Delegate withdraws proposed eminent domain bill — The (Maryland) Business Gazette, 1/20/05

by Jeffrey K. Lyles

There has been a swift reversal in the proposed correlation of two bills that could have used eminent domain to tear down homes in Cottage City.

According to one bill, which generated considerable concern by city officials and residents, these homes could have been replaced by businesses.

Del. Justin Ross (D-Dist. 22) of Greenbelt proposed bill PG 31605 that would have given the redevelopment authority the same power as the Baltimore City Economic Development Corp. and the National Capital Revitalization in Washington D.C., in dealing with blight, underutilized, and underdeveloped areas.

In withdrawing the measure Tuesday, Ross told The Gazette that while he still believed it was important, the county's priorities are elsewhere and he would devote his energies towards them, including more funding for schools and providing more county police officers.

Cottage City Chairman Commissioner Edward Hudgins said he and other town officials suspected the bill was introduced to assume control of 38th Street and Bladensburg Road.

The eminent domain power would have only been used on a case-by-case basis when approved by the County Council, Ross said.

While the first bill does not mention Cottage City, the commissioners were concerned that the second, PG 31405, which does, has a connection to 31605.

Bill PG31405 allows the Liquor Board to authorize areas to hold additional Class B liquor licenses.

Cottage City Commissioner Anna Angolia cited a portion of the bill that read "Any of the following area that are under served by restaurants. Section 1 #2, B. Part of the Port Towns business district consisting of properties fronting on or having access to Rhode Island Avenue Bladensburg Road, Annapolis Road or 38th Avenue."

"You don't take a town that's functioning, has a low crime-rate and try to destroy it," Angolia said. "This isn't a slum. This is a well-kept area. You can't take people's properties just because you want to put in a fancy restaurant."

Angolia argues that Cottage City is a residential town and does not need to become a tourist destination.

"They say they're going to make this a Georgetown but Cottage City will never be Georgetown or National Harbor," Angolia said.

"We're a wonderful quiet community that people move here because of its proximity to the District and Virginia not because we have shops like Georgetown."

He cited a battle the commissioners fought four years ago when the county wanted to tear down 10 houses to build a government school.

"These were mainly the houses of older, minority residents. Fortunately, we were able to defeat the proposal," Hudgins said. "Having fought that wrenching battle, we are not interested in fighting another [one]."

Hudgins said that eminent domain is only supposed to be used to take land for public purpose such as roads, courthouses and those kinds of public facilities, not to tear down residential homes.

He said the provision is not to be used by the political elite to impose their ideas on a community or to decide on what businesses should be in their area.

"From what we understand, one of the motivations for this [proposed move] is to replace homes with businesses. That, to me, is illegal and immoral."

Sen. Gwendolyn Britt (D-Dist. 47) of Landover Hills said that Ross' bill did not specifically address Cottage City but did provide for the Redevelopment Authority to take property through eminent domain for some project under consideration when it is in the best interest of the county.

"I am still researching it to determine what, if any, intent there is in the bill. If it's general, I don't really see a problem with it as eminent domain is used quite often," Britt said. "It's used mostly as a process of last resort."

Hudgins said, "The legislation is kind of open-ended," he said. "I don't trust the government planners. Part of the danger is that the legislation is open-ended and therefore we don't know where the government will strike."

County Councilman David Harrington (D-Dist. 5) of Bladensburg said, "While I recognize their concern, eminent domain can be used as a positive economic development tool particularly for older communities," Harrington said.

Harrington used for example, a case of a decaying strip mall where eminent domain could be used to replace it with something more community friendly.

"It's not about the government taking homes," he said. "What it's about is creating open space for older dense areas that allow for other economic development to occur."

Harrington said eminent domain would not be used to put in a business like a liquor store.

The Gazette: www.gazette.net


Federalist Society symposium on eminent domain — Case Western Reserve University, 2/4/05

Symposium on Environmental Law and Property Rights:
Eminent Domain, Urban Renewal and the Constitution - Legal & Policy Perspectives

PANEL I - Public Use: Fifth Amendment Limits on the Use of Eminent Domain, 9:15 - 10:45 a.m.
This panel considers the extent to which the Fifth Amendment, which provides that "…nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation," limits the purposes for which the government's eminent domain power can be used. Specifically, the panel will examine the extent to which the Fifth Amendment should be read to limit or preclude the use of eminent domain for blight remediation, economic development, or other economic purposes, or whether "public use" constitutes any and all uses deemed by the legislature or other political bodies to be in the public interest. While through much of the 20th century courts gave state and local governments' rather wide discretion in determining what constitutes a "public use," in recent years some courts have begun to read "public use" more narrowly.
  • Professor Eric R. Claeys, Saint Louis University School of Law
  • Professor Thomas W. Merrill, Columbia University School of Law
  • Professor John Edward Mogk, Wayne State University Law School
  • Timothy Sandefur, Esq., Staff Attorney, Pacific Legal Foundation
  • Professor Steven J. Eagle, George Mason University School of Law, Moderator

