New Jersey Eminent Domain Redevelopment: Forest City Ratner coming to Bloomfield: New Jersey Eminent Domain Law Blog, 7/22/05

By William J Ward, Carlin & Ward

Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from the commentary by Mr Ward. Click here to read the complete text, including links to appropriate reference material:

Yesterday over 50 concerned citizens, tenants, owners, and friends dressed in "Stop Eminent Domain Abuse" tee-shirts and gathered at the Essex County Courthouse for the first skirmish of the battle with Bloomfield on the right to take these properties through eminent domain proceedings. As reported in today's Star Ledger, the group has been fighting the project, which they said would illegally take their land and businesses.
"They are trying to say my building is blighted, and there is no way it is blighted," said Alessandro Lardieri, who owns a building at Bloomfield Avenue and Ward Street.

But Judge Claude M. Coleman dismissed the action in lieu of Prerogative Writ brought by four property owners contesting the designation of their properties as blighted (a.k.a., an area in need of redevelopment). This was accomplished with no findings of fact and conclusion of law as required by R. 1:7-4. Judge Coleman simply said that the litigants were beyond the 45 days to contest municipal action.

Judge Coleman refused to recognize this case as a matter of "public interest" or "in the interests of justice" — two reasons to extend beyond the 45 days per the decision in Concerned Citizens of Princeton, Inc. v. Mayor and Council of the Borough of Princeton, 370 N.J. Super 429, 851A.2d 685 (App. Div. 2004). Judge Coleman's ruling was made despite proofs that when the underlying action was before the planning board, and the mayor and council, the same attorneys represented both entities with regard to plaintiff's properties and the adoption of the blight study. This is improper conduct and the Supreme Court has said so in ethics opinions and in dicta in the case of Wilson v. City of Long Branch.

New Jersey Eminent Domain Law Blog: www.njeminentdomain.com


Eminent domain goes to Senate: Decatur (AL) Daily, 7/21/05

By M J Ellington

After two hours of questions and concerns at a public hearing Wednesday, a House committee approved a bill to limit governments' power to take your property.

The House County and Municipal Government Committee, chaired by Rep. Bill Dukes, D-Decatur, approved the measure on a voice vote. The bill is supposed to keep city and county governments from condemning private property for commercial uses and includes restrictions on retail, office and residential development.

Dukes said most state lawmakers consider eminent domain legislation a high priority for the session.

"It is such an important issue we believe we should get a law on the books," he said. "If there are areas that need adjusting, we can come back and do those."

Both the House and the Senate will tackle the volatile issue this session in an attempt to strengthen the state's protections against private property takeover.

Many North Alabama legislators watched the committee action in an overflow meeting that moved to the House chamber. Reps. Jody Letson, D-Hillsboro; Micky Hammon, R-Decatur; Tommy Carter, D-Elkmont; and Jeremy Oden, R-Eva, all observed the discussion.

All received comments from citizens in their districts after the U.S. Supreme Court said local governments can take property and give it to private developers for commercial and industrial uses in the absence of state law to the contrary.

Letson said he's heard from people in his district and believes the bill is needed. Oden said he wants a provision in the bill to give private property owners the opportunity to buy back their land if the city or county does not use it as planned.

Gov. Bob Riley included the bill as part of his agenda for the special session, and Riley's spokesman Jeff Emerson said the version that passed the committee is basically a good bill.

Rep. Jack Venable, D-Tallassee, sponsored the bill, but was not at the meeting because he is hospitalized for cancer treatment.

Rep. Richard Lindsey, D-Centre, another sponsor, said the law was designed to put more private property protections in place for Alabama property owners and to do so as rapidly as possible. The bill is likely to come before the full House for consideration today. If it passes the House, the Senate must still approve it before it becomes law.

Voters' approval
A similar bill, introduced in the Senate by Sen. Steve French, requires a constitutional amendment and approval by voters before it could become law.

Several speakers at the meeting had concerns about possible loopholes in the bill. Some members wanted stronger protections for private property owners when a government takes land by eminent domain and then uses it for other than the stated purpose.

Rep. Jeff McLaughlin, D-Guntersville, called the measure "a very strong plug in a dyke that is leaking."

The governor's legal adviser, Ken Wallace, called the eminent domain ssue "extremely complex" but said the bill seems to address the most pressing issues raised by the Supreme Court decision.

One concern expressed in the meeting was the absence of restrictions on the state's ability to condemn property by eminent domain.

Wallace said the issues the bill addresses involve cities and counties. He said the state has never used eminent domain for commercial development.

Even for industrial acquisitions, including automotive plants built in recent years, Wallace said property owners have received payment.

Decatur Daily: www.decaturdaily.com

Members to Eminent Domain Task Force Appointed: Kansas City (MO) Infozine, 7/21/05

[Missouri Governor Matt] Blunt signed Executive Order 15 on June 28th creating the task force. The task force will be charged with conducting a review of state and federal eminent domain laws and establishing criteria that state and local governmental entities will use when the use of eminent domain is being proposed. The task force will also recommend specific eminent domain legislation for possible consideration by the Missouri General Assembly.

The following are Blunt's appointments to the Eminent Domain Task Force.
  • Gerard T. Carmody of St. Louis is an attorney with Carmody, MacDonald P.C. Carmody's practice concentrates in commercial, real estate and employment litigation. Carmody is a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. Carmody holds a bachelor's degree from Spring Hill College in Alabama and a juris doctorate from St. Louis University.
  • Chris Goodson of St. Louis is president and owner of The Goodson Company and Goodco. Goodson is also a principal at Gilded Age. Goodson has extensive knowledge in real estate development. Goodson holds a bachelor's degree in business administration and marketing and a master's in business administration from Southern Illinois University.
  • Sen. Chuck Gross of St. Charles is vice president of Business Development for UMB Bank. Gross is a licensed real estate appraiser and owner of a small appraisal firm. Gross holds a bachelor's degree and master's in public administration from the University of Missouri- Columbia.
  • Rep. Steve Hobbs of Mexico is president of Hobbs Farms, Inc. Hobbs is also the Audrain County director for the Monroe County Water Board. Hobbs is a member of the following organizations: Audrain Cattlemen's Association, Beef Advisory Council, Soybean Association and Audrain Country Board of the Missouri Farm Bureau.
  • Leslie Holloway of Jefferson City is director of State and Local Governmental Affairs for Missouri Farm Bureau (MFB). Holloway began working with MFB on regulatory issues and administrative duties. She also has worked in Washington, D.C. as a lobbyist for the National Federation of Independent Business. Holloway holds a bachelor's degree in agricultural science from the University of Illinois.
  • Lewis R. Mills of Jefferson City is public counsel who serves as the state's consumer advocate in the area of utility regulation at the Department of Economic Development. Mills previously served as deputy chief regulatory law judge for the Public Service Commission. Mills holds a bachelor's degree in geology from St. Lawrence University in New York and a juris doctorate from the University of Utah.
  • Spencer R. Thomson of Kansas City is an attorney with Blackwell Sanders Peper and Martin LLP. Thomson has extensive knowledge in tax increment financing, Chapter 100 Bonds, Chapter 353 Incentives and transportation development districts. Thomson holds a bachelor's degree from Rockhurst College and a juris doctorate from Washington University.
  • Howard C. Wright of Springfield is retired and works under contract as special council for Springfield. Wright has practiced eminent domain law as an attorney for the Missouri Highway Commission, city attorney for Cape Girardeau and city attorney for Springfield. Wright holds a bachelor's degree in public administration and a juris doctorate from the University of Missouri- Columbia.

The nine-member task force will only exist until Dec. 31, 2005 and will be assisted by the state departments of Agriculture and Economic Development. Terry Jarrett, Blunt's General Counsel, will serve as chairman. Task force members will receive no compensation for their service.

Kansas City Infozine: www.infozine.com

Connecticut's eminent domain laws should be revised : Windsor (CT) Journal News, 7/21/05

Last year, I wrote a column regarding the State Supreme Court's ruling that recognized Connecticut and its municipalities' rights to use eminent domain for private development.

The U.S Supreme Court's ruling last month that upheld the state court's ruling has been the source of much media coverage since that time. As the court ruling acknowledged states' rights to limit eminent domain uses, the Connecticut General Assembly may address this issue in an upcoming special legislative session.

This court case (Kelo v. New London) revolved around the taking of a number of private homes in the area of Fort Trumbull State Park in order to use the land to build a hotel, conference center, marina, technology research facilities, a river walk, and some 80 units of private housing. Prior to the U.S Supreme Court decision, it was widely interpreted that eminent domain could only be used for future public uses, such as for establishing bridges, roads and municipal facilities. Nationwide, people have justifiably expressed concerns about the U.S Supreme Court's decision, which appears to expand eminent domain uses to include private development purposes.

House Minority Leader Robert Ward, R-North Branford, has proposed revising Connecticut's eminent domain laws in a special session, to be held in the coming weeks. The legislation he has proposed merely deletes from existing statutes six lines that currently permit development agencies from seizing property for economic development. Local and state governments could still exercise eminent domain to deal with truly blighted properties that pose health or safety hazards or for public works projects including schools roads and other infrastructure improvements

On Tuesday, June 28, I voted in favor of a similar proposal that was defeated in a nearly party line vote. The Legislature held a special session that day to complete work related to the 2005-2007 state budget. Democrat leaders indicated they would rather wait until the next legislative regular session begins in February 2006 to address the issue. They have since requested municipalities not use eminent domain for private development for one year and proposed studying the issue.

