U.S. Rep. Frank J. Pallone Jr. announced today that he would introduce federal legislation designed to stop the use of eminent domain to seize homes for private development.
Talking over the whir of construction noise from a luxury condominium being built behind him, Pallone announced his intention to draft legislation when Congress reconvenes after Labor Day while standing on the lawn of Carmen and Josephine Vendetti, whose home is one of dozens targeted for seizure under the city's redevelopment plans.
"We cannot allow eminent domain to be used to take private homes to turn them over for private purposes without a legitimate public use,'' Pallone said. "It's a pretty common sense standard and it's incumbent upon us to limit eminent domain to its traditional standards.''
Pallone was surrounded by about 25 neighbors and supporters of the Marine Terrace Ocean Terrace Seaview Avenue Alliance, a group of residents fighting the city's plans to seize property in the three-street neighborhood to further its oceanfront redevelopment plans.
Applauding MTOTSAA's efforts to halt the city's plans, Pallone said the bill he plans to introduce would, essentially, follow Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's dissenting opinion in the Kelo v. City of New London, Conn., case.
The court in June supported the city's right to take private homes in order to push ahead with a private redevelopment plan.
Long Branch has maintained that the Supreme Court decision has no effect on the city's redevelopment plans.
Long Branch did not use economic development provisions as motivation for its oceanfront redevelopment, City Attorney James G. Aaron has said.
Mayor Adam Schneider has said the difference between the Kelo case and Long Branch was significant because in Kelo, officials were not required to prove the area was blighted.
"In New Jersey, we have a higher standard, which we've clearly met,'' Schneider has said of the decision to declare the oceanfront and portions of Broadway "an area in need of redevelopment.'' In those cases, the city had to demonstrate the condition of the buildings were poor, the buildings were functionally obsolete, that there was a significant amount of abandoned or vacant property and that the diversity of ownership would make it difficult for owners to get together to redevelop the community.
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