Opinion

Tried and proven methods that have helped redevelopment of cities are being tested because some people think government officials are "abusing" their authority.

A case before the U.S. Supreme Court sounds similar to one the town of Normal is facing now. And across Division Street in Bloomington, a group of residents wants to throw out home-rule because the City Council used that to approve construction of a downtown arena that was rejected 2-to-1 in an advisory referendum.

The Supreme Court case involves homeowners in a neighborhood of New London, Conn. The city wants to raze their homes and relocate them so a river-front hotel, health club and offices can be built.

New London is using the power of eminent domain to acquire the properties through negotiations or a price agreed upon in court, or determined by a court, at a later date. The argument is that the city is using a "public use" acquisition law for a purpose not intended by the law.

For years, governmental units have used eminent domain laws to acquire needed private land for such things as streets, sewers public buildings and intersection expansions. Such actions are for "public use." But when cities seize unblighted property merely to allow redevelopment that will produce a better looking area or additional tax revenues, opponents argue that is not for "public use" and should not be allowed.

Normal has four court cases pending as it tries to acquire land that will become part of a hotel/convention center/parking deck financed by the town and a private developer.

The Supreme Court hasn't dealt with this issue in 20 years, but the last time it did it favored the governmental body.

The local arguments have not been about what is best for the communities as a whole, but whether elected city officials have the right to circumvent people with a financial stake in the outcome.

The Pantagraph: www.pantagraph.com

Eminent domain OK'd for Uptown development
Park Ridge (IL) Herald-Advocate, 10/7/04

By Jennifer Johnson

Uptown redevelopment took another step forward Monday night when the Park Ridge City Council approved an ordinance allowing the city to use its power of eminent domain to acquire a so-called "integral" piece of property.

The property is located at the southeast corner of Northwest Highway and Meacham at 142 N. Northwest Hwy. It consists of several first floor store fronts with residential units above.

The Happy House Restaurant, one of the last remaining businesses, is still open, and there are about six or seven residential tenants still living there, said Park Ridge City Manager Tim Schuenke.

Schuenke said the city has been in negotiations with the owner of the building for "roughly one year." He called the talks "amicable," and said the city is interested in coming to an agreement with the owner, rather than proceeding to trial where a judge or jury decides the value of the property.

"In the interim and throughout the process, we will continue to negotiate in order to arrive at a voluntary settlement," Schuenke said.

The eminent domain process could take as long as two years if a case goes to court, Schuenke said. Now that the City Council has authorized the city to use eminent domain, the city attorney will file the motion with the Cook County Circuit Court.

The 142 N. Northwest building is part of Uptown redevelopment's Target Area II, which is bordered by Northwest Highway, Touhy and Meacham.

Also on Monday night, the City Council approved a 30-day extension on negotiations between the city and PRC Developers.

PRC is will be redeveloping Target Area II, and Schuenke said a redevelopment agreement will be ready and presented to the City Council at the Nov. 1 meeting. The City Council could vote on whether to approve the agreement on Nov. 15.

Park Ridge Herald-Advocate: www.pioneerlocal.com

National City residents oppose expansion of eminent domain
San Diego Unin-Tribune, 10/7/04

By Elizabeth White

Residents [of National City] spoke overwhelmingly against a proposal to expand the city's eminent domain powers at a Tuesday night meeting, saying leaders are pursuing redevelopment at the expense of small businesses and property owners.

The joint hearing of the City Council and Community Development Commission drew nearly a full house at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center. More than 20 speakers criticized the proposal to allow the city to acquire commercial and industrial properties west of Interstate 805 for the next 12 years as it tries to reinvent its image.

Eminent domain would be used as a last resort if a deal between the property owner and city to sell the land proved impossible, said Byron Estes, CDC deputy director of redevelopment.

A presentation by Estes did not appear to alleviate the fears of many in the audience, though the city's assurances that residential properties are exempt from the proposal did seem to sink in. Almost all of the speakers testified on behalf of small businesses.

While some simply wanted more restrictions on the vast 2,400-acre area the proposal covers, others said they oppose eminent domain in any form.

"You are not treating the commercial and industrial leaders with respect," said Mary Johnson, who owns four pieces of property in National City, including a puppet-making business on 11th Street.

Wayne English said he and his wife bought a piece of property on Fourth Street and Highland Avenue, but now they're reluctant to build on it for fear it might be seized.

"You are the City Council and you were voted in by the people here," said English. "I haven't heard anyone for it. Listen to the people."

English and others said they fear excessive redevelopment will rob the city of its mom-and-pop-store atmosphere in favor of shopping malls and retail chains.

"I have always wondered what happened to the wonderful city I lived in in the 1950s and '60s," said Frieda Pallas-Sprague. "This is a small town. It should stay a small town. Find another town, not National City."

Others said that while the current proposal does not include residences, eminent domain is a slippery slope.

"I'm totally against eminent domain, period," said Ed Bullock, who lives on McKinley Avenue. He said he's gotten offers to buy the house from real-estate agencies, and that worries him, even if they are unrelated to eminent domain. "Maybe we'll sell it if we feel like it, period. But for now we want to live in our homes in peace."

Jesse Ramirez, a city resident for more than 50 years who lives on Plaza Boulevard, said eminent domain payment rarely covers relocation and lost-income costs incurred by the pushed-out owner.

Estes countered that any property acquired by eminent domain is always assessed for fair-market value and can include generous payment for loss of business and relocation.

The high level of response at the meeting was expected. Tuesday's hearing was continued from Sept. 21, when so many people showed up at the council's chambers at City Hall that the meeting had to be postponed to accommodate all the interested residents.

"There are no dumb questions here tonight," said hearing Chairman Ron Morrison. "There will be no rush to decisions. Everyone will get a chance; we're here for the duration."

Morrison, who was in charge because Mayor Nick Inzunza and Vice Mayor Frank Parra own property in the redevelopment area and had to disqualify themselves, reminded the audience that the council hears proposals all the time. Until approved, they are just that – proposals, he said.