I find waiting until next spring to consider legislation to address this problem unacceptable. The state should prohibit the use of eminent domain for private development as soon as possible. I cosponsored Rep. Ward's proposal and support holding a special session this summer. In fact, the Legislature is required to meet in special session to allow for the possible reconsideration of bills vetoed by the Governor. While a special session would likely only seek to rectify the immediate problem of limiting eminent domain, I believe the Legislature should consider other related issues in the near future as well.

When government takes a person's property by eminent domain, it is only required to pay the assessed value as compensation. However, when a person relocates their home or business, there are other significant costs involved, including closing costs, moving expenses and utility startup fees that must be borne by the home or business owner. Eminent domain laws should be amended to provide just compensation. Moving expenses and related relocation expenses should be covered by mandatory stipends.

As mentioned above, I oppose allowing the use of eminent domain for private development. However, if Connecticut's laws are not changed to prevent this, I support amending our statutes to guarantee private property owners receive two times the amount of the assessed value of their property if it is taken by eminent domain in such cases.

Windsor Journal News: www.zwire.com

Legislators hear worries about eminent domain: Chicago (IL) Tribune, 7/21/05

By Crystal Yednak

Flooded with calls from residents worried about the effects of a recent Supreme Court decision on private-property rights, state legislators heard testimony Wednesday on Illinois' eminent domain laws and if they should be strengthened.

Opinions were divided over whether Illinois law offers enough protections and compensates property owners justly for land.

"The definition should say that eminent domain should not be used by government to take private property and give it to private investors who will make a profit," said Kenneth Swanson, a Galesburg resident who testified at the Thompson Center in Chicago.

The Supreme Court decision last month stunned some property owners, who believed eminent domain could only be used for public uses such as for roads or airports.

But in its opinion, the majority said private economic development projects that increased taxes and brought jobs also could be considered a public use. The decision also said states could impose greater protections.

Others at the hearing of the Senate State Government Committee Wednesday argued that Illinois should proceed with caution in changing laws because they already include provisions to prevent abuse.

Brian Martin, a lawyer who has represented municipalities in eminent domain cases, said state law allows eminent domain for redevelopment but requires that land qualify as "blighted" by a number of factors. He also pointed to sections requiring the municipality to prove the land would not redevelop "but for" the government intervention.

"That is exactly the type of careful consideration the court said a local government should undertake before a local taking," Martin said.

But others said that same law allows governments to designate properties as blighted that really are not.

William Ryan, an attorney who has represented property owners, said the definition is too broad and allows properties with significant value, such as in areas of the Loop, to qualify as blighted under the law.

He said eminent domain is abused in Illinois because when owners are compensated for their property, such items as attorney fees, court costs and appraisals come out of that compensation. Ryan argued the law also is unfair because businesses that are forced out of their properties and can't find a new location nearby are not compensated for the loss of their business.

University of Chicago law professor Richard Epstein suggested legislators create a formula to require a government to pay fair market value for the land, plus a premium of 25 to 50 percent to cover costs that aren't typically covered.

Legislators said any proposal would have to weigh the need for economic development.

Des Plaines City Manager David Niemeyer credited eminent domain with enabling the city to revitalize its downtown business district and other areas. To complete its Library Square project, which he called the catalyst for the rebirth of Des Plaines' downtown, the city had to buy 42 parcels of property, using eminent domain in two-thirds of those cases.

"While some in the public sector believe that market forces should act as the sole arbitrator of land prices, we believe that the public good trumps property rights, in some, but not all, cases," Niemeyer said.

He added that the city uses eminent domain as a last resort.

Developers said it is often difficult to assemble all the parcels of land needed to undertake a large-scale economic development project.

"Eminent domain is a critical tool for industrial development," said Paul Fisher, president of CenterPoint Properties in Oak Brook, adding that the projects are often needed to bring jobs and help the region compete in a global market.

Clearer standards in eminent domain laws would help encourage further economic development, he said. Fisher described situations in which his company has abandoned plans for developments because it would have to undertake eminent domain proceedings that could stretch out years.

State. Sen. Steven Rauschenberger (R-Elgin) said he has seen some questionable use of the power and asked whether Illinois should enact a stricter standard of what constitutes a "public use."

"It's always going to serve the developers' interest to engage a sympathetic unit of government to go to eminent domain rather than go to the market," he said.

Concerns were also raised about using eminent domain to displace low-income residents, who often don't have the money or clout to fight back.

Any legislative proposal will also have to include steps to make the process more transparent, said state Sen. Susan Garrett (D-Lake Forest), chairman of the committee.

Garrett said she would organize a bipartisan committee to look at the issues raised.

Chicago Tribune: www.chicagotribune.com

John W Dean interviews Dana Berliner: FindLaw.com, 7/1/05

Excerpts from the interview

John W Dean interviewed Dana Berliner of the Institute for Justice, "Second Chair" in presenting the case for the plaintiffs in Kelo v New London before the US Supreme Court.

The following is an excerpt from that interview.

QUESTION: Did any of the questioning by the Justices surprise you?
ANSWER: The only question that truly surprised me was Justice Kennedy's question about scholarly articles relating to just compensation. Since the case was about public use, not just compensation, that one came out of left field.

QUESTION: Nonetheless, have these people been justly compensated, or will they be?
ANSWER: Just compensation isn't the issue. There are some things you can't compensate for. Wilhelmina Dery is in her late 80s and in fragile health. She doesn't want money. She wants to stay in the home where she was born, with her family around her.

QUESTION: From reading the Court's ruling, it seems that New London adopted an economic redevelopment plan to increase jobs and tax revenues by turning over some 115 privately owned properties to a private developer — with many of these properties located on the waterfront of the Thames River and Long Island Sound, along with some 32 acres once occupied by a Federal Government's Naval Undersea Warfare Center. Is it pure speculation by the planners that this proposed project will provide jobs and tax money for this officially "distressed" city?
ANSWER: Certainly the development contract provides no assurance of tax increases or jobs. The property is being leased to the developer for 99 years at $1 per year. One of our arguments was that if the "public use" was economic development, there should at least be contractual and statutory assurances in place at the time of condemnation that created a reasonable certainty that the project would indeed result in the claimed benefits. But the Court rejected that suggestion and held instead that the government can condemn even without any assurances that the supposed economic development will occur.

QUESTION: Explain how developers and big corporations often work with local and state politicians to accomplish land grabs for their private benefit, at the expense of those without the wherewithal to fight back.
ANSWER: The union of private developers and government power comes about in a few different ways, but the result is the same--the threat of eminent domain to get people to sell "voluntarily," and the subsequent use of eminent domain "as a last resort" if anyone refuses to give up their home or business so that someone else can establish a home or business there. Sometimes a particular business or developer will offer to bring more tax dollars to the city by a new development, but only if the city can guarantee the land the developer wants.

Other times, cities bring in big-box stores or other large private developments and then agree to eminent domain as part of a "corporate welfare" package. And still other times, cities market large chunks of land (owned by often unknowing private citizens) to private developers or businesses.

In New London, the City and the NLDC, a private nonprofit development corporation, reached a deal with Pfizer, under which Pfizer would move to New London and the City and the NLDC would redevelop the Fort Trumbull area, which is near the Pfizer facility. The "process" of plans and public hearings and votes all occurred after that agreement had already been reached. It was a done deal before the residents and local businesses could even object.

QUESTION: What has been the reaction of Connecticut's leading political figures to the ruling?
ANSWER: Former Governor John Rowland was a major proponent of this project. His successor, M. Jodi Rell, has said it would be appropriate to review eminent domain legislation in Connecticut because she was concerned about it. She hasn't said anything specific about these homeowners yet.

There was a move to convene a special session of the Connecticut legislature (which is currently out of session) to address eminent domain. That move failed, so the legislature won't be coming to the rescue any time soon.

QUESTION: How many states have adopted statutes similar to that of Connecticut? How many have laws that prohibit the type of taking the High Court has now ruled to be constitutional?
ANSWER: That's a hard question to answer. Around ten states have statutes that look like Connecticut's, but other states have statutes allowing property to be declared "blighted" if it could be more economically productive. And still other states just leave it up to the municipalities to use eminent domain under their general police powers or to create their own ordinances.

Whatever statutory mechanism is used, eminent domain for economic development occurs in almost every state. Nine states, however, have state supreme court decisions barring economic development condemnations: Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Montana, South Carolina, and Washington. This past year, Utah passed a statute removing the power of eminent domain from redevelopment agencies.

I'm not aware of any other state statutes explicitly prohibiting the use of eminent domain for economic development.

QUESTION: What is the political philosophy underlying your position vis-à-vis cities like New London and laws like that of Connecticut?
ANSWER: Eminent domain is a power of government and it should only be used when truly necessary for public projects like roads and public buildings. It is not a tool for private developers to assemble prime real estate, or for cities to increase their coffers. We believe Connecticut's law violates both the U.S. and Connecticut constitutions. If developers want property, they can buy it just like everyone else.

QUESTION: What, if anything, surprised you about the ruling?
ANSWER: I was surprised that the majority was so willing to throw open the floodgates. I thought if they were going to affirm the Connecticut decision, they would at least create an actual standard for lower courts to use.

QUESTION: Given the fact that Kelo is a 5-4 ruling do you anticipate that it will be overturned if the Court is realigned by Bush appointments?
ANSWER: I anticipate that Kelo will one day be overturned. Its interpretation of the Constitution is just plain wrong. Whether it will be Bush's appointee or someone else's who tips the balance, I don't know. But the last time the Court decided an eminent domain case involving private development, it was 9-0. The case was Berman v. Parker The last time they decided a major public use case, it was also 9-0. That case was Hawaii Housing Authority v. Midkiff. We're moving in the right direction.

