Democrats seek eminent domain moratorium: Asbury Park (NJ) Press, 9/9/05

By Carol Corga Williams

The two Democrats candidates for state Assembly in the 11th District are calling upon acting Gov. Codey to enact a statewide moratorium on eminent domain.

Set against the backdrop of a proposed redevelopment in Neptune, candidates Matthew J. Doherty and Jim Reilly spoke out about the potential for abuse in the government's right to use eminent domain, which is the taking of private property after paying just compensation.

They were joined by Lester Goldberg, who owns the Scrubber Doctor, a janitorial equipment and supply company which is being threatened by eminent domain, and Sen. Ellen Karcher, D-Monmouth, who said there should be a return to more traditional uses for eminent domain, such as building a road, school or hospital.

The platform endorses proposed Assembly bill A-4392, which would prevent municipalities from condemning owner-occupied private homes in good repair for private development.

Doherty said redevelopment was a legitimate public use, only in certain circumstances.

"Vacant lots, areas that are crime-infested, that people don't care about, sure that's a legitimate use," he said. "But not someone's castle."

Doherty and Reilly are running against Republican Assemblymen Sean T. Kean and Steven J. Corodemus in the 11th District, which encompasses several Monmouth County municipalities.

Kean said later that eminent domain should not be abused, but he sees legitimate uses for the process. He supports the redevelopment in Asbury Park and in Long Branch, except for the latest phase, in which homes on Marine Terrace, Ocean Terrace and Seaview Avenue are to be taken. He said those are "very nice homes. . . .The system is working a tragedy upon the homeowner so it is not a good thing at all."

He also said Asbury Park should work hard to preserve what is good about its past, using apartment houses such as The New Jerseyean and The Virginian as examples.

"I don't believe in every case eminent domain in a residential situation should be banned," Kean said. "In those areas that are blighted, I think that it is a positive thing."

The Democrats' anti-eminent domain platform calls for owners of owner-occupied businesses seized through eminent domain to have the first opportunity to purchase redeveloped lots, at greatly reduced costs, and says business owners losing property to eminent domain should be able to negotiate for the real value of the property as well as recoup a portion of the redeveloper's resale profits.

Also, business owners affected by eminent domain should receive free legal advice from a real estate attorney chosen by Legal Services of New Jersey, and paid for by the developer, according to the platform.

Asbury Park Press: www.app.com