Morrison and Councilmen Fideles Ungab and Luis Natividad all told the audience they are not yet sure how they will vote.

There's no rush. The approval process has been slowed in response to public outcry. The city will hold a workshop with residents to get into more detail on the proposal on Nov. 15 at 6 p.m. at the Community Center. The CDC and council won't vote on the proposal until January, Estes said.

Another speaker said he hopes the vote will wait until the U.S. Supreme Court issues its decision on an eminent domain case out of New London, Conn. The case centers on whether a city can take private property for public use when the property in question isn't blighted or run down and the purpose is purely economic development.

Estes said California eminent domain law is so restrictive that any rules tightened by the court would likely not affect National City. The Connecticut case also involves residential units, something not in the National City proposal.

For some, though, waiting to hear all sides and a decision from the top court isn't enough. A few speakers said three council members should not be able to make such a consequential decision. In response, Ungab said a public vote may be in order.

San Diego Union-Trbune: www.signonsandiego.com

Newsletter sparks concerns
The (Brazoria County TX) Facts, 10/6/04

By Velda Hunter

A newsletter meant to inform residents about Freeport happenings turned into another earful for City Council in the latest exchange of opinions concerning the marina project.

Just about every available seat was occupied at Monday's City Council meeting. The hot topic seemed to be the 14-page brochure, which cost the city about $11,000 and was mailed to residents and businesses last week. It included information about the newly annexed Bryan Beach and efforts to clean the city. But it was the two-page section on the marina project that prompted comments.

"The propaganda in the middle of that brochure should not have been paid for by our tax dollars," Cathy Williams said.

The brochure was intended to clear up misinformation concerning the project, said City Manager Ron Bottoms, later noting positive comments about the newsletter outweighed negative ones.

However, some said the article contained false statements.

Wright Gore III, son of Western Seafood Co.'s president, disputed several statements. He asked for feedback from City Council on questions regarding so-called blighted homes in Freeport and use of eminent domain. But he didn't get answers after City Attorney Wallace Shaw said responding to the inquiries would violate the Open Meetings Act. The newsletter was not an agenda item, and residents' comments came during the public comment part of the meeting.

"It makes us sound as if we were not interested in working with the city," Gore said Tuesday. The company would've been happy to share, but it couldn't do away with property, including a piece that would have blocked shrimp boat access to its packing house, he said.

Unlike what was stated in the article, Gore said the company never indicated they wanted to be a partner in the project. He added Western Seafood didn't file a lawsuit to stop the project as the article mentions. The injunction, Gore said, was to keep docks from being built on their property.

Bottoms, who wrote the bulk of the newsletter, said the evidence proves otherwise. "I stand by what was said," he said Tuesday.

When Bottoms first met with Walker Royall, the developer, Wright Gore II attended the meeting, Bottoms said. Both Gore II and his son attended a later meeting with the developer. "If they were not potential partners, why were they at these meetings?" Bottoms said.

Developers are building the marina, touted as the key to downtown development and revitalization, with a $6 million loan from the city. City officials have said they are prepared to use eminent domain, the power of a government to seize private land at fair market value for public use, to get the land if they cannot work out a deal. That has prompted concern from some residents and business people who fear loss of property.

A federal judge ruled in the city's favor concerning its use of eminent domain after a lawsuit was filed by Western Seafood Co., which could lose some of its property. But the issue isn't dead.

Freeport resident Skip Pratt questioned why the certificates of obligation were issued instead of letting voters decide if they wanted to spend money toward the project.

"It is my thinking that your actions should speak for the city of Freeport," Pratt said at the meeting. "What we want should be for what you want."

But Freeport resident Lila Lloyd said the city needs new businesses and residents. Businesses wouldn't move into Freeport because it was trashy, Lloyd said. Now that the city is trying to do something about its image by telling residents to clean up, people are complaining, she said. It's the same with the marina project, she said.

"I planned to compliment you on the brochure, but I've heard so much negative stuff that my head is heavy," Lloyd said. She suggested the city have a meeting to "shake out the gripe."

Pastor Abel Garcia of First Baptist Church of Freeport said, "I do realize there is a lot of passion in this room and passion is OK. ... My prayer is that the same amount of passion be given to the betterment of this community."

Councilman John Smith III said he didn't expect the newsletter to generate a lot of negative impact. "We know we have had issues with people getting the data," Smith said. "The newsletter was one way we thought would put everyone on the same page." But a few people put a negative spin on what the city does, he said.

Freeport Mayor Jim Barnett said the complaints dominating the meeting weren't representative of the feedback the city has received. "The review has been very positive from many, many other people," he said.

The Facts: www.thefacts.com

City, company to watch eminent domain case
By Michael Baker

The U.S. Supreme Court might unknowingly determine the fate of the city’s marina project as its justices decide whether economic development justifies eminent domain.

To this point, city officials have prevailed in a lawsuit filed by Western Seafood Co. as the company tries to hold on to 330 feet of its property that the city wants for the project. Company officials have said losing the property containing docking area would be fatal to its business, but city officials have said the impact would
be minimal on the company. While city officials have tried to negotiate for the land, they also have said they would take it by eminent domain — the power of a government to seize private land at fair market value for public use — if necessary.

The company had tried to block the city’s use of eminent domain, but U.S. District Judge Samuel B. Kent ruled in August that the city had a right to pursue the proceedings.

The Supreme Court is hearing a similar case filed by New London, Conn., homeowners whose property is wanted by city officials for a riverfront hotel, health club and offices. Wright Gore III, the son of Western Seafood’s president, said the results of that case would override Kent’s decision. "If the Supreme Court rules for the property owners, it would be game over for the city — immediately," Gore said.

Neither City Manager Ron Bottoms nor John Hightower, the attorney representing the city in the Western Seafood lawsuit, could be reached for comment Tuesday.