The Complete interview is online at:

City may use eminent domain for cannery plan: Inside Bay Area, Daily Review (San Francisco CA), 7/20/05

Hayward City Council votes to raze industrial area to continue redevelopment

By Matt O'Brien

The city [of Hayward CA] is gearing up to demolish eight homes and take a nearby slice of industrial property by eminent domain in the latest phase of the cannery area redevelopment project.

As part of an implementation plan approved by the Hayward City Council as it acted as the city's redevelopment authority on Tuesday night, the city will begin clearing out an old residential block on C Street in August to make way for the future expansion of the Burbank Elementary School.

The city redevelopment agency bought the last two of about half a dozen old houses near the intersection of C and Filbert streets in April, and all the houses have since been vacated and boarded up.

Maret Bartlett, Hayward's redevelopment director, said none of the homes had historic significance.

There are eight legal dwellings on the site, seven of which were recently occupied. Of those seven, three were occupied by low- to moderate-income households, meaning the city has worked to make other affordable homes available, according to a city report.

But one obstacle, a 26,000-square-foot strip of industrial land just south of the homes, remains in the way of the city's plans to clear out the area to begin work on the school project.

The property's owner, Moses Libitsky, felt the city's proposed purchase price of $351,000, offered in February, was too little, Bartlett said.

So on Tuesday night city council members, after holding a closed session on the matter last week, unanimously voted to authorize the city to take that property by eminent domain if negotiations fail.

"We do think it is still possible to settle this matter," Bartlett told the council at the meeting Tuesday night.

Libitsky, whose office is in Emeryville, did not attend the Tuesday hearing.

The city's redevelopment agency has the authority to take land in a district that is deemed blighted and defined as a redevelopment district. Government eminent domain powers were further strengthened nationwide following a June ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The strip of land in question is a small part of Libitsky's 9.45-acre property, a large industrial area that once belonged to the Hunt-Wesson Cannery. Libitsky bought the property in 1990, and two tenants, with leases that expire in 2010, use the site.

The site is the only large warehouse property in the cannery redevelopment district where developers are not actively working through the process of developing new homes.

There will eventually be roughly 800 new high-density homes in the old cannery area.

Inside Bay Area, Daily Review: www.insidebayarea.com/review

R.I. lawmakers blast Supreme Court ruling on eminent domain: Providence (RI) Business News, 7/20/05

What would you do if the government knocked on your door and said that you must by law sell your home to make way for a shopping mall? This question is one that state lawmakers would rather Rhode Islanders never have to face.

The Rhode Island Senate passed a resolution earlier this month to urge Congress and other state legislatures to restore personal property rights following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that government agencies can seize individuals’ property for purposes of improving its tax base.

“The American Dream has been described as life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, with the basis of that dream (being) a citizen’s common law rights to life, liberty and property,” state Sen. James C. Sheehan, a Democrat whose district includes parts of Narragansett and North Kingstown, said in a prepared statement. “Sadly, the right to property ownership has been eroded by this U.S. Supreme Court decision.”

In the matter of Kelo v. City of New London, the Supreme Court in June ruled that government authorities could use their rights of eminent domain to seize personal property to make way for private development if they prove that it could benefit its tax base and economy. It was a perceived setback for personal property rights, greatly extending governments’ powers to take private property under the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Providence Business News: www.pbn.com

Campaign Aimed At Eminent Domain Abuse: The Empire Journal, 7/20/05

The Institute for Justice and its grassroots group, the Castle Coalition, seeks to do what the U.S. Supreme Court refused to do when it issued its ruling in the Kelo v. New London case allowing eminent domain for private development: protect ordinary homeowners and small businesses from eminent domain abuse.

Through IJ’s Castle Coalition — a nationwide network of citizen activists determined to stop the abuse of eminent domain in their communities — the Institute for Justice announced the “Hands Off My Home” campaign to give ordinary citizens the means to protect their homes from government-forced takings for private development. The Institute also made an initial commitment of $3 million to fund the national effort to combat eminent domain at the state and local level. IJ made the announcement less than one week after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its Kelo decision allowing governments to take property from the rightful owner only to hand it over to another private party for his or her private gain.

“The floodgates to eminent domain abuse are already opening in the wake of the Supreme Court’s dreadful Kelo decision,” said Scott Bullock, senior attorney for the Institute for Justice. “The Hands Off My Home campaign will empower ordinary Americans to fight back against eminent domain abuse and to stop this un-American alliance between tax-hungry politicians and land-hungry developers.”

“The American people are furious about this decision, but they can do something about it,” said Dana Berliner, an IJ senior attorney. “In this next year, the Castle Coalition will encourage and coordinate grassroots efforts to end eminent domain abuse in states and cities. At the same time, the Institute for Justice will ask state courts to enforce their state constitutional limits on the use of eminent domain for private development. And the next time we get to the Supreme Court, it will overturn the Kelo precedent.”

“One would be hard-pressed to think of a recent Supreme Court decision that has generated such widespread and virtually unanimous outrage,” said Chip Mellor, the president and co-founder of the Institute for Justice. “We will take this energy and put it toward productive activism.”

As part of their campaign, the Institute for Justice and the Castle Coalition’s immediate plans are to:
  • Pursue state-level litigation to enforce the “public use” limitations found in every state constitution.
  • Issue a formal pledge for governors to sign promising to oppose efforts in their states to use the government power of eminent domain for private development, and to support legislation and other efforts to ensure that citizens of their state are safe from eminent domain for private development. IJ and the Castle Coalition will soon extend this pledge to legislators and city officials nationwide.
  • Support citizen activists nationwide who are urging their state and local officials to set stricter standards for the use of eminent domain.
  • Establish a Castle Coalition presence in every state so ordinary citizens will be poised to mobilize the minute eminent domain is abused for private ends. Citizens can join the Castle Coalition at
  • Host a conference in July in Washington, D.C., to train activists in fighting unjust takings.

Steven Anderson, the coordinator of the Castle Coalition, said, “Many cities held off on eminent domain actions, waiting for the Supreme Court to decide Kelo. Now, with a thumbs-up from the Court, these cities can be expected to move aggressively. Some already have. But IJ will be there every step of the way to stop eminent domain abuse.”

Among many such examples of this trend, Anderson cited officials in Freeport, Texas, who immediately began legal filings to seize small businesses to make way for a private boat marina.

Among the small property owners who addressed the press conference was Scott Mahan from Ardmore, Penn., who may lose his small business to government-forced redevelopment. Mahan said, “Anyone who owns a piece of property anywhere in this country is at risk after the Kelo decision. Now people are finally seeing that this isn’t just homeowners in New London, Connecticut, or business owners in Ardmore, Pennsylvania; it can happen to anyone, anywhere.”

Denise Hoagland, a homeowner from Long Branch, N.J., who is fighting to save her ocean-front home from a private development project that would replace her home with upscale condominiums, spoke for many homeowners nationwide who are fighting this kind of abuse when she said, “My home is a part of me, a part of my family, and we are part of a community. Owning a home is the American Dream and to have it forcibly taken away to benefit someone else is against all of the principles of what being an American is about.”

The Empire Journal: www.theempirejournal.com

Blunt picks Blackwell lawyer for eminent domain group: Kansas City (KS) Business Journal, 7/20/05

Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt has chosen Spencer Thompson, a lawyer with Blackwell Sanders Peper Martin LLP, for a nine-member task force designed to review state and federal eminent domain laws.

The Eminent Domain Task Force also will set up criteria that state and local governments can follow when considering the use of eminent domain, Blunt said in a written release Wednesday. The task force also will recommend specific eminent domain legislation for consideration by the General Assembly.

Blunt said he decided to create the task force because of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling against homeowners in Connecticut who fought to prevent a private developer from taking their property for commercial use. Blunt signed an executive order June 28 creating the task force, which will remain active until Dec. 31 and will get help from the state departments of agriculture and economic development.

Terry Jarrett, Blunt's general counsel, is the task force's chairman.

Kansas City Business Journal: http://kansascity.bizjournals.com

County may limit eminent domain: San Diego (CA) Union-Tribune, 7/20/05

Two county supervisors want to limit the county's eminent domain rights in light of last month's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows public agencies to seize homes and businesses for private development.

Supervisors Bill Horn and Ron Roberts will ask their colleagues Tuesday to vote for policies limiting the use of eminent domain "to actions that have a clear public use and public benefit."

In their proposal, the supervisors said the decision by the nation's highest court "sets a dangerous precedent and goes beyond the accepted use of eminent domain for public benefit in the county of San Diego."

Union-Tribune: www.signonsandiego.com

Eminent domain bill appears dead for now: Houston (TX) Chronicle, 7/20/05

House refuses to negotiate, but it could be taken up again if there's another session

By Polly Ross Hughes

Legislation to protect private property owners from certain land seizures appeared dead Tuesday when the House refused to negotiate a final version of the bill with the Senate.

Although Senate Bill 62 may be doomed for this special session, which ends at midnight, lawmakers are likely to revive the issue if another special session is called.

The bill was drafted in response to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing local governments to seize a home or other private property for private economic development. The court, however, said states were free to further limit eminent domain powers if they chose.

Prompted by a flood of phone calls to lawmakers from worried property owners, Gov. Rick Perry added the issue to the special session agenda.

The Senate passed the bill first and sent it to the House, which added numerous changes to the bill before sending it back to the Senate.

Because the House and Senate passed different versions, each chamber needed to appoint members to a conference committee to work out a compromise agreement.

The Senate had agreed to negotiate with the House.

But Rep. Frank Corte, R-San Antonio, persuaded 91 representatives not to negotiate with the Senate, which he said would result in weakening the bill. Forty voted to negotiate.

