W. Phila. residents force housing deal with PHA: Philadelphia (PA) Daily News, 9/22/05

By Earni Young

Pressure from a group of angry West Philadelphia homeowners forced City Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell and the Philadelphia Housing Authority to compromise on plans to condemn 377 properties for a public housing development.

Blackwell agreed that 32 owner-occupied homes and more than two dozen other properties included in the bill before City Council will not be seized unless the owners want to sell. Her announcement defused a potentially contentious public hearing.

"This is a great victory for us," said the Rev. Terrence Carl Hensford, of Ward A.M.E. Church. Hensford hosted two community meetings at his church to calm the anger and fear that disrupted a Sept. 15 hearing before City Council.

Lisa Jones, one of the affected homeowners, applauded the decision. Jones said she and the other homeowners need more time and more information about the benefits they are entitled to receive in exchange for their properties.

"We need to sit down and chew on this," Jones said. "These are our homes."

PHA Executive Director Carl Greene said he suggested the compromise to avoid a repeat of last week's outcry and possibly delay passage of the bill. PHA needs the legislation approved in time to apply next month for Low Income Housing Tax Credits to finance the $46 million project.

"We felt that it would contribute more to the success of the project for us to be good neighbors," Greene said. He said PHA could work around occupied homes.

The Redevelopment Authority is acquiring the properties for the PHA, for a proposed expansion of the Lucien E. Blackwell Homes. The expansion will add 60 new homes and 100 rental units in an area bordered by 40th and 44th streets and Haverford and Lancaster avenues.

Herb Wetzel, RDA executive director, said the agency will honor Blackwell's promise as it has for other Council members.

Property owners complained they weren't notified of the city's plans until a day or two before the first hearing. It's a complaint that often is raised around the city's eminent domain process.

In this case, Blackwell blamed the oversight on miscommunication among the city agencies over the issue of community meetings. But she also believes the rancor expressed in Council and at smaller meetings at Ward A.M.E. was rooted in unease over the city's decision to take in Katrina evacuees from New Orleans.

Philadelphia Daily News: www.philly.com/mld/philly/news

Legislation Proposed To Reform Eminent Domain Law: westchester.com (Westchester County NY), 9/23/05

Westchester County Legislators Jim Maisano (R—New Rochelle) and Thomas J. Abinanti (D, I, WF—Greenburgh) have submitted legislation to the Westchester Board of Legislators that would reform eminent domain in Westchester County by prohibiting County funds from being contributed to any development project that uses eminent domain to take private property for private use.

The legislation also bans the County from using its own power of condemnation for projects that misuse eminent domain in this fashion.

The following legislators are co-sponsors of this legislation: Majority Leader Clinton Young, Minority Leader George Oros, Lois Bronz, Ursula LaMotte, Bernice Spreckman, Rob Astorino, Judy Myers and Gordon Burrows. Legislators Maisano and Abinanti were pleased that a majority of legislators on the Board are sponsoring the legislation and that the sponsors reflect a bipartisan coalition.

Legislators Maisano and Abinanti have worked together over the past few months in researching eminent domain, reviewing proposed and passed legislation from other states and local governments, and contacting elected officials and public interest groups to determine the best way to reform the use of eminent domain in Westchester. The legislators hope to set a precedent for other counties and local governments that eminent domain should only be utilized for specific, genuine public use projects.

“There is an outcry across the nation against the misuse of eminent domain, and in my own district, I have witnessed how eminent domain can be used by powerful developers to intimidate and abuse property owners. I am committed to passing this legislation to protect all of Westchester's property owners, especially those that may not have the resources to defend themselves against wealthy developers,” said Maisano. “From the Supreme Court down to the local governments that are sanctioning this taking of private property to benefit private development projects, we seem to have forgotten the critical importance of private property rights in a free society. I am excited to be advocating for this important reform, and when this law is passed, it will be a real protection for people that are confronted with the harmful impacts of eminent domain.”

Legislators Maisano and Abinanti were troubled by the highly controversial U.S. Supreme Court ruling from June 2005 that granted governments the authority to seize private property for private development in holding that an increase in taxes could be deemed a public use. In light of this ruling, a number of states and localities have taken steps to enact legislation to put restrictions on this troubling ruling, and Maisano and Abinanti want Westchester to be a national leader in this reform movement.

“Government should not take private property unless it is necessary to meet a real public need, not just because it prefers one use over another or one developer over another,” said Abinanti.

“I want to thank my colleagues on the Board who have displayed interest in this important legislation and are supporting our efforts,” said Maisano. “I strongly encourage the entire Westchester community to pull together and help us turn this proposal into a County law as soon as possible.”

Westchester.com: http://westchester.com

Burger King site home of Whopper or eminent domain? Anoka (MN) Union, 9/23/05

By L A Jones

The long boarded-up Burger King fast food restaurant at the northwest corner of Ferry and Main streets in Anoka could soon be under new ownership – eminent domain and all.

