Eminent domain use caters to developers: Asbury Park (NJ) Press , 3/10/05

By Kathleen E. Lo Pinto Vignolini, Long Branch NJ

Mayor Adam Schneider claims Long Branch citizens just don't understand the need to use eminent domain to take property. Unfortunately, we understand all too well. No property is safe from being stolen if a developer comes up with a plan for high-end condos and better ratables. Most homes in the affected area were well kept and family owned. Only a few rentals could be called blighted.

Profit for the few comes ahead of, and at the expense of, the many. The city is to blame for the blighted areas by not having enough code inspectors to keep after and penalize landlords.

The developer gives a homeowner, say, $200,000 fair market value, then builds four units there at $300,000 to $450,000 each. Thus he gleans a profit of $1 million to $1.6 million per property. That's when development doubles or triples the "sales value" of all Long Branch homes. Why is that bad? Every time home values increase, the taxes increase. At this inflated rate of growth, who can keep their homes for long?

Schneider's response to the Feb. 20 rally against eminent domain was, "They haven't wanted an honest dialogue ... yet." I take that to mean they haven't caved in to the developer's demands.

Long Branch's slogan is "The Friendly City." Friendly to whom: the citizens who have lived, worked, shopped and paid taxes for generations or to those with enough big bucks to afford living here now? Our rents are atrocious, house prices are perverse and taxes are outlandish. This development project exploits the citizens who have been paying the city's bills for decades.

Asbury Park Press: www.app.com