Freeport Mayor Jim Barnett said the city is moving forward with its plans for the project. He agreed the Supreme Court’s ruling would have an impact, but it wouldn’t matter if the city already had the property, he said.

"I guess timing would be a factor there,” Barnett said.

Gore, who had help with his case from the attorney presenting the Connecticut case to the Supreme Court, said he wasn’t concerned about the timing issue. Western Seafood’s suit has been appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, and Gore expects that to take several months to be heard. However, he said the Supreme Court case should be heard in the next few weeks.

"It’s not going to happen after the fact," he said.

The Facts: www.thefacts.com

Additional details are available at the protest website: www.scandalinfreeport.com


Supreme Court case may affect redevelopment plan
Atlanticville (NJ)/GM News, 10/6/04

Justices to hear appeal of eminent domain limits

by Christine Varno

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hear a case involving eminent domain could affect redevelopment in Long Branch, according to an attorney for the Institute for Justice (IJ).

The Supreme Court agreed on Sept. 27 to hear Kelo vs. New London, Conn., which would set limits on eminent domain under the U.S. Constitution, IJ attorney Scott Bullock said.

"It’s going to be a big case, and it will affect how a city addresses private-to-private property transfers," Bullock said. "It is similar to what is going on in Long Branch."

Homeowners of 36 properties in a three-street neighborhood in Long Branch, known as the MTOTSA group, have asked Bullock to represent them if their properties are taken by the city through the process of eminent domain.

Bullock said his agency is following the case, but it would be premature to accept it until the city government acts on eminent domain.

MTOTSA, which stands for the neighborhood of Marine and Ocean Terraces and Seaview Avenue, is located in the oceanfront redevelopment zone designated as Beachfront North, Phase II, which is slated for seizure through eminent domain.

The designated co-developers, The Applied Cos., Hoboken, and Matzel and Mumford Corp., a division of K. Hovnanian, Middletown, have proposed razing the neighborhood and constructing townhouses and condominiums in place of the existing homes.

The MTOTSA group has said the city is abusing its power of eminent domain.

"The Supreme Court decision to take the New London case will affect homeowners threatened by eminent domain abuse not only in MTOTSA but throughout the country," Olga Netto, of MTOTSA, said last week. "The ability of cities to take private property by eminent domain for ‘public use’ will then be redefined to what its original intent was — to replace the property with facilities the public can own and use."

Netto said economic development is not a public use and the public needs to recognize that no one’s home is safe if economic development continues to be used as a justification for municipalities to acquire private property through eminent domain.

"City governments claim they want more tax revenue from a struggling city, so they condemn a residential neighborhood to replace it with hotels and condominiums," said IJ’s Bullock.

IJ is a nonprofit law firm based in Washington, D.C., that specializes in the protection of private property rights when eminent domain is not used for a public use.

That is what happened in the Kelo case, and that is what is going on in Long Branch, Bullock said.

Susette Kelo is a homeowner along the New London waterfront where the New London Development Corp., a private development corporation, plans to take Kelo’s property and the other 15 properties in her neighborhood, Bullock said.

The land would then be transferred to a private developer to construct a hotel, a condominium and office space, he said.

"Eminent domain was instituted against the homeowners," Bullock said. "The city wants the area where the people are living. They [the city] think they can make more money off it. That is outrageous."

Bullock and IJ senior attorney Dana Berliner are representing Kelo.

In a 4-3 decision earlier in the year, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled in favor of the city of New London.

"If there is nothing wrong with your home, your business or even your neighborhood, the government can use eminent domain to take your land and give it to the developer for his private gain" is what the court’s ruling decided, according to a statement on the IJ Web site.

The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case sometime next year.

"The Supreme Court taking the case indicates that they are concerned about the abuse of eminent domain," Bullock said.

Atlanticville/GM News: atlanticville.gmnews.com/

Eminent domain ordinance tabled
Bridgeton (NJ) News, 10/6/04

by Jaime Marine

[Millville NJ] city commissioners voted to table an ordinance Tuesday night which would authorize the condemnation of eight parcels along Route 47 should the owners of the property and the developer of a proposed mall not come to a settlement agreement.

The second reading of this ordinance and the public hearing are now expected to take place on Oct. 19.

"Communications from the developer, as well as several (owners) involved, has indicated progress is being made with negotiations in regard to acquisition," Commissioner Joe Derella said.

Due to this progress, he said, the ordinance and public hearing were deferred until the next meeting to give all involved more time to work things out.

All along, various city officials said they hoped a solution could be worked out between the owners of the eight parcels – which include a Goodwill Store and Pizza Hut – and the developer, Goodman Properties.

Previously, Dr. Harold Blumenthal of the Animal Hospital of Millville accepted an offer from the developer to build the animal hospital a brand new facility in exchange for his parcel of land.

Solicitor Richard McCarthy said residents should be aware that the ordinance is just one of many steps in a process and that the city hopes they will not have to implement it.

"It would only be an avenue of last resort," he said. "We encouraged them to make a good faith effort to negotiate a fair and equitable contract of acquisition that benefits both parties."

The $40 million shopping mall – which would be located near the Millville Town Center – could bring approximately 1,000 jobs to the area and ratables, which the city needs.

In other news, various individuals came before the committee to discuss development in the area.

Jody Carrara, of the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions, asked the commissioners to conduct a study so they can determine how development will affect the area.

"Find out what you will be left with," she said.

Traffic and the need for industry in the city were also discussed.

Vice Mayor Jim Parent said they understood their positions and that the city is looking to improve the traffic situation.

"We are a large municipality," he said. "We must plan for the future and I believe we are doing that as an administration."

Mayor Jim Quinn said the city is seeking 55 and older housing, but he said the other developments have just come to them.

"We have available land and people come in and buy it," he said. "We have laws we have to abide by."

