7/14/2005

Pol Seeks Eminent Domain Law Change: 1010 WINS (New York NY), 7/13/05

Not enough is being done to protect private property owners facing the seizure of their land by local governments pushing economic development projects, a state Assemblyman said Wednesday in announcing a bill to change New York's eminent domain law.

The bill by Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, a Westchester Democrat, follows last month's 5-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court saying cities may bulldoze people's homes to make way for shopping malls or other private development. The ruling gave local governments broad power to seize private property to generate tax revenue.

Brodsky, who has led investigations of industrial development agencies and local development corporations, said while economic growth is a legitimate goal, in many cases local authorities have done more for private companies than public good when seizing property for business development projects.

"You can call this a homeowner protection act," Brodsky said. "In many cases, eminent domain is a necessary part of progress, but when you're taking someone's private property and transferring it to another private owner, we need to be extremely careful and protective."

Under the bill the time property owners have to appeal condemnation decisions would be increased to 90 days from 30 days. Displaced residents would be paid at least 150 percent of the market value of their homes, Brodsky said.

The measure also would require eminent domain be used for economic development purposes only to forward a comprehensive plan developed in public meetings and approved by local legislators.

In the June court decision, Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the majority, said the New London, Conn. could pursue private development under the Fifth Amendment, which allows governments to take private property if the land is for public use, since the project the city has in mind promises to bring more jobs and revenue.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said the decision bowed to the rich and powerful at the expense of middle-class Americans.

The issue has been a hot topic around the country.

In Texas, lawmakers have proposed a constitutional amendment that would bar state or local governments from seizing private property mainly for economic development. Lawmakers in many states are now proposing new laws to shield property owners.

In Washington, legislation in the works would ban the use of federal funds for any project getting the go-ahead using the Kelo v. City of New London decision.


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