"We need to do something for the property owners of Texas, and this is the only thing we have right now," Corte said. "If it's watered down, it's not worth passing."

Sen. Kyle Janek, R-Houston, who authored the bill in the upper chamber, said he will not accept the House's version.

A major sticking point, he said, is a provision that would require governments to pay replacement value — rather than fair market value — when property is seized.

"That's just a litigation nightmare," said Janek. "I didn't like that. We have to be very careful about the wording of that bill."

Corte told House members that the Senate also had planned to remove an amendment put on by Rep. Terry Keel, R-Austin, preventing a government entity from claiming a public seizure is for safety or health when it's really about economic development.

"This is a matter of principle," said Corte. "They're gutting the bill. They're erring on the side of government."

Corte had sponsored a resolution seeking a constitutional amendment limiting eminent domain, which he said would have provided stronger protection for Texas property owners. The Senate, however, refused to take it up.

Rep. Beverly Woolley, R-Houston, who sponsored the eminent domain bill in the House, denied Corte's allegations that a plan was already hatched to weaken the bill.

"There is no done deal. There is no bill printed. We need a bill out so we can calm the fears of our constituents. We need a balanced decision, not a knee-jerk reaction."

Janek said he didn't expect the bill to unravel in the waning hours of the special session.

"I'm surprised and disappointed," he said. "We needed this bill. I wish the House had not done this."

Houston Chronicle: www.chron.com

House committee approves bill to restrict use of eminent domain: Tuscaloosa (AL) News, 7/20/05

By Bob Johnson, Associated Press

[An Alabama] House committee approved a bill Wednesday to prevent city and county governments from condemning property to use it for a private development, such as a commercial shopping center.

The House Committee on Municipal and County Government approved on a voice vote the bill that is being pushed by Gov. Bob Riley as a reaction to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that said cities could use the power of eminent domain to obtain private property for commercial development.

Later Wednesday, the Senate Finance and Taxation-Education Committee passed a bill sponsored by Sen. Jack Biddle, R-Gardendale, that would restrict the use of eminent domain for a similar range of private projects.

The issue was on Riley's agenda for the special session of the Legislature that began Tuesday. The eminent domain bill is expected to be debated by the full House Thursday.

A sponsor of the legislation, Rep. Richard Lindsey, D-Centre, said the bill will become law immediately if passed during the session. He said he believes it addresses the concerns of Alabama citizens who were upset by the Supreme Court ruling.

The main House sponsor of the bill is Rep. Jack Venable, D-Tallassee, a veteran lawmaker who is battling cancer and was not at Wednesday's meeting.

Several committee members suggested the issue should have instead been dealt with as a constitutional amendment that would have to be approved by voters.

During a public hearing, several speakers said they felt the bill contains loopholes and does not go far enough to protect the homes and property of Alabamians.

"I'd compare this bill to a surgeon putting a Band Aid on the incision where brain surgery has been done," said James Rhodes, who identified himself as a private citizen from Cullman County.

Supporters of the legislation said the bill provides protection for Alabama landowners.

"I will suggest that this issue is extremely complex. We believe this bill is ideal to immediately respond to the current problem," said Ken Wallis, the governor's legal adviser.

The four-page bill specifies that cities and counties can't "condemn property for retail, office, commercial or residential development."

Among the complaints Wednesday were that the bill did not prevent the state from using eminent domain and did not specifically say eminent domain could not be used for "industrial" development. Riley, however, says the bill covers "commercial" development and that includes industrial projects.

Committee chairman Rep. Bill Dukes, D-Decatur, said he supports the bill.

"We needed to get some legislation to protect the property owners of Alabama. This can be strengthened if we need to," said Dukes, who served 18 years as mayor of Decatur before being elected to the Legislature.

A variety of eminent domain bills are pending in the Senate. Sen. Roger Bedford, chairman of the Senate Finance and Taxation-General Fund Committee, who also supports the initiative, did not put any eminent domain bills on his committee's agenda Wednesday. Bedford, D-Russellville, said he wants Venable's bill to be the one to pass so that Venable's name will be forever attached to the legislation.

"It's the consensus of this Senate that Rep. Venable's bill deserves the right to pass," he said.

"You've just killed our eminent domain," Sen. Larry Dixon, R-Montgomery, told Bedford at the end of the committee meeting.

Bedford said his committee would meet again Thursday to pass a Senate version of eminent domain, but he doesn't want any Senate bill to have a chance of passing before Venable's version.

After Bedford's committee didn't take up any of the five eminent domain bills assigned to the committee, Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, called a meeting of the Senate Finance and Taxation-Education Committee to take up Biddle's eminent domain bill.

It was the same bill that Biddle and Venable had in the regular session. The Senate committee expanded the bill to cover industrial and manufacturing projects and then approved it without dissent.

Biddle said his bill will be substituted in the Senate with Venable's bill.

Bedford urged Sanders' committee to act and set the stage for Venable's bill. "As a cancer survivor myself, I hope we'll remember Rep. Venable at this time," he said.

Tuscaloosa News: www.tuscaloosanews.com

Eminently dumb eminent domain: Los Angeles (CA) Times, 7/20/05

By Steven Malanga

The city of Boston couldn't accumulate enough land to build the gleaming new $800-million convention center it wanted on the south side of town. So the city government used its powers of eminent domain to snatch about 20 properties from private owners to provide space for the center, justifying the seizure on the grounds that the new center would boost the local economy. Today, the recently opened Boston center sits idle much of the time. First-year bookings and attendance were only one-sixth of what the city projected. Taxpayers now find themselves on the hook not only for the center's construction cost but also for its operating deficit.

It's no wonder defenders of private property rights went ballistic over the Supreme Court's decision last month in Kelo vs. City of New London, in which the court endorsed for the first time the government's power to seize private land for the sake of economic development. In its decision, the court pronounced that government can legitimately use eminent domain if it believes it will "provide appreciable benefits to the community, including — but by no means limited to — new jobs and increased tax revenue." The court thus gave federal constitutional authority to a form of property-taking that local governments such as Boston have been already — and increasingly — using in recent years.

But the fact is, the public benefit promised by urban economic development programs rarely materializes. In fact, such initiatives often become tax eaters — a public burden rather than a public benefit. Throughout the country, cities have liberally used eminent domain to take land in order to build publicly subsidized mega-projects that have wasted tax dollars and distorted the private marketplace. Regrettably, the Supreme Court's decision is already encouraging more such plans.

The Boston facility is only the latest in a long line of convention centers that governments have built or expanded by bulldozing over private property rights with little or no economic gain to show for it. Dozens of new centers have opened over the last decade, creating a nationwide glut in convention space. In San Francisco, to take another example, the city engineered a $191-million expansion of the Moscone Center in part by taking land on which stood an office building and several restaurants. The center's expanded wing opened in 2003, but faced with competition from other cities and a national drop in convention attendance, it has flopped. About 40 more projects now in the pipeline will only worsen the convention-center glut, a recent Brookings Institution study concluded.

As one after another economic development scheme fails, politicians often wind up throwing good tax money after bad, and eminent domain encourages that bad habit. For instance, governments have rushed to "fix" their convention center mistakes with other nearby development that theoretically will boost the centers — which themselves were supposed to be the economic engines. Officials in upstate New York, for instance, used eminent domain to take property away from an owner who was unwilling to sell in order to build a planned subsidized hotel in downtown Syracuse, which the officials say will boost the city's flagging convention center — which itself was originally built to boost the hotel industry.

Politicians often justify such projects with consultant studies purporting to show big potential economic gains. But the track record of such government-sponsored economic studies is dismal. Urban policy expert Heywood Sanders of the University of Texas at San Antonio analyzed more than 30 studies supporting convention center construction and found them "consistently flawed and misleading."

In California, a bill sponsored by state Sen. Kevin Murray (D-Culver City) that would set up an authority to build and construct sports and entertainment facilities is marching to the governor's desk. Giving eminent domain powers to the authority, the bill is meant to help boost Los Angeles' chances to develop a new stadium to lure a National Football League franchise.

The court decision, in other words, represents a home run — or a touchdown, depending on your preferences — for the purveyors of state capitalism. It's not just property owners but taxpayers who will be losers.

Los Angeles Times: www.latimes.com

Steven Malanga is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute

Taking a sucker punch is supposed to teach you a lesson: The Weekly Press & the University City Review (Philadelphia PA), 7/20/05


By Alan Krigman

Members of the American middle class got sucker punched in June. Most didn't know it was coming. Many don't know what hit them. Some still haven't figured out why it happened. And more than a few won't learn anything from the experience.

I allude to Kelo v. New London, a 5-4 decision by the United States Supreme Court. The five nominal liberals (Stevens, Souter, Kennedy, Ginsberg, and Breyer) overruled the three ostensible conservatives (Scalia, Thomas, and Rehnquist) and the retiring "swing" Justice (O'Connor). The decision was that government entities could seize private property from one owner if they decided another owner would have a better use for it. This, as a reading of what the framers clearly intended to be the highly restrictive "eminent domain" clause of the 5th Amendment, which states, "... nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

The ruling hinged on the meaning of "public use." This originally involved site-specific necessities like bridges but segued early-on into communal facilities including police stations, schools, and libraries. Over the years it was extended to such things as rights of way for railroads or power lines, which were privately owned but regulated as "common carriers" available to all, and which required contiguous holdings. Later, it was applied to urban renewal projects involving the demolition of structures determined to be "blighted" because they constituted a hazard to public safety and health, which hardly anybody disputes governments should protect.

More recently, local and state authorities have stretched "public use" to be synonymous with what their Ouija boards tell them comprises the "public benefit" or "greater good" that will result from economic redevelopment plans projected to yield greater tax revenues. The Court affirmed this interpretation. This broadened theory of "public use" is generally traced to the 1981 "Poletown" decision of the Michigan Supreme Court. That case allowed the forced sale and leveling of everything in a viable, ethnic, blue-collar neighborhood so General Motors could build a Cadillac plant there. Those who followed this precedent ignored the little fact that the plant neither created the jobs nor gave Detroit the tax revenues promised. And, last year, the same Court reversed itself in Wayne v. Hathcock, ruling that the Poletown decision had been wrong. Far too late for the displaced persons of Poletown.

So, why was Kelo v. New London a sucker punch? Until middle class people learned about this case, they typically assumed property taken for economic development was substandard and undoubtedly not worth saving. The attitude was often that the affected parties could always live or work elsewhere and would be better off if they did. Forget John Howard Payne's underlying sentiment in writing, "Mid pleasures and palaces though I may roam / Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home."

Now, the middle classes suddenly realize it could happen to their castles as well. A neighborhood needn't be in a state of decay for a use to be proposed that someone claiming to be a visionary says would induce greater tax revenues. Maybe the governor's newest closest personal friend, Donald Trump, would convince City Council that instead of owner-occupied rowhouses on the 4200 block of Regent Square (in Spruce Hill overlooking Clark Park), a high-rise condo would bring in the bucks to keep the Walnut West Library open full-time. Or accountants might haul in reams of spread sheets demonstratng how many jobs would be created (moving people from welfare to work, removing them from the dole while generating wage tax revenues), how much property assessments would rise (increasing real estate tax income), and how sales would grow (there's that 6% for the state and 1% for the city in sales taxes) if the Parking Authority had the power to condemn and demolish "Rindelaub's Row" then sell or lease the land to WalMart or Costco for a new in-town big box store with a garage below and office suites above.

As long as we're only playing arguendo, envision a scenario under these circumstances in which the denizens of Regent or Rittenhouse Square, fighting to save their homes and businesses rather than taking "fair market value" (which is how "just compensation" is usually set these days), fall back on the historic heritage purportedly inherent in the bricks, mortar, and balusters. Of course, doing so would be a tad duplicitous. This, because the costs of ownership associated with historically designated buildings that are old but not architecturally or culturally distinguished are among the factors the same solid citizens employ to gentrify neighborhoods without tearing them down. And the social engineering effect is akin to that of eminent domain for economic development. It drives folks - folks on a lower rung of the socioeconomic ladder, to be sure - out of their homes and businesses.

Or, maybe they think it's all right, as Winston Smith said in the novel, 1984, to "do it to Julia."

The Weekly Press & The University City Review: www.philly1.com


Community to oppose high court’s eminent domain ruling: 7/20/05

News Release

A group of City Councilpeople in Connecticut's largest city have submitted a resolution seeking to protect the city's residents from new broad court guidelines that “threaten the property rights of homeowners.” According to its author, Councilman Keith Rodgerson, “this ruling regarding land use and eminent domain establishes latitude where municipalities can take housing in eminent domain actions for a broad range of private and commercial purposes - including so-called ‘big-box’ stores and the replacement of affordable or middle class housing with luxury.“

Councilman Rodgerson, a local real estate professional currently pursuing a MA degree in Urban Planning, stated that his community is undergoing massive urban redevelopment and has fallen prey in recent years to the poor practice of subrogating homeowners rights to developers interests. “We had one of the densest tracts of minority owned housing in the country and it was leveled with the hope of increased tax revenues from commercial development of the land. This tract has been sitting vacant for almost a decade now as we are currently facing an affordable housing crisis.”

Mr. Rodgerson hopes that this resolution will encourage other communities to buck the court’s decision and instill protections that will protect the rights of their homeowning constituents. “Decisions are being made on the federal level that are wreaking havoc in urban communities. We need to start dictating policy from the ground up…from where the people are that these policies are effecting the most.”

Text of Resolution referred to the Economic Development Committee

Whereas the United States Supreme Court in Kelo vs. City of New London ruled that the City of New London’s proposed disposition of the petitioners' property qualifies as a "public use" within the meaning of the Takings Clause; and

Whereas there now exists through this ruling a latitude for abuse where municipalities can instigate eminent domain proceedings against rightful homeowners at the behest of any private business entity under the guise of economic development; and

Whereas this city has problematic history of taking private property away from homeowners in order to appease private business interests and “benefit a particular class of identifiable individuals”-often without any beneficial economic development resulting; and

Whereas the current court ruling is a direct affront to the rights of homeowners in this city at a time when we are undergoing a high degree of urban redevelopment.

Be it resolved, that the City of Bridgeport affirms its adherence to a strict definition of public use in determining whether or not to engage in eminent domain proceedings; and

Be it further resolved, that the City of Bridgeport be required to compensate homeowners at 200% of fair market value if the city chooses to exercise any power of eminent domain that results in the transfer of title of any portion of a homestead to any private business entity; and

Be it further resolved, that a copy of this resolution be forwarded from the Bridgeport City Clerk’s office to the Justices of the United States Supreme Court in the hope that they will reconsider their direct affront to the rights of homeowners in our city and across the country.

Keith Rodgerson
Bob Curwen
Henry Webb
Maria Valle
Amy Marie Vizzo Panniccia
Anderson Ayala
Marilyn Santacroce

Councilman Keith Rodgerson, Bridgeport City Council: keithrodgerson@post.harvard.edu

Transforming New London From National Disgrace To National Hero: The (New London CT) Day, 7/20/05


By Scott Bullock, Institute for Justice

It is ironic that an editorial calling for less heated and “inflammatory” rhetoric about the Fort Trumbull eminent domain controversy accuses the Institute for Justice of waging a “jihad” about eminent-domain abuse. (“Needed: Light, not Heat,” July 17.) That epithet should have no place in a reasonable debate about the use of eminent domain for private economic development. But rationality seems to have gone out the window in New London when it comes to eminent-domain abuse.

Talk to just anyone on the street or look at the Internet, the polls, most editorials or letters to the editor, including those to this newspaper: virtually the entire nation has united around the Fort Trumbull property owners and their quest to keep their homes. But to The Day and leaders of New London Development Corp., the outrage simply has been the result of the public relations “genius” of the Institute for Justice. Nonsense. Yes, we are very good at getting the word out about our cases, but we can't conjure up the nearly universal disdain for the Kelo decision. That's because this is a matter of right and wrong. It is simply wrong to take property for private economic development. A majority of people of this nation get that. It is unfortunate The Day does not.

The Day falsely states that the Supreme Court in Kelo vs. New London did not expand the use of eminent domain. The Court emphatically did. As Justice Sandra Day O'Connor stated in her dissent, in the other cases where the Court approved an expansive use of eminent domain, such as the removal of blighted areas or to break up an oligopoly of land ownership in Hawaii, the property being taken was harmful in some way. Here, the Court for the first time upheld the use of eminent domain purely for private development without any showing that there was a problem with the land itself apart from it being less “productive” than the new development projects. This is a breathtaking expansion of eminent domain.

Institute for Justice factual
The editorials also claim that the Institute for Justice has misrepresented facts throughout this controversy. Where? When? One may disagree with our opinions, but we don't misrepresent facts. Shortly after we filed this case, we had one factual error in our materials. We stated that a private health club was going to be built where some homes are, as the original municipal development plan had called for. The NLDC had modified the plan and moved the health club to the hotel. Once this was brought to our attention, we corrected our materials and never repeated it. In contrast, I have read recent letters supporting the NLDC that contain falsehoods, such as the claim that hardly any of the property owners live in Fort Trumbull.

Second, The Day editorial claims that the case is over and that any moratorium or changes to Connecticut law would not and should not affect Fort Trumbull property owners. This is false. We have filed a petition for rehearing before the Supreme Court. The compensation trials in this case have not even begun. The cases are alive and the moratorium demanded by Gov. M. Jodi Rell and the Connecticut legislature must apply to Fort Trumbull. If the city and NLDC refuse, they must be forced to stay their hand while the legislature reconsiders the laws that gave rise to this controversy.

The Day and NLDC can complain as much as they want about their supposed unfair treatment by the rest of the nation, but the only question that matters is, what are you going to do about the situation now? It does not matter whether the city and NLDC squeaked out a win before the Supreme Court. They may have won that battle, but they have lost the war. Evicting the homeowners will lead to more delay, more lawsuits, more controversy, more shame and more national scorn for New London.

Build around the residents
Fort Trumbull property owners have fought a battle that is transforming the country. The city and NLDC do not need their land to do development projects. The city can have significant new development in Fort Trumbull while letting these homeowners, who have shown the world what it means to be an American freedom fighter, stay. There is more land available in Fort Trumbull for development than New York has to rebuild the World Trade Center. It is sad that all of this time, energy and money have been spent on 1.54 acres in a 90-acre project area. The city and NLDC can end this controversy by dropping the eminent-domain lawsuits.

There is bad blood between many of the parties in this controversy, but we are willing to put aside differences and history to work with anyone on ensuring that new development takes place in New London while permitting the homeowners to stay.

Gov. Rell, several state legislators and Rep. Rob Simmons have taken a leadership role in seeking to make this happen. It is time for local officials to step up and reach accord with the homeowners by letting them stay in Fort Trumbull. The eyes of the nation are watching. By taking these steps, they can transform the reputation of New London from one of national disgrace to national hero. The alternative is an unmitigated disaster for the homeowners and New London.

The Day: www.theday.com

Scott Bullock is a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice: SBullock@ij.org

Davidson County lawmakers offer bill on eminent domain: Gallatin (TN) News Examiner, 7/19/05

Two Davidson County legislators want to make sure government bodies are forbidden from taking property from private owners to sell to developers.

The bill filed by state Rep. Ben West, D-Hermitage, and Sen. Joe Haynes, D-Goodlettsville, is in response to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows local governments to exercise "eminent domain" and take private property for public use.

"With this ruling, cities have a carte blanche to evict families and bulldoze homes to make way for shopping malls and corporate buildings," West said in a news release. "Our farmers, our families and our neighbors deserve better protection of their private property than this."

The legislation would clarify Tennessee's eminent domain law, West said.

If the General Assembly approves the bill next year, Tennessee would join at least eight other states who forbid the use of eminent domain for economic development unless it is to eliminate blight, West said. Those states are Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, South Carolina and Washington, he said.

The bill is HB2426, and it can be read at www.legislature.state.tn.us.

News Examiner: www.gallatinnewsexaminer.com

Maplewood backs off on eminent domain plan: St Louis (MO) Post-Dispatch, 7/18/05

By Kathie Sutin

Maplewood will curtail the use of eminent domain and will not use it to force property owners near Manchester Road and Sutton Boulevard to sell their land to a private developer, Mayor Mark Langston announced Monday.

At a press conference Monday morning, Langston said the council unanimously agreed by fax over the weekend to a resolution that would limit the use of eminent domain so it would not be used as a threat to force property owners to sell to private developers.

In announcing the resolution, Langston said the restrictions would apply to the request for proposals the city issued for the Sutton-Manchester area last month. proposals for the area are due July 29.

The resolution says the city will use eminent domain only "for those traditional areas in which eminent domain has always been used," such as building roads, parks and other public uses and for redevelopment of blighted areas meeting certain criteria.

Langston's announcement came less than a week after more than 300 people packed a City Council meeting at City Hall to protest a request for proposals the city issued last month for the Manchester-Sutton area. Many said they feared the city would declare the area blighted and use eminent domain to force business owners to sell to a developer.

The resolution is a "promise to Maplewood citizens," Langston said. It is not binding, but officials plan to introduce an ordinance implementing it at a meeting on Aug. 9. They may also take a public vote on the resolution then, he said.

Several dozen residents, business owners and others who attended the press conference said they were happy with the council's action, but many said they were skeptical because the resolution is not "written in stone."

Under the resolution, the city will:
  • Use eminent domain for private development only when a majority of property owners agree to sell to a private developer and a "holdout" is blocking the project. The resolution does not specify a number, but Langston said it would take a substantial percentage of property owners favoring a development to persuade the city to use eminent domain on the holdouts. "We've discussed 90 percent or more," he said.
  • Notify residents of an affected area by certified mail 30 days before it
    issues a request for proposals for a redevelopment.
  • Seek "a partnership of local interest areas contemplated for redevelopment and
    proceed only with the concurrence of substantial numbers of the affected

Matt Williams, a business owner in the affected area, praised the council for passing the resolution and said it was a major victory over eminent domain abuse.

In an interview Williams called the resolution "a neat public-private partnership."

He added: "It's not watertight. It's not perfect. But it's a great first step, and the unanimous vote is a public statement of the City Council's intent to curtail the use and abuse of eminent domain."

The resolution says the power of eminent domain for the benefit of a private developer solely for a private economic development project having no other public purpose is contrary to principles of sound government.

Maplewood declared blighted a residential area on Hanley Road in 2002 and granted eminent domain powers to THF Realty to acquire property to build a Sam's Club and Wal-Mart in a development called Maplewood Commons.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that government can use eminent domain for economic reasons and that taking a home to build a shopping mall is as much a "public use" as is taking land to build a highway or school.

After last week's City Council meeting, officials and leaders of the property owners met Thursday, Friday and throughout the weekend to hammer out the agreement.

Five homes and about 18 businesses that employ nearly 200 people are in the Manchester-Sutton project area. The request for proposals covers an area bounded by Manchester Road, Sutton Boulevard and Hazel Avenue, but excludes Cavalier Ford at Manchester and Big Bend Boulevard.

Post-Dispatch: www.stltoday.com

Va. lawmakers seek curbs on use of eminent domain: Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch, 7/19/05

House GOP leaders vow to pass legislation in response to ruling

By Greg Edwards

Republicans in the Virginia House of Delegates abhor a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on government-condemnation powers as much as do their colleagues running for statewide office.

At a news conference in Richmond yesterday, Republican House leaders said they will pass legislation next year to prevent the use of eminent-domain powers for economic-development projects.

"If we don't protect private property, citizens are no different than serfs or slaves," said Del. Robert G. Marshall, R-Prince William. Marshall offered an unsuccessful bill in this year's General Assembly to limit eminent-domain powers.

Marshall's fellow lawmakers rejected the bill, he said, because they did not think the issue "was ripe for discussion." Although the high court's decision last month may have changed that view, an organization representing local government is warning against an overreaction to the court ruling.

In June, the Supreme Court in a Connecticut case ruled that the city of New London had properly used its condemnation powers under state law to acquire land for a development project. The goals of the project were to generate tax revenue, create new jobs and help build momentum for the downtown revitalization.

The property being acquired in New London was not blighted or in poor condition, as is typically the case in redevelopment projects in Virginia in which government-condemnation powers are used. Lawmakers are concerned the case could open the door for local governments in Virginia to use condemnation powers for economic development.

A ruling by five people in black robes does not "sanitize the odor of theft," Marshall said. "We can't be in the business of making these benefits for private developers at other private citizens' expense."

Last week, Sen. Bill Bolling, R-Hanover, and Del. Robert F. McDonnell, R-Virginia Beach, said they would support legislation and a state constitutional amendment that would prohibit government use of condemnation powers purely for economic development or the generation of tax revenue. Bolling and McDonnell are respectively the GOP candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general this fall.

The Virginia Municipal League, which represents local governments, has warned against lawmakers overreacting to the Connecticut case. Virginia localities have used condemnation authority to fight blight, but private developers need to be involved in redevelopment projects to make them community friendly and ultimately successful, the league said in a recent newsletter.

Mark Flynn, the league's legislative director, said Virginia's local governments already tend to use condemnation powers sparingly and do not use them purely for economic development.

The league could live with the proposal by Bolling and McDonnell, which is endorsed by GOP gubernatorial candidate Jerry W. Kilgore, but could not support the legislation offered by Marshall this year, Flynn said. Marshall's bill would not have allowed condemned land to be used by a private entity unless the public was the overwhelming benefactor of that use.

Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, the Democratic candidate for governor, and his running mates - R. Creigh Deeds of Bath County for attorney general and lieutenant-governor candidate Leslie L. Byrne of Fairfax County - have also called for strengthening property-rights protections in light of the Supreme Court ruling.

Times-Dispatch: www.timesdispatch.com

McMinn commissioners vote against eminent domain: WATE TV6 (Knoxville TN), 7/19/05

McMinn County commissioners have renounced a U.S. Supreme Court decision on eminent domain with a vote to limit the county's right to forcibly seize property for private development.

Assistant county mayor Joe Guy said the unanimous vote Monday protects private property owners but "cannot limit the actions of future commissions."

Commission chairman David Crews said it's a right of Americans to own property without worrying about a private entity taking it.

Mayor John Gentry said the resolution allows McMinn County to retain its right to take land for public projects, such as water line extensions and improvements at the airport.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that New London, Ct., had the authority to take homes for a private development project. In that ruling, the court said states are free to ban that practice.

McMinn County commissioners also urged state lawmakers to "protect the fundamental ideal of private property ownership."

WATE TV6: www.wate.com

Little Italy laundry threatened with eminent domain: San Diego (CA) Union-Tribune, 7/19/05

By Martin Stolz

San Diego redevelopment officials are using the threat of taking private property to compel a laundry business in Little Italy to negotiate selling its land to make way for a condominium and retail project.

The board of the Centre City Development Corp., the city's downtown redevelopment agency, voted unanimously last week to give the owners of Alsco, a linen and uniform laundry with 150 employees, a month to reply to the demand.

The beneficiary of the action would be CLB Partners, a Solana Beach development company with options to buy three parcels surrounding the laundry. Alsco owns three-quarters of the block, bordered by Grape, India and Fir streets and Kettner Boulevard.

CLB Partners has sought, without success, to buy the Alsco land since 2000, developer Patrick Rhamey said. He described his company's communication with Alsco staff as courteous, but indecisive and frustrating.

"Prior to this, there has been no movement," he told redevelopment officials last week. "CCDC's involvement can really help us."

"The stick, the fire to create a sense of urgency for Alsco to take action is the threat of eminent domain," Rhamey said.

CLB Partners, which told the board it would need the entire block, has proposed building 224 condominiums, including 22 affordable housing units it promised to sell at a loss for about $200,000 each. At street level, the complex – a series of buildings ranging from three to 13 stories – would have shops and boutiques, in keeping with Little Italy's feel.

Alsco, a 116-year-old family-owned company based in Salt Lake City, opened its Little Italy shop sometime before 1960, said Steve Larson, a regional manager.

The company's San Diego operation serves more than 3,000 businesses, including restaurants, clubs and garages. Most of its customers are in or near downtown, Larson said.

Larson declined to comment on the board's action. The attorney representing Alsco could not be reached.

In a June 21 letter to the redevelopment agency, Larson said Alsco has hired a real estate broker and expects relocating the plant to take three to five years.

"Unfortunately," he wrote, "there are very few, if any, sites in the area" with adequate water rights to supply "Alsco's proposed use and also have the sewer capacity for our operations."

The redevelopment staff said the CLB Partners project would better suit Little Italy than a laundry, which does not conform to city codes, but is grandfathered at the location.

Little Italy has rapidly evolved in recent years from a working-class community with small manufacturing plants to a haven for boutiques, restaurants and housing.

But remnants of the neighborhood's industrial past survive, including Alsco, a thriving business in the heart of Little Italy near an Interstate 5 interchange.

Alsco gives its unionized workers in San Diego negotiated wages, health care, pensions, paid vacation, sick leave and holidays, Larson said.

Gary Smith, a downtown resident, told the redevelopment board that it was "taking away good-paying jobs and probably exporting them across the border."

"And I'm not sure that's a good call," Smith said.

While the board supported sending Alsco notice of its demands, several board members questioned the action.

Redevelopment staff sought to assuage board concerns about eminent domain, calling it instead a "negotiated sale."

"I don't understand that distinction," board member Harold "Gil" Johnson said.

Board member Jennifer LaSar said relocating Alsco, which would be required by redevelopment law under any agreement between the laundry and the city, could potentially involve substantial obligations and risks to taxpayers.

She also said she would be concerned about the precedent the action could set.

But redevelopment staff said Alsco wanted to negotiate the property sale under the redevelopment law to obtain as many benefits as possible, including relocation costs and money.

Staff members supported their position by describing Alice Larkin Steiner, who attended a meeting to discuss the redevelopment project in San Diego, as "highly sophisticated" and astute because she works as a planner in Salt Lake City.

Larson said Steiner is related by marriage to an Alsco employee, but does not work for or represent the company.

After receiving the Centre City Development Corp. letter, Alsco has 30 days to respond. Its options include agreeing to sell, proposing a partnership with CLB Partners or devising its own residential project. If Alsco proposes its own housing development, CLB Partners could lose its option to build on the site.

But if Alsco challenges the sale and relocation, the redevelopment board would have to decide whether to pursue eminent domain in court.

Union-Tribune: www.signonsandiego.com

Proposed amendment addresses issue of eminent domain: California Farm Bureau Federation, 7/20/05

News Release

The uproar caused by the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision that many say will undermine private property rights has prompted California legislative leaders to take action to protect the state's private property owners. They are proposing a state constitutional amendment that would prohibit local governments from taking private property and turning it over to private developers for increased profits and tax revenue.

The proposed amendment could appear on the November special election ballot if all deadlines are met by the state Legislature. The proposed amendment would require property taken by eminent domain to be owned by governmental entities and used only for public purposes.

Failing that, there's still time to qualify the measure by initiative for the June 2006 general election ballot. To be approved, a state constitutional amendment must earn a two-thirds vote of the Legislature and majority approval by California voters.

Sen. Tom McClintock, R-Thousand Oaks, who introduced the amendment last week at a Capitol press conference, said the Supreme Court's decision in Kelo vs. City of New London "breaks the social compact that gives government its legitimacy and opens a new era where the rich and powerful can use government to seize the property of ordinary citizens for private gain."

In the Kelo decision the court ruled 5-4 against nine homeowners in New London, Conn. The property owners had resisted having their waterfront homes taken by eminent domain. The city wanted the properties in order to turn them over to developers for offices, restaurants and upscale homes.

"For government to take private property just because it will increase tax revenue is not a legitimate use of eminent domain," John Gamper, California Farm Bureau Federation director of taxation and land use, said. "We're extremely concerned about the far reaching implications of the Kelo decision and perhaps the proposed amendment to the California Constitution is the only way to provide protection to our family farmers and ranchers."

Existing state laws probably already blunt the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in California, said Gamper. But he points out that state laws can be changed fairly easily, and property owners and organizations like Farm Bureau have to be vigilant to prevent erosion of landowner protections at the state level.

Under California law, a redevelopment agency can only condemn property in a blighted area that is predominantly urbanized. The definition of "blight" and "predominantly urbanized" are specifically defined in statute, Gamper said. "Farm Bureau also sponsored legislation in 1996 that strictly prohibited the taking of Williamson Act land for redevelopment and made it more difficult to take other agricultural land over two acres in size."

He said Farm Bureau will be analyzing all the potential impacts of the proposed constitutional amendment during the Legislature's upcoming recess.

McClintock said the court's ruling places private homes and businesses, as well as farms and ranches, at greater risk than ever because in California there are 6,000 public agencies that have the power to "seize your home, pay you pennies on the dollar for it, and then give it to somebody else for their own personal gain and profit."

In the wake of the high court's decision, McClintock said it now falls to the individual states to shore up private property rights that are no longer protected under the Bill of Rights. He said Senate Constitutional Amendment 15, co-authored by Dean Florez, D-Shafter, and its companion legislation, Assembly Constitutional Amendment 22, introduced by Assemblyman Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, will improve protections in California.

"As a farmer, I hold the value of property ownership and enjoyment as a paramount right and with the recent Supreme Court decision occurring in such close proximity to the celebration of our independence 229 years ago, I wonder if those farmers, colonists and settlers that rose up then would not expect the same from us now," LaMalfa said.

When the Legislature returns from its summer recess, it will have a three-day window to place the proposal on the November ballot. Failing that, McClintock said there still would be a month left to get it on the June 2006 ballot.

In Yolo County, the 17,000-acre Conaway Ranch, which is actively farmed and includes considerable wildlife habitat along the Sacramento River, is the target of an eminent domain proceeding. The right to take the land will be the subject of a trial in Yolo County Superior Court on Aug. 23.

In addition to containing Yolo County's largest gas fields, there are more than 50,000 acre-feet of surface water rights, along with groundwater and riparian rights that go with the land. The ranch also plays an important role in flood control and rural recreation.

The ranch was previously held by a bankrupt successor to PG&E Properties Inc. It was put up for sale to the highest bidder in a closed bidding process. Because of the closed bid the county, as a public agency, could not participate in the process.

After the county's efforts to negotiate with the utility were stymied, and with the clock running out on the private bidding deadline, the county board of supervisors chose last July to initiate eminent domain proceedings.

In December 2004, the ranch was sold to a Sacramento-based development consortium led by Steve Gidaro. Operating under the name Conaway Preservation Group LLC, the consortium purchased the ranch with knowledge of the county's pending eminent domain action, according to Yolo County officials.

Tim Sandefur, an expert on property rights with the Pacific Legal Foundation, said the use of eminent domain to take private property is a "nationwide epidemic. In just five years, there were over 3,700 cases nationwide of eminent domain being used to benefit private parties.

"Unfortunately, eminent domain abuse harms minorities and the poor the most," Sandefur said. "They tend to have less political influence, whereas companies like Nissan have a great deal of influence. In 2001, the state of Mississippi condemned 23 acres of minority-owned land to transfer to Nissan to build a car factory."

Sandefur said California is one of the most active states in condemning properties for the benefit of other private parties. Between 1998 and 2002, news reports indicate there were 23 different projects involving condemnation for private use in California. Development projects during these years involved more than 125,000 acres.

"Eminent domain abuse is legalized theft," Sandefur told the media during last week's press conference. "This is not a matter of Republican vs. Democrat or left vs. right. This is a matter of the perversion of government power."

Florez said getting the proposed amendment to the state Constitution approved will be a bipartisan effort.

"The Supreme Court's decision is far reaching, particularly for California," Florez said. "This is something that needs debate and to be talked about very frankly in Sacramento. It's clear to us that California property owners need to be justly compensated, not just compensated — and there's a big difference between the two.

"As a past community banker who has worked with many redevelopment agencies I have seen the abuse (of eminent domain) personally and professionally," Florez said. "This proposed amendment will tell those who want to hand property over from the poorest to the richest that those days are over."

McClintock said a bipartisan consensus is developing around the "self-evident truth that the most fundamental purpose of government is to protect the individual rights of its citizens."

"We have introduced the measure with 45 co-authors--more than a third of the state Legislature — including four Democrats," he said.

California Farm Bureau Federation: www.cfbf.com

States move to blunt effect of Supreme Court eminent-domain ruling: San Francisco (CA) Chronicle, 7/19/05

By Maura Kelly Lannan, Associated Press

Alarmed by the prospect of local governments seizing homes and turning the property over to developers, lawmakers in at least half the states are rushing to blunt last month's U.S. Supreme Court ruling expanding the power of eminent domain.

In Texas and California, legislators have proposed constitutional amendments to bar government from taking private property for economic development. Politicians in Alabama, South Dakota and Virginia likewise hope to curtail government's ability to condemn land.

Even in states like Illinois — one of at least eight that already forbid eminent domain for economic development unless the purpose is to eliminate blight — lawmakers are proposing to make it even tougher to use the procedure.

"People I've never heard from before came out of the woodwork and were just so agitated," said Illinois state Sen. Susan Garrett, a Democrat. "People feel that it's a threat to their personal property, and that has hit a chord."

The Institute for Justice, which represented homeowners in the Connecticut case that was decided by the Supreme Court, said at least 25 states are considering changes to eminent domain laws.

The Constitution says governments cannot take private property for public use without "just compensation." Governments have traditionally used their eminent domain authority to build roads, reservoirs and other public projects. But for decades, the court has been expanding the definition of public use, allowing cities to employ eminent domain to eliminate blight.

In June, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that New London, Conn., had the authority to take homes for a private development project. But in its ruling, the court noted that states are free to ban that practice — an invitation lawmakers are accepting in response to a flood of e-mails, phone calls and letters from anxious constituents.

"The Supreme Court's decision told homeowners and business owners everywhere that there's now a big `Up for Grabs' sign on their front lawn," said Dana Berliner, an attorney with the Institute for Justice. "Before this, people just didn't realize that they could lose their home or their family's business because some other person would pay more taxes on the same land. People are unbelievably upset."

