By Donald J. Umhoefer
Property owners in Menomonee Falls, WI were notified in early July that their land could be seized for a redevelopment project. The Certified Letter included the statement; “Implementing the proposed Redevelopment Plan may involve the condemnation of private property within the Redevelopment Area for urban renewal purposes. Accordingly, you are hereby notified that your property might be taken for urban renewal.”
In order to create the redevelopment district proposed, an inventory of all the homes and businesses within its boundaries has been completed. The entire area has been labeled “blighted”. Vibrant, functioning businesses as well as many homes have been determined to “Impair the sound growth of the community” simply because they do not fit into the proposed plan.
This area is by no means blighted as defined by Wisconsin Statute. I have heard it said that Wisconsin does not allow the use of eminent domain to acquire land for economic development as was the case in Kelo v New London. However, under the label of "Blight" that is exactly what happens... economic redevelopment. The whole Main Street Redevelopment proposal is based not on blight, but an economically depressed group of businesses. I'm sure the same reasoning and blurring of the definition of blight could also be used in other communities.
At a public hearing on Tuesday July 26, 2005 many citizen's spoke out against the use of the use of eminent domain for private gain and urged local elected officials to protect the rights of the individual property owners in the Village of Menomonee Falls.
On Monday September 19th the Menomonee Falls Village Board approved a resolution finding the area within the boundaries of the proposed Main Street Redevelopment Project to be "blighted" and approved the redevelopment plan. This approval places 80 parcels of land, many that are occupied, at risk for eminent domain abuse.
The property owners who have been notified of possible condemnation of their properties have been told that this is a long term plan and that eminent domain will only be used as a last resort.
Will the Village of Menomonee Falls use eminent domain to take private property from the existing home and business owners to benefit private developers?
The Village Trustees have told us that this is not their intention, but should we as private property owners even have to feel the threat of condemnation for a private development?
You can add my name to the long list of citizens throughout the nation losing sleep every night wondering if I will still have my home when this is all over...
Our elected officials should undo the damage done by the Supreme Court's decision and protect the residents of our country from the threat of condemnation of our homes and business in order to benefit private developers.
Donald J. Umhoefer: firstname.lastname@example.org