Linden's City Council appears to have jumped the gun on its July 19 ordinance stating the city's intent to seize International Specialty Products' and Dupont's Tremley Point property. Representatives from both ISP and Dupont have expressed an interest in developing this property themselves, a charge that should be left under the companies' control before the city resorts to the use of eminent domain.
At its July meeting, the City Council, with the exception of two of its members, reaffirmed the city's intent to seize property from ISP and Dupont for its own redevelopment purposes. Specifically, the city wants to build 5 million square feet of warehouse space on the site. Only 8th Ward Councilman Albert Youngblood and 10th Ward Councilman Richard Gerbounka voted against the ordinance.
With the property under the city's control, the council can move forward with its intent to place developer Joseph Morris — represented by the politically connected Weiner Lesniak law firm — in control of warehouse construction.
City Council members anticipate a lawsuit for their action. Their tight lips speak volumes about the ethical fault behind this ordinance. Acquiring this property has been a longtime council goal. There is little doubt the city has been fueled by the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision giving local governments more power to seize private property for a greater economic development.
In the ISP/Dupont case, there is clearly a need, and an interest, in developing this property for a greater economic good in Linden. But, the responsibility of this task should be left to the property owner. Linden will undoubtedly lose money fighting this case if ISP and Dupont decide to pursue a lawsuit regarding the land. Wouldn't it make more sense for the city to save its money and benefit from seeing the property developed by its rightful owner?
Union County Improvement Authority Executive Director Charlotte DeFilippo has said ISP is only interested in developing the property now that an outside interest exists. If this is in fact true, the challenge should lie with ISP and Dupont to prove their point in following through with a plan to develop the property. Only as a last resort should the City Council move forward and seize the property by force of eminent domain.