PANEL II- The Value of Eminent Domain: An Effective Economic Development Strategy? 11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
This panel addresses the policy questions raised by eminent domain, specifically the extent to which the eminent domain power is necessary, or even useful, for urban economic development. While there is little dispute that eminent domain is an important governmental tool for traditional public purposes, such as road construction and the like, there is much dispute over whether use of eminent domain to spur economic development is, in practice, an effective economic development strategy. Speakers will address the pros and cons of using eminent domain as a policy tool and potential alternatives to eminent domain.
  • Sam Staley, Director, Urban Futures Program, The Reason Foundation
  • Professor Thomas E. Bier, Director, Center for Housing Research & Policy, Cleveland State University
  • Jeffrey Finkle, President and CEO, International Economic Development Council

DEBATE, 1:00 - 2:30 p.m.
The Supreme Court has granted certiorari in the case of Kelo et al. v. City of New London to consider whether the Fifth Amendment authorizes the exercise of eminent domain to promote economic development, in this case to help a government increase its tax revenue and to create jobs. The debate features representatives of the two sides (or sympathetic amici) to give a sense of the arguments that will be heard by the Court.
  • Bert Gall, Staff Attorney, Institute for Justice
  • Professor Jonathan H. Adler, Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Friday, February 4, 2005
Case Western Reserve University School of Law
Moot Courtroom (A59)
11075 East Boulevard
Cleveland, Ohio

For more details and registration information:


State forces court date for rural landowner to give up property — Miami (FL) Herald, 1/17/05

By Roberto Santiago

Long-time Collier County land owner Jesse James Hardy has a showdown with a state judge early next month to determine whether the government can force him off his 160 acres of mosquito-infested property.

Last year, the state filed court papers for eminent domain to force Hardy to take a lump-sum buy out. Eminent domain allows states to take a person's property for the public good, giving them fair market value.

For the last three years the government has been trying to get Hardy to sell his land to make room for its $8 billion Everglades restoration project, which will flood land from Lake Okeechobee south to the ocean, artificially turning it into wetlands and, theoretically, restoring a pollution-free water flow.

Having failed, the state filed for eminent domain.

Hardy, 69, has lived in his mosquito-, bear- and snake-ridden property since 1976 and has refused to leave.

"It's my home and it's where I run my business and where I raise my family," said Hardy. "Why should I leave just so the government can conduct its billion-dollar science project?"

The state hearing, scheduled for Feb. 8 in state court in Naples, Collier County, is a critical "right to take" case, according to Hardy's attorney, Charles Forman.

"It's the turning point. The state has said it has a right to take the property. We have tried to hold off the case as much as possible, but it looks like it will go on February 8," Forman said.

Hardy's other attorney, Karen Budd-Falen said, "If the judge rules to allow eminent domain proceedings to continue, the case will eventually turn to a jury, which will determine how much the land is valued.

"We also have a federal suit pending, questioning the Everglades project and why Mr. Hardy's property needs to be taken in the first place."

Hardy, who paid $60,000 for his property 29 years ago, is concerned that unless the judge rules in his favor, he may have to find another place to live.

"I'm 69, and having a comfortable place to live where I am happy means more to me than money. There ain't no price tag on giving up happiness."

Miami Herald: www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald


Residents STAND against airport plans — Chicago (IL) Daily Southtown, 1/16/05

By Lauren FitzPatrick

Picture it: A three-story brick home sits on 80 acres of arable land in Beecher, nestled among trees and small fishing lakes.

It is Jim Verduin's dream home where he is raising his four children. A former bricklayer by trade, the 52-year-old laid 32,500 bricks himself, with help from a family member, five years ago.

"It took me 30 years to be able to save and be able to do it," Verduin said. "There's fishing in the backyard, all kinds of wildlife.

"My kids mixed the mortar," he added.

But Verduin's dream may be threatened.

Some 50 remaining property owners in a 4,200-acre site near Peotone received letters in late November from the Illinois Department of Transportation explaining they had 60 days to negotiate a state buyout of their homes or face forced sale under eminent domain.

So despite the nip in the air Saturday, Verduin joined a few dozen people outside the building where the letters originated to protest the so-called third airport that planners would like to build near Peotone.

The group of Peotone-area residents known as Shut This Airport Nightmare Down, or STAND, gathered at the corner of U.S. 30 and Cicero Avenue in Matteson for a few hours Saturday afternoon, hoping to grab the governor's attention and halt any eminent domain proceedings. Many of them have refused to sell their homes.

"We are extremely disappointed with Gov. (Rod) Blagojevich for all the threats to use eminent domain for a project the (Federal Aviation Administration) has not approved," STAND president George Ochsenfeld said. "This is not a transportation issue — this is a development issue.

"It's all up in the air, and yet they're trying eminent domain," Ochsenfeld continued.

Neon-colored signs screamed out as loud as protesters' voices and the drums some of them beat: "Farms not fraud" and "No eminent domain".

But IDOT continues to support the project, which aims to operate seven daily flights in 2011. Leaders in Will County, as well as U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson (D-2nd) of Chicago are standing behind the airport, saying it will help boost the regional economy.

Jim Tobin, who heads National Taxpayers United of Illinois, also grabbed a bullhorn to protest what he believed would result in rising taxes for all Illinoisians.

"It is the worst example of state boondoggles in the state budget," Tobin said. "Threatening people's property with eminent domain to benefit real estate speculators is un-American."

Daily Southtown: www.dailysouthtown.com