The Bridgeton News: www.nj.com/bridgeton

NLDC Attorney Sees Eminent Domain Issue As A Two-sided Coin
The (New London CT) Day, 10/6/04

Horton jumps legal fence on Fort Trumbull lawsuit

by Matthew J Malone

When attorney Wesley Horton appears before the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the city in its eminent domain lawsuit, he will, in a sense, be arguing against himself.

In 2001, Horton, an appellate lawyer from Hartford, petitioned the Supreme Court to save the homes of four elderly Bristol residents facing eviction to make way for an industrial park. This January, he will make an argument that could put Fort Trumbull homeowners who are in a similar predicament out on the street.

The Institute for Justice, the advocacy firm representing the property owners in the Fort Trumbull development area, even cited the Bristol case in its brief to the high court.

As a lawyer, Horton said, a commitment to advocacy, not ideology, dictates his approach to a case. "That's the life of a lawyer," he said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "We're advocates, not judges."

In the Bristol case, the city's development authority decided to condemn several houses to clear land for the industrial park. The city sought to take the land using the eminent domain power established by the Fifth Amendment, which allows government to take land for a "public use" so long as it properly compensates the landowner. The stated "public use" of the industrial park project was to spur economic growth and increase tax revenues.

After the Connecticut Court of Appeals turned down the residents' attempts to stop the condemnations, Horton asked the U.S. Supreme Court to decide the case, Bugryn v. City of Bristol. In his brief, Horton argued that when a private interest would directly benefit from a government's powers of eminent domain, the court should require a higher level of review to "ensure that we do not allow the power to condemn private property to become a tool of private entities in the name of jobs and industrial expansion."

He also argued that state courts offered wildly different interpretations of the Fifth Amendment, and that clarity from the Supreme Court was desperately needed.

The Supreme Court declined to hear that case, and it is now closed.

In the Fort Trumbull case, the residents want the court to define what, if any, protections the Fifth Amendment gives homeowners when a city wants to condemn homes solely for "economic development" and not to remove blight.

Horton said that when he sat down to make the city's case, he dusted off the Bristol brief and tried to pick apart his reasoning. In his New London brief, he wrote that no earlier decisions by the court "even hinted at the need for a more searching level of scrutiny" in eminent domain cases, unless the city's purpose in taking the land was "palpably without reasonable foundation."

Horton also wrote that the residents' lawyers were "manufacturing a massive conflict among the states" regarding the use of eminent domain, the very same conflict he sought to highlight in the Bristol case.

Horton said that while the two eminent domain cases offer a particularly high-profile illustration of the quirks of legal advocacy, deconstructing both sides of an argument is what lawyers do every day. And one need only look at prosecutors who become defense lawyers to see that in law, switching sides is as common as carrying a briefcase.

There are, of course, some scenarios that stretch the bounds of the possible, Horton said. He remembered being in moot court competitions in law school, where students are required to argue one side of the case one day and the opposing side the next.

"It's an almost impossible experience," he said.

Then there was the time early in Horton's career when he realized that he was scheduled to argue opposite sides of the same point, in two different cases, before the same judge, in the same day. Horton said he decided to "overlook" one of the files and was able to argue it on another day.

Ultimately, though, Horton said, since both eminent domain cases aren't going on at the same time, taking different sides posed no ethical dilemma. Several lawyers and one legal ethicist interviewed supported Horton's view.

Scott Bullock, the Institute of Justice attorney who brought Horton's involvement in the Bristol case to The Day's attention, said that non-lawyers might not appreciate the difference between advocating for a client's position and taking a personal stand. Bullock suggested that Horton was a "hired gun," but he stopped short of claiming that his adversary was acting inappropriately.

"There's nothing ethically wrong with it," Bullock said.

The Day: www.theday.com

Self-serving Officials Are The Public Enemy
The (New London CT) Day, 10/6/04

Letter to the editor

Robyn Parker, Ledyard CT

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case regarding the Fort Trumbull area land seizure by the state.

This abuse of the Fifth Amendment and the concept of "eminent domain," it is hoped, will be stopped dead in its tracks by the Court.

More important, the people of New London and Connecticut will have noted the true crux of the issue: it is not the "evil" pharmaceutical that endangers our constitutional rights — they don't endanger our rights by wanting — but rather, the city and state government are the only ones capable of inflicting its self-serving demands on the people, including "takings" for some political benefit.

Know your enemy and know it isn't private business. It is government that isn't for and by the people.

The Day: www.theday.com

Marysville OKs eminent domain step
(Marysville CA) Appeal-Democrat, 10/6/04

By Scott Bransford

Marysville officials moved forward Tuesday with a plan to renew the city's eminent-domain powers despite objections from a City Council member.

Councilwoman Christina Billeci proposed waiting for a pending Supreme Court decision before renewing the Marysville Community Development Agency's eminent domain rights, which expired in November 2003.

She was unsuccessful, however, as council members voted to approve the first reading of an ordinance re-establishing the agency's powers. The ordinance will be up for a final vote at the City Council's Oct. 19 meeting.

"I still think we should have waited on the eminent-domain issue," Billeci said. "I think the Supreme Court will decide it. Most of the objections that people have are constitutional issues."

Local governments have used eminent-domain powers for years to seize blighted properties for city improvement efforts.

The power, sometimes used by cities to improve their tax bases, is now under scrutiny in Kelo v. City of New London, a Supreme Court case stemming from a redevelopment plan in Connecticut. A group of property owners in New London filed a lawsuit to block the taking of their land for a hotel and conference development.

Although the Constitution's Fifth Amendment allows government to take private property for "public use" and requires "just compensation," the current Supreme Court case concerns the definition of "public use."

Critics of eminent-domain powers say the definition has been interpreted too broadly. Local governments, some observers argue, have too much power to seize property and turn it over to private developers, even when there is no clear benefit to the community as a whole.

Marysville acting Mayor Paul McNamara said Tuesday that there was no connection between the local debate over eminent domain powers and the one in the Supreme Court.

Marysville has no current plans to take over property and give it to a developer, he said.

"This is just a review of the law of eminent domain, it is not the taking of property," McNamara said.

City Councilman Bill Harris also said the city needed to move forward with protecting its eminent-domain powers, regardless of the Supreme Court's deliberations.

"I suppose reasonable minds can disagree on the Supreme Court issue," Harris said. "It still may be quite some time before it's resolved."

Billeci's objection to the ordinance required that City Clerk Billie Fangman read it in its entirety. Several minutes into the reading, Billeci decided to withdraw her objection.

Billeci said she is still opposed to Marysville renewing its eminent domain powers before the Supreme Court decides on the issue.

"I still object," Billeci said. "I waived (the reading) because I don't want to see Billie (Fangman) to have to work harder than she is."

Historical preservation activist Dan Barth also expressed concern about the vote.

"With a low property tax rate in our historical neighborhoods, eminent domain could be attractive to the city to raise the tax base," Barth said.

Appeal-Democrat: www.appeal-democrat.com

Eminent domain vote planned
(Marysville CA) Appeal-Democrat, 10/5/04

By Scott Bransford

Marysville officials are expected to decide tonight whether to renew a city agency's power to seize blighted property for redevelopment efforts.

City Council members are set to take a formal vote on whether to reinstate the Community Development Agency's powers of eminent domain, which expired in November of 2003.

The council previously tabled a vote on the matter at a Sept. 28 meeting, when about 25 people turned out at City Hall to protest plans to renew the powers.

Tonight's meeting will take place at 7 p.m. at Marysville City Hall, located at 526 C Street.

City Administrator Steve Casey said the council is expected to move forward with its decision, since city attorneys have addressed the residents' concerns.

"We understand people's concerns but we feel this is a necessary tool for redevelopment," Casey said. "We don't believe there's any threat to any of the folks who have indicated their concerns."

Suspicions still linger over the city's use of its eminent domain rights, which were employed in the 1970s and early 1980s when several historic buildings were torn down to make way for the Mervyn's department store at First and D Streets.

Under state and federal laws, city agencies must renew eminent domain powers every 12 years through a process of public hearings.

If eminent domain powers are renewed by council members, the city would have the power to exercise eminent domain within the city's redevelopment area. The area, which spans 318 acres, is comprised of parcels in south and central Marysville.

Leonard Jones, an owner of Speedometer Electric in East Marysville, said the powers shouldn't be renewed because the city might use them "as a weapon of mass destruction."

"Here we are taking away properties of the middle class to give to rich developers for the benefit of the developer and maybe the agency," Jones said. "I do not believe in eminent domain whatsoever. I'm very adamant about that."

Acting Mayor Paul McNamara feels the city should be able to renew the powers. There are no hidden plans to use the powers for a redevelopment project, he said.

McNamara said the city's experience with Mervyn's provided an example of why the public needs to be included in discussions on redevelopment plans.

"I think the city and the public both learned a valuable lesson there," McNamara said.

However, McNamara said, the controversies of the past shouldn't keep the city from renewing its eminent domain rights. He said the powers would be used only in a worst case scenario, and solely for making downtown Marysville thrive.

Although McNamara said Marysville has no plans that may involve the use of eminent domain, the city is looking at several redevelopment proposals.

One is a 14-screen movie theater proposed by Bay Area developer Ray Olmscheid. The complex, which would be built on the current site of the abandoned Tower Theater, is slated for an area bounded by First, Second, C and D streets.

Officials also are discussing a plan for a Historic Chinese Village, an Asian-themed retail and entertainment complex that Sacramento businessman Jerry Rudloff has proposed for downtown Marysville. A site has yet to be chosen for the development, but Rudloff has proposed building it in Marysville's historic Chinatown, which sits adjacent to the Tower Theater.

McNamara said the city will keep the public informed on the plans.

"I don't think the city would ever do anything behind the public's back," McNamara said.

Also on Tuesday, the Community Development Agency will hold a closed-session meeting with city staff to discuss the possible sale of city-owned property at 308 and 302 Second Street.

The properties sit within areas that have been looked at for both the theater and Chinese village projects.

City Administrator Steve Casey said he could not give any specific details on the possible sale, since the matter will be discussed in a closed-session meeting that will not be open to the public.

Casey said more than one party has expressed interest in buying the properties, but would not identify them.

"It's not a specific project," Casey said. "(There is) interest in the property and it's my job to take it to the council."

Appeal-Democrat: www.appeal-democrat.com


Battle Over Eminent Domain Rages Around CU
Columbia (University) Spectator, 10/4/04

Eminent Domain: Two Little Words Stir Big Community Outcry Against University

By Jimmy Vielkind

From 125th Street to College Walk, there's a simple two-word phrase that has been causing quite a bit of controversy. It's "eminent domain," and the words have spawned a debate among academics, judges, and community activists.

Eminent domain is the power of government to purchase land — even against the will of the owner — for public use. As Columbia moves ahead with plans to develop a new campus in Manhattanville, area residents and business owners are concerned about its use.

Law professors say the legal basis for land owners to challenge eminent domain in Manhattanville is shaky, but some local business owners still say that the use of eminent domain would not be appropriate, even if it is legally allowed.

Columbia administrators have said repeatedly that Columbia has nothing to do with that process.

"Columbia University does not have the legal power or authority to exercise eminent domain," said Senior Executive Vice President Robert Kasdin. Kasdin is right. The authority for eminent domain comes from the New York State Constitution, which states simply that "private property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation" (Article 1, Ch. 7).

But like most important legal principals, eminent domain has evolved a great deal over time and these two lines are the genesis for entire volumes of case law.

One important concept in the law that has evolved over time is the meaning of "public use." At first, this meant public works like schools, hospitals, and highways.

But beginning with the origins of urban renewal and public housing in the 1930s, the government — or a public authority acting on its behalf — began to condemn land in cities because it was rundown. This gave rise to large areas being designated as "blighted" to make way for public housing projects, a process that has since been widely criticized.

If the state were to grant such a blight designation for Manhattanville, it would pave the way for the use of eminent domain to force businesses to sell to a private developer, including Columbia.

While Columbia denies it is pushing for such a designation and would not comment on whether the expansion area is blighted, community advocates are fighting such a designation. Community Board 9 unanimously passed a resolution condemning the use of eminent domain for private benefit, and a protest held by the Coalition to Preserve

Community brought close to 100 people to Columbia's doorstep. Most important is a promised legal fight against the state if it tries to use eminent domain. Enter Norman Siegel, a prominent civil rights attorney who has been hired by the businesses in the area including the Pearlgreen Corporation, a construction supply business, and Tuck-it-Away, a self-storage company.

Siegel has some potent ammunition to work with. He will argue that the Columbia expansion, regardless of any potential public benefit, does not constitute a public use, and therefore does not warrant eminent domain. He will cite a ruling this summer by the Michigan Supreme Court. In County of Wayne v. Hathcock, the court ruled unanimously against a county in Michigan that condemned property to develop a business and technology park in conjunction with a new airport.

The ruling overturned the 1981 case of Poletown Neighborhood Council v. Detroit. In this case, the City of Detroit took over a large part of the Poletown neighborhood to give to General Motors to build a plant. It set the bar for private developments and eminent domain.

"Poletown is like the universally hated case," said the University's Beekman Professor of Law Tom Merrill.

However, Merrill didn't think the Michigan ruling would have any bearing in New York. "I don't think the New York courts will find anything in Hathcock that would cause them to visit their own eminent domain precedents, and there's a lot of precedent in New York that is quite lenient," he said.

Merrill's point is echoed in a recent issue of the New York Law Journal. Both point to a case where land was condemned by the city for a new building for the New York Times on 42nd Street and 8th Avenue.

"The court long ago rejected any literal requirement that condemned property be put into use for the general public," agreed Richard Briffault, a professor at the Columbia Law School.

"My sense is that Columbia is less of a hard case because we're talking about an educational institution, and there's a tradition of higher education being seen as more generally having a public benefit, even if the public doesn't have access," he said.

Siegel says he will wait for his day in court, and notes a growing trend in courts around the country to update their eminent domain definitions in line with the Hathcock case.

But his day in court may not come. The U.S. Supreme Court announced last week that it will take up a case from Connecticut where the state supreme court ruled in favor of allowing the City of New London to condemn 1,300 acres and lease them to a private developer for a token sum to build residential units and a hotel. A decision should come by this spring.

Regardless of the legality of the decision, the business owners on the ground feel any use of eminent domain would be morally wrong.

"Why do the businesses that were here when nobody else wanted to be here have to go?" asked Anne Whitman, the president of Hudson Moving and Storage. "We were here when the times were rough, and we should be allowed to stay and see them get better."

Larry Greenberg of Pearlgreen agreed.

"We find it ironic that publicly the University has promised to develop the area in a way that benefits the community, but privately claims that the community has to leave in order for that to occur," he said.

The Columbia Spectator: www.columbiaspectator.com

'Eminent Domain' Limits Are Needed
(Wheeling WV) News-Register, 10/4/04

Editorial Opinion

Down through the years, the courts have twisted and bent the Constitution to the point that it would be virtually unrecognizable in many respects to the nation's Founders. Now, the Supreme Court has an opportunity to restore some of the safeguards contained in the original document - on an issue of direct interest to some Ohio Valley residents.

The question of how much authority government has to use "eminent domain" proceedings to obtain property has been in the news locally because of economic development proposals. But it isn't just here in the Ohio Valley that the issue has taken on critical importance for some people.

Supreme Court justices have agreed to hear a case from New London, Conn., involving use of "eminent domain" authority. There, the city plans to take some homes to clear the way for a private development including a hotel, health club and offices. Affected residents say the Constitution doesn't give their city the authority to do that.

The Fifth Amendment allows government to take property for "public use." Usually, when owners refuse to sell their property voluntarily, "eminent domain" proceedings allow courts to set "fair" values - which owners are required to accept.

The nation's founders viewed "public use" narrowly, such as for highways and similar purposes. But "public use" has been taken by some local governments to mean "public benefit" - sometimes in very general terms.

We hope Supreme Court justices set the record straight by restricting severely the meaning of "public use." Limits are needed on how governments can use "eminent domain" proceedings.

Wheeling News-Register: www.news-register.net

Eminent domain power challenged
Lawrence (KS) Journal-World, 10/4/04

U.S. Supreme Court to consider government's right to take private property

By Joel Mathis

The U.S. Supreme Court is weighing a case that could rein in the powers of Kansas government to take private property.

And Lois Marriott, one of many people who lost a Wyandotte County home so a racetrack could be built, is in favor of that happening.

"There's plenty of land around," said Marriott, one of 165 property owners who got the boot in the late 1990s when the Kansas Speedway was built. "You don't have to take people's homes."

Kansas is one of a handful of states that uses the power of eminent domain &151 the taking of public property by government &151 for economic development purposes.

In the case before the Supreme Court, 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 it was an unjustified taking of their property.

For 'public use'

The neighborhood included Victorian-era houses and small businesses that in some instances had been owned by several generations of families. New London, a town of fewer than 26,000 people, had been losing residents and jobs when it planned the land takeover, city leaders said.

The Fifth Amendment allows governments to take private property for "public use." The seven states that allow condemnations for private business development alone are Kansas, Connecticut, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and North Dakota.

The appeal turns on whether "public use" involves seizures not to revitalize slums or build new roads or schools, but to raze unblighted homes and businesses to bring in more money for a town.

Nationwide, more than 10,000 properties were threatened or condemned between 1998 and 2002, according to the Institute for Justice, a nonprofit law firm in Washington that litigates civil liberties cases.

The condemnation of homes in Wyandotte County for the Kansas Speedway development was one of the more controversial uses of eminent domain power in Kansas.

Reinvigorated economy

"Eminent domain was a very bitter pill to swallow for everybody, including us," said Don Denny, a Wyandotte County spokesman. "But it was a necessity to get this project moving forward that has transformed the community."

County officials say the speedway and "Village West" &151 the adjoining 400-acre development that includes Cabela's and Nebraska Furniture Mart &151 have reinvigorated the local economy, created thousands of new jobs and poured millions of new tax dollars into local coffers.

They say that never could have happened if Wyandotte County hadn't had the power to seize private properties to make way for projects that produce more tax revenue.

Officials in Kansas point to the speedway and a new Target Distribution Center in Topeka as successful examples of the use of eminent domain for economic development.

"They bring large numbers of jobs and tax dollars to the state," said Kim Gulley, a spokeswoman for the League of Kansas Municipalities. League members are expected to approve their support for eminent domain at a statewide meeting Tuesday.

Critics, however, say the government powers trample on private property rights. A Kansas Senate bill to limit those powers was defeated in March.

"Our founding fathers understood and stated that our individual freedom rests with protecting individual property rights," Sen. Robert Tyson, R-Parker, said at the time.

Power of last resort

An interim legislative committee will take a closer look at the issue during a meeting Wednesday. But committee chairman Rep. Mike O'Neal, a Hutchinson Republican, said the Supreme Court's decision to hear a case on the issue makes him cautious.

"I'm an attorney," he said. "If something's pending before the Supreme Court, I like to wait so we can do it right the first time."

No mater what the high court or the Legislature decides, though, it's too late for Marriott to get her home back.

"We'd only lived there two, two-and-a-half years. Some people had lived there a long time," she said. "What could you do? A lot of people got lawyers, they fought it and all. It was a terrible year."

Despite that experience, Marriott says she is not opposed to some uses of eminent domain.

"For highways they should (have the power) &151 but just to put a racetrack in or to put a Costco in, I don't think that should be," she said.

Denny said eminent domain should be a power of last resort for local governments.

"You need to analyze a project on a case-by-case basis &151 what's the bottom line?" he said. "Is the community going to benefit, or is it just going to be a business?"

And he expressed sympathy for the property owners pushed out to build the speedway.

"They sustained some negativity from that," Denny said. "Hopefully they've regrouped their lives."

Lawrence Journal-World: www.ljworld.com


Spotlight: Eminent domain ruling offers property owners hope
Bowling Green (KY) Daily News, 10/3/03

by Stephen Greenhut

One of the most persistent myths foisted on society by the political left is that property rights benefit mainly the rich and powerful.

Steven Hill, West Coast director of the liberal Center for Voting and Democracy, aptly expressed this misconception in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "The point is that the Bill of Rights and Constitution were really there to guarantee the property rights of the rich and the rich wannabes."

The nation’s inequalities, he added, "are a direct result – not in spite of, but because of – the priority given by the Bill of Rights and U.S. Constitution to protect the private property of rich individuals and wealthy corporations over basic human rights."

Yet property rights are not primarily about protecting the "rich and rich wannabes." They are, first and foremost about protecting those without political power from those with power.

That this sounds counterintuitive only reinforces how far the nation has traveled from the ideas embraced by the founders.

Consider this defense of property rights by William Pitt, the British prime minister in the late 1700s and early 1800s: "The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail. Its roof may shake, the wind may blow through it – the storm may enter, the rain may enter, but the King of England cannot enter; all his forces dare not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement."

That was – and remains – a wonderfully radical idea.

Fast-forwarded about 180 years to 1981 and the Detroit neighborhood known as Poletown. It was a well-kept, ethnically diverse working-class neighborhood originally settled by Poles. The area had more than 1,000 homes, 600 businesses, several churches and a hospital.

Nothing wrong with the neighborhood, except that it was in an area coveted by General Motors, which was threatening to build a new Cadillac assembly plant out of state if city leaders didn’t use eminent domain – the power of the state to take property by force, upon compensation to the owner – and clear away Poletown.

So Detroit officials, backed by influential businesses and civic leaders (including the Catholic archdiocese, which sided with the government rather than with its own people), argued that Poletown must be destroyed for the economic well-being of all Detroit residents.

The state Supreme Court agreed that the taking was legitimate, based on a questionable U.S. Supreme Court decision that stood in stark contrast to the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment.

Fifth Amendment’s not fuzzy

The Fifth Amendment is clear about the use of eminent domain. The government can use this power, provided that it is for a "public" use. With some exceptions (e.g., to make way for railroads), the courts generally interpreted "public use" in the traditional way envisioned by the founders – courthouses, highways, schools, bridges, dams, infrastructure.

But in 1954, in Berman v. Parker, the liberal Warren court agreed that the District of Columbia could condemn private property and hand it over to other private developers for a private gain provided that the appropriate legislative body (at the time Congress, since the district had not yet gained home rule) deemed that it was proper to do so.

"If those who govern the District of Columbia decide that the nation’s capital should be beautiful as well as sanitary, there is nothing in the Fifth Amendment that stands in the way," ruled the court, in a decision that read more like a chapter in a sociology textbook than a reflection of the founders’ wisdom.

In 1950s Washington, there was a great deal of actual blight. By 1981, the courts were saying that blight need not even be found.

The mere promise of better economic circumstances for a region is a good enough "public" use to clear away a neighborhood.

And although, the Poletown plant is still in operation, its impact has been far less beneficial than General Motors and Detroit officials had promised.

In recent years, cities in Orange County, Calif., and across the country have used Poletown to justify the most outlandish schemes. Sometimes courts or political pressures stop them, but only sometimes.

Taxes spur condemnation

In Cypress, Calif., city officials voted to use eminent domain – they were stopped by a federal court decision – to give Cottonwood Christian Center’s property to Costco. They argued that the transfer from Cottonwood to Costco was for a "public use" because Costco paid more taxes than Cottonwood.

