Riviera Beach may feel ripple effect of Connecticut eminent domain case: Palm Beach (FL) Post, 2/22/05

By Tanya Wragg

Bonnie Larson's father bought their house on West 27th Street [in Riviera beach FL] 65 years ago because he wanted to be close to the ocean.

A restorative artist who worked on cathedrals for a living, he built the fireplace in his home from brick, the closets and shelves from cypress wood and painted an Everglades scene on the dining room walls.

But now, the home Larson holds dear lies within the city's redevelopment boundaries and she is afraid the city will seize it one day using eminent domain.

Larson and about 40 others gathered at Bicentennial Park on Monday, Presidents' Day, to rally and raise awareness of the city's plans for eminent domain.

Today, a group of Connecticut homeowners who may lose their homes to a waterfront hotel and office space will go before the U.S. Supreme Court in Kelo vs. City of New London.

"If the Supreme Court says it's OK in one way or another to take private property, sell to other private people, whether it's a developer or a hotel or whatever, then really no one in this entire country will be safe because no one's home can bring in as much money as a luxury condo," said rally organizer Martha Babson, who lives in the redevelopment area.

Political candidates participating in the rally included Shelby Lowe, who is running for a city council seat in District 5, Vanessa 'Van' Lee, running for District 1, and Bishop Thomas Masters, running for mayor.

While the city is still months, possibly years, away from large-scale redevelopment, it still has the authority to seize property designated as blight. City officials have said they would use eminent domain only as a last resort. Riviera's billion-dollar redevelopment plan includes the condemnation of 1,700 homes and apartments.

People in 13 other states, including Arizona, Illinois and New York, who are or could be affected by eminent domain also hosted rallies Monday.

Peter Colt, president of the Broadway to Silver Beach Neighborhood Association in Daytona Beach helped organize a rally on the boardwalk in Daytona, which has five community redevelopment agencies and 2,262 acres in its redevelopment area.

He said someone donated a replica of the Statue of Liberty to put on display and a poster of Elvis Presley holding a machine gun that read, "Elvis won't be leaving the building."

They served about 700 apple pies, Colt said, because "property rights are as American as apple pie."

Palm Beach Post: www.palmbeachpost.com