Don Borut, executive director of the National League of Cities, which backed New London in its appeal to the high court, said government's eminent domain power is important for revitalizing neighborhoods. He said any changes to state law should be done after careful reflection.

"There's a rush to respond to the emotional impact. Our view is, step back, let's look at the issue in the broadest sense and if there are changes that are reflected upon, that's appropriate," he said.

In Alabama, Republican Gov. Bob Riley is drawing up a bill that would prohibit city and county governments from using eminent domain to take property for retail, office or residential development. It would still allow property to be taken for industrial development, such as new factories, and for roads and schools.

In Connecticut, politicians want to slap a moratorium on the use of eminent domain by municipalities until the Legislature can act.

One critic of the ruling has suggested local officials take over Supreme Court Justice David Souter's New Hampshire farmhouse and turn it into a hotel. Souter voted with the majority in the Connecticut case.

Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, South Carolina and Washington already forbid the taking of private property for economic development except to eliminate blight. Other states either expressly allow private property to be taken for private economic purposes or have not spoken clearly on the question.

Illinois state Sen. Steve Rauschenberger, a Republican who is considering a run for governor, said the state's blight laws need to be more restrictive.

"The statutory definition of blight in Illinois is broader than the Mississippi River at its mouth," he said. "They have taken everything from underdeveloped lakefront property to open green-grass farmfields as being defined as blighted."

Action also is taking place at the federal level, where a proposal would ban the use of federal funds for any project moving forward because of the Supreme Court decision. And the Institute for Justice said it will ask the Supreme Court to rehear the New London case, but acknowledged that the prospects of that happening are dim.

"One of the things, I think, that is elemental to American freedom is the right to have and hold private property and not to interfere with that right," Rauschenberger said. "For Americans, it's like the boot on the door. You can't kick in the door and come in my house unless I invite you."

San Francisco Chronicle: www.sfgate.com


State still needs to limit eminent domain: Rocky Mountain News (Denver CO), 7/19/05


In its own peculiar way, the U.S. Supreme Court figured out how to unite the country.

Its 5-4 ruling last month in Kelo v. the City of New London, which expanded the right of local governments to use eminent domain for private development, offended conservatives and liberals alike. The former generally resist all condemnation except for legitimate public facilities while the latter understood the decision gave the Wal-Marts of the world a political tool they don't need and shouldn't have. Those made happiest by the ruling were municipal governments and some business groups.

On Monday, the Institute for Justice, which represented Kelo, asked for a rehearing on the case - which they have virtually no chance of getting. But more important, across the country legislators and citizens are already trying to figure out what they can do at the state level to further restrict public condemnation for private gain.

In Colorado, the first proposal comes from Rep. Al White, R-Winter Park, who wants to draft a state constitutional amendment that would prohibit local governments from taking property from one person and turning it over to another. White's amendment is a long way from even draft form, but there's a good chance we will be for it.

Yet we also predict it will not get the two-thirds majority it needs in both chambers of the legislature. That's because of the unholy alliance of revenue-hungry local governments and big developers who promise them more sales taxes. Both groups wield disproportionate clout at the Capitol.

Fortunately, Colorado already has strong constitutional protections against private-to-private condemnation, stronger than most states. For example, our courts don't accept at face value a claim by local government that a taking is for a public purpose, as was the case in Connecticut. The taking has to meet a certain objective standard, usually based on a prior "blight" designation covering the property eyed for seizure. That designation was created to expedite so-called "urban renewal."

The blight designation has been badly abused over the years by local government, and state Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, has passed a bill limiting its use somewhat. But attempting to limit it further, or to eliminate it altogether, will be met with strong resistance.

We hope White has allies who are willing to circulate petitions. An initiative has a better chance of making the ballot than a referendum. But finding a group that supports individual property rights with the experience and money to mount a petition drive may be difficult.

Rocky Mountain News: www.rockymountainnews.com

Eminent domain ruling fuels imminent concern: Milwaukee (WI) Journal Sentinel, 7/15/05

Falls redevelopment brings worries to Main St

By Reid J Epstein

The letter that scared Don Umhoefer arrived via certified mail earlier this month. On village stationery, it described a proposed Main Street area redevelopment plan in the works that encompasses his block of Fond du Lac Ave.

"Implementing the proposed Redevelopment Plan may involve the condemnation of private property within the Redevelopment Area for urban renewal purposes," the letter states. "Accordingly, you are hereby notified that your property might be taken for urban renewal."

Condemning private property for economic redevelopment, always touchy ground for local governments to tread, theoretically became easier last month when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that governments may buy property, blighted or not, as long as the owner is fairly compensated.

Menomonee Falls officials say they hope to not have to take property for the Main Street project, but they won't rule out the option.

"There aren't any particular parcels targeted and there aren't any parcels that are excluded," said John Fellows, the village planner. "It's left open. A parcel could be acquired or nothing might be acquired."

The Falls' Main Street, a depressed corridor dotted with vacant lots and empty storefronts, has long been the subject of redevelopment talks. Village officials contracted with urban planners RTKL Associates Inc. to develop a design for the neighborhood. Trustees hope to have a plan finalized soon and financing formalized by fall.

Last month's Supreme Court decision expanded the local governments' power to declare eminent domain.

In New London, Conn., residents whose homes are targeted for destruction to make room for an office complex challenged the city's condemnation. They claimed the city could not seize their land to turn it over to private developer, but the court ruled otherwise.

Car dealer owns parcels
Of the 80 parcels in the Menomonee Falls redevelopment proposal, car dealer Ernie von Schledorn owns 14, including six that are listed as vacant lots. Trustee Michael McDonald, who said he hopes the village does not have to purchase land in its redevelopment effort, acknowledged that the village could use eminent domain powers to turn von Schledorn's property over to developers.

"Hopefully, it won't be necessary," McDonald said. "Hopefully, Ernie von Schledorn and the other property owners will embrace the concept so we won't have to resort to that sort of thing."

Reached Friday at his dealership in Mayville, von Schledorn said he purchased the Main Street properties with the idea of expanding his flagship car dealership, which sits on Main Street east of Highway 41/45, adjacent to the proposed redevelopment zone.

Von Schledorn termed the redevelopment plan "all very promising."

"They will have my total cooperation," he said.

Next up is a July 26 public hearing, at which property owners within the proposed redevelopment zone can lobby to be removed from it.

Condemning private property to spur economic development is not a new function for local governments. Milwaukee purchased an old rail yard in the Menomonee Valley to develop it as a business park and Glendale's Bayshore Mall is being expanded into a mix of stores, restaurants, offices and condominiums.

Taxpayer rights advocated
State Sen. David Zien (R-Eau Claire), who announced last month that he would introduce legislation seeking to restrict local government's ability to seize private property for economic development, said Menomonee Falls should not turn property over from one owner to another.

"The rights of the taxpayers, the rights of the property owners, are paramount," Zien said. "Where is that fine line of demarcation where it is not public use, but public greed?"

Umhoefer said he is worried he will be forced to leave his home, which is assessed for tax purposes at $102,900.

"The guys with the money are going to win," he said. "If somebody came in there with a lot of money and said, 'I'm going to put up the next Wisconsin Dells,' they have the power to take anything within those boundaries and condemn it."

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: www.journalsentinel.com

The following is a "Letter to the Editor" of the Menomonee Falls Express News by Don Umhoefer, one of the parties affected by the proposed 'taking' described in the above report.

I applaud the Village Board’s decision to intervene in the declining Main Street area. After an objective and thorough review of the entire northeast corner of the Village, the consultant’s recommendations have been presented and have now been called “The Dream” for Main Street. Job well done!

It’s great to have a dream… The business and home owners in the Main Street neighborhood also have dreams. No matter how much we try to buy into this plan, it is hard for the business and homeowners to not feel that their dreams are being threatened.

In order to create the redevelopment district proposed, an inventory of all the homes and businesses within its boundaries has been completed. (This also includes parts of Fond du Lac, Jefferson and Cleveland Avenues) Each and every property has been determined to be “blighted”. Vibrant, functioning businesses such as Auto Zone, Murf’s, Schlotzky’s, Pool Park, Emery’s Bicycles, and the Wauwatosa Credit Union, as well as many homes “Impair the sound growth of the community” simply because they do not fit into the proposed plan.

Instead of looking for one new business to provide the catalyst for change, why not acknowledge these current business owners as the cornerstones of Main Street and stimulate the revitalization with a controlled, planned infill of complementary residential and retail development?

Will the Village of Menomonee Falls use eminent domain to take private property from the existing home and business owners to benefit private developers?

Once this entire area is labeled “blighted”, the Village has the power to acquire properties through the use of eminent domain. Most people are aware that government has the power to take private property for “the good of the general public”. Primarily, this power has been used for roads, public buildings, and power transmission lines.

The recent Supreme Court split decision on Kelo-vs-City of New London has opened the door for government to liberally stretch this power to also take private property from one owner to give it to another private owner, usually a developer. In the words of dissenting Justice O Connor stated; “the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms.” In other words, the little guy loses again!

Property owners in the proposed Main Street Redevelopment Area recently received a notification of a Public Hearing in the form of a Certified Letter which includes 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.”

Will the Village of Menomonee Falls choose to abuse their power of eminent domain?

How are our taxes going to be used to pay for these “improvements” and the increased burden they place on the Village’s infrastructure?

Please attend the Public Hearing on July 26, 2005 to learn more and to voice your opinion.

Donald J. Umhoefer, Menomonee Falls WI 53051: oompa@worldshare.net