Garden Grove, Calif., tried to condemn an entire ethnically diverse neighborhood so the city could market the property to a tax-producing theme park operator. The city council backed down in the face of public pressure, but officials there rely heavily on eminent domain (or the threat of it) to transfer properties to developers.

In Lakewood, Ohio, the city tried to bulldoze an entire historic neighborhood so that it could give the prime parkfront property to a developer, who promised to replace the working-class residents with wealthy, upscale people who would move into new condos and frequent pricey shops. A local referendum put the kibosh on the plan, despite support from the political establishment.

In New Cassel, N.Y., the city drove a poor, African-American church off its land to make way for a shopping center. In Atlantic City, N.J., the redevelopment agency tried pushing an elderly widow out of her home so that Donald Trump could build a parking lot for his casino’s limousines. It was stopped on a technicality.

In each case, the inspiration was Poletown.

Before Poletown, in Cavez Ravine in Los Angeles, a poor Mexican-American neighborhood was leveled, initially to make way for public housing, but ultimately to create Dodger Stadium.

Those who believe that property rights are mainly for the rich have obviously never thought about these cases, where lower-income people are abused at the hands of important movers and shakers such as Trump, Costco and condo developers.

Wall Street Journal writer John Fund points out that Leaders of Our Town always side with the new development, which only reinforces the importance of property rights for those who want to live their lives in their own way, even against the wishes of the elite.

Fortunately, on July 31, 23 years after residents of Poletown were driven from their homes, the Michigan Supreme Court unanimously overturned the Poletown decision.

It won’t do anything for the original victims, but it will stop other cities from abusing people’s property rights to benefit other, influential people.

The court blasted the original Poletown decision as a "radical departure from fundamental constitutional principles.

...[I]f one’s ownership of private property is forever subject to the government’s determination that another private party would put one’s land to better use, then the ownership of real property is perpetually threatened by the expansion plans of any large discount retailer, 'megastore,' or the like."

When eminent domain is abused, the rich and powerful take advantage of the poor and powerless.

Only with secure property rights can every property owner, no matter how poor or humble, tell the king (or Donald Trump or Costco, or some arrogant city manager) to take a hike.

Even liberals ought to see the beauty in that scenario.

Bowling Green Daily News: www.bgdailynews.com

Eminent domain a growing concern
Beauregard Daily News (DeRidder LA), 10/3/04

By George Frasher, Columnist

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case involving a situation that has escalated throughout the country in the past quarter of a century. The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution deals mainly with the rights of accused persons, but the final 12 words of that article deals with all owners of real estate. It says, "...nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation."

This is known as the power of eminent domain. For about 200 years this has been interpreted to mean that a government can force people to sell their property to make way for a road, public school or other public buildings if the government pays the private owners a fair price.

In 1954 the court expanded the process to clearing slum areas. The Court in 1984 broadened the standards even more. Like so many other instances in the Constitution, the framers assured the right but left enacting the legal fine points up to the states and local government.

Thus, the use of the words "...for public use..." can mean different things in different places and different times. The High Court has agreed to hear arguments in an appeal from seven owners in a neighborhood of New London, Conn.

The city has earmarked those properties for economic development. The Connecticut Supreme Court upheld the city's right to take the properties, compensate the owners, and then turn the land over to a private developer.

The city's plan for the 90-acre neighborhood of small homes include a waterfront hotel and conference center, office space for high tech research and development and 80 new homes. The city would lease the land to the developer for 99 years at $1 a year. Such a development would certainly increase the tax base for the city, but the legal question for the High Court is whether such a lease to allow a private corporation making a profit meets the Constitutional restriction "for public use."

While this is the first case to reach the nation's highest court, it is not a unique situation. Another classic example was made public about a year ago. It involved Jim and Joanne Saleet refusing to sell their Lakewood, Ohio, home they have lived in for 38 years so the city can give it to another private owner.

The mayor wants to tear down the Saleet's home, along with 55 other homes, four apartment buildings and more than a dozen small businesses so a private developer can build high price condos and a high-end shopping mall. Naturally, such privately owned enterprises would bring in considerably more property tax than is now being realized.

The Saleets live in an area known as Scenic Park, and because it is scenic it is a prime place to building upscale condominiums with great views over the Rocky River.

In order to invoke the power of eminent domain the city had to declare the neighborhood a blighted area. The term blight means whether the buildings in an area meet today's standards. But it is the City Council and the mayor who establish those standards. Lakewood has set the standard for blight that would include most of the homes in the neighborhood.

A home could be considered blighted if it doesn't have three bedrooms, two baths, an attached two-car garage and air conditioning.

The mayor admitted her house doesn't have two bathrooms, a two-car garage and is on a lot of less than 5,000 square feet.

In Mesa, Ariz., Randy Bailey owns a brake repair shop he inherited from his father and has been on the same corner for more than 30 years. The owner of the Ace Hardware Store in Mesa a few blocks away wants a bigger store. He got the city to buy the land through eminent domain then sell it to him.

This kind of thing is going on throughout the country. And here is one of the biggest incidents. A few blocks from Times Square in Manhattan a man whose family has owned the property on a corner for over 100 years and his neighbors were forced to sell by the State of New York. No, there's no school, courthouse or other public building is going up on the land. What is going up is the new headquarters of the New York Times.

Instead of trying to deal with the owners, the Times officials got the state to use its power of eminent domain.

Incidentally, here's a couple of final happy notes on the above cases indicating that maybe you can fight city hall. The Saleets won when Lakewood residents rejected the plan and also voted the mayor out of office.

In Mesa, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that turning over the land to a private business would not be proper use of eminent domain so Randy Bailey's Brake Shop the brake remains at its original site.

On the other side, in New York, the Times can start work on its new headquarters building.

Beauregard Daily news: www.deridderdailynews.com