As part of a report to the Anoka City Council Monday, City Attorney Bill Hawkins said a hearing was set in Anoka County District Court for Monday, Sept. 26 conditionally, to be possibly abandoned based on a possible sale of the Burger King property to the city or CVS Pharmacy under an extension granted until yesterday (Thursday, Sept. 22).

The old Burger King site has been considered an eyesore by city leaders, residents and others because it is located at what is considered to be one of the main gateways to Anoka from the south and the west.

The condemnation schedule comes just as an update was presented Monday night from Anoka’s Economic Development Commission (EDC) that it was a little concerned with the placement of CVS Pharmacy across the street from the competitor, Walgreen’s, at the southwest corner of Ferry and Main streets, according to Bonnie Stoll, member of the EDC.

The EDC supports “demolishing the building,” but has “concern about having two drug stores located so close to each other,” according to the Sept. 8 minutes of the committee. Further, according to the EDC minutes, the commission would “support the land use being market driven and that no subsidy be given to potential buyers.”

The block on which the former Burger King is located, as well as other parcels there in which property owners are interested in selling, has been identified as a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) area. The only portion of the block that would not be obtained using TIF funds would be the Auto Zone parcel and a segment owned by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT).

“Tax increment revenue from the council TIF district can be used to undertake planning, property acquisition and redevelopment,” said Anoka Community Development Director Bob Kirchner in May.

Anoka City Manager Tim Cruikshank said Monday night the city would use TIF funding to acquire the Burger King parcel either via a willing seller or by eminent domain proceedings.

Hawkins told the council that the owner of the Burger King parcel had discussed the sale of the property to Walgreen’s. But he didn’t know just how serious Walgreen’s was about obtaining the site, Hawkins said.

Eminent domain proceedings and the acquisition of the property by the city through other means, he told the council, would allow Anoka to choose what developer it desired to build on the block.

Hawkins would not recommend dismissing eminent domain proceedings until a development plan was actually in place, he said.

“You can insist there is development on that property that is acceptable to the city,” Hawkins said.

The Anoka City Council May 16 on a 4-1 vote authorized Hawkins to proceed with eminent domain proceedings against eight parcels on the block bounded by Ferry, Main and Webster, including the Burger King land.

Mayor Bjorn Skogquist voted against authorizing eminent domain at the time, presumably because of the effect on other property owners, including homeowner Tom Ward.

“(All of these properties) are linked by a complex set of ownership patterns and real estate negotiations at this time,” said Kirchner May 16.

At the time eminent domain proceedings were authorized by the council, Ward expressed his preference to have CVS purchase all of the properties without any city involvement.

But in lieu of that not happening, Skogquist suggested that the city purchase Ward’s three parcels on the condition that other parcels are obtained by either eminent domain or negotiation on the part of the city or CVS.

“It’s a little difficult with so many property owners involved,” Ward said at the time.

With Anoka’s petition for eminent domain against the owner of the Burger King land, according to Hawkins, it is up to Burger King to negotiate the sale of the land or face condemnation by the city in Anoka County District Court commencing Monday with a hearing.

Anoka Union: www.abcnewspapers.com

Bean company to fight eminent domain takeover of property: WANE-TV15 (Indianapolis IN), 9/22/05

Authorities may use eminent domain to seize property occupied for almost 60 years by a bean factory in downtown Indianapolis.

They want to use the land for a parking lot near the new stadium being built for the Indianapolis Colts.

N-K Hurst Company owns almost four-and-a-half acres on the southeast corner of what would be the stadium's parking lot. But Hurst says the company does not want to leave because of the cost of moving and the disruption of its business.

John Klipsch, the executive director of the Indiana Stadium and Convention Center Building Authority, says they absolutely need the property. He says the only thing to be negotiated is how much they'll pay Hurst.

Groundbreaking on the $500 million stadium just south of the R-C-A Dome was on Tuesday. The new stadium is expected to be completed in time for the 2008 N-F-L season.

WANE: www.wane.com

Bill on eminent domain get Assembly panel OK: (Madison WI) Capitol Times, 9/22/05

By Anita Weier

A legislative committee recommended Tuesday that the Assembly approve a bill aimed at tightening protections for private property owners in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision in a Connecticut case.

That case, Kelo v. city of New London, involved the condemnation of property by a private nonprofit redevelopment corporation, and ultimately the transfer of that property to other private owners who would develop it.

"We wanted to protect individual rights against the heavy hand of government," said Rep. Sheryl Albers, R-Reedsburg, chair of the Committee on Property Rights and Land Management.

The bill, proposed by Republicans and approved on a party line vote, would prohibit the condemnation of property that is not blighted if the government condemning the property intends to convey or lease the acquired property to a private entity.

The bill defines "blighted" property and provides that property that includes one or more dwelling units is not blighted unless the property has been abandoned or has been converted from a single dwelling unit to multiple dwelling units, and the crime rate in, on or next to the property is higher than in the rest of the municipality.

Rep. Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie, objected to voting on that bill and others on the same day public hearings were conducted. He said important issues deserved time for adequate study.

The committee cast the same 4-2 party line vote to approve AB 656, which would allow income from a property to be considered in determining fair market value of a condemned property. Currently income evidence is not admissible when evidence of comparable sales exists.

A representative of the state Department of Transportation opposed the bill on the grounds that the income approach was "unreliable" and would result in higher costs for taxpayers in Wisconsin. Courts have been concerned that in eminent domain cases, the property owner should be compensated for actual loss, not speculative loss, the DOT argued.

Capitol Times: www.madison.com

Eminent domain for spur approved: Victorville (CA) Daily Press, 9/21/05

Council votes unanimously over affected residents' objections to acquire land for rail connection to SCLA

By Miguel Gonzalez

Despite property owners' objections, the Victorville City Council approved exercising eminent domain to acquire five parcels owned by three developers that currently stand in the way of rail spur construction.

A unanimous vote in favor of eminent domain, with Councilman Terry Caldwell absent, will now allow the city to keep constructing the project, which is slated to be completed by late 2006.

The project also includes construction of an underpass under National Trails Highway just before Turner Road, and the laying of rail at a cost of $25 million, according to spokeswoman Yvonne Hester.

Mayor Mike Rothschild said the city did not determine prices offered to the owners of the parcels. He said a judge will set the prices the city must pay for the land it acquires under eminent domain.

"We can't cheat anybody because a court determines the prices that are paid for properties," Rothschild said.

The proposal to start the process of eminent domain was suggested by City Attorney Andre de Bortnowski, who said there is a "public necessity" to acquire the property.

Robert Morris, a lawyer and son of property owner Gary Morris, said the city offered $79,000 for three of his father's parcels in the area.

"We are talking about eight acres of land that are valued around $800,000. We are willing to sell, but their offer was simply an insult," Morris said. "If they (the city) want to take this approach with us, it will be a long time before the rail spur gets constructed."

Councilman Rudy Cabriales said the city is simply following a process that will not stop negotiations with the three owners in question.

"We will continue to look for a solution through negotiations. This is a project that will end up benefiting everybody," Cabriales said.

The construction of the rail spur has been touted as the final piece of the puzzle that will make the Southern California Logistics Airport a full intermodal location for companies that will bring thousands of jobs to the area, according to Rothschild.

Morris said all he was looking for was a fair offer and, until he gets one, the issue will continue to be contested.

"I live in court, so let's go to court on this issue," he said.

Victorville Daily Press: www.vvdailypress.com
California eminent domain

Collier to mull seizing zoo through eminent domain: Ft Myers (FL) News-Press, 9/21/05

By Denes Husty III

Collier County commissioners next week will discuss seizing a landmark Southwest Florida attraction by eminent domain.

Commission Chairman Fred Coyle said he’s interested in exercising the county’s powers under state law to condemn the land that the Naples Zoo sits on.

He said he wants the county’s staff to draft the details and bring the issue back for consideration by commissioners next month.

Coyle’s suggestion comes after the owners of the property, the Fleischmann Family Trust, rejected the county’s offer to buy the zoo property and surrounding land — a total of 166.5 acres — for $56.1 million. An appraisal of the property conducted for the trust valued the land at $67.5 million.

“It is a logical extension of our efforts,” Coyle said. He said there is a public purpose in preserving the attraction, which has roots going back to 1919, and also preserving some surrounding environmentally sensitive land along the Gordon River.

Attorney John Passidomo, attorney for the family trust, said he and his clients are, for the moment, just waiting to see what the commission does.

“The threat of eminent domain is a serious, sobering process,” he said.

The News-Press: www.news-press.com

Lawmaker cautions against eminent domain in rebuilding: San Francisco (CA) Chronicle, 9/21/05

Maxine Waters sees threat to poor blacks in New Orleans

By Carolyn Lochhead

Rep. Maxine Waters, a Los Angeles Democrat, warned Tuesday against using government's power of eminent domain to redevelop New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina concentrated its devastation on largely poor African American neighborhoods.

"We have to watch the redevelopment in New Orleans for a lot of reasons, and one of them is to make sure that the shadow government of the rich and the powerful does not end up abusing eminent domain to take property that belongs to poor people in order to get them out of the city," Waters said.

Waters' comments came after the Senate Judiciary Committee held its first hearing on legislation to cut off federal funding for cities that use eminent domain to condemn private property for economic redevelopment, including such private uses as shopping malls, hotels and condominiums.

Congress is searching for ways to blunt the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in June in Kelo vs. New London, Conn., which held that governments can condemn private property if the project serves a "public purpose."

The decision created a public uproar and a rare alliance of conservative and liberal lawmakers, many of them minorities, concerned about government incursions on private property.

They want to roll back what they consider a misreading of the Constitution's Fifth Amendment, which prohibits the taking of "private property for public use without just compensation."

Traditionally, public use has meant condemning land for public schools or highways, but in recent decades has expanded to include clearing "blighted" neighborhoods or redeveloping commercial areas.

Two downtown Oakland property owners, John Revelli, who owned a tire shop that had been in business since his father opened it in 1949, and his neighbor Tony Fung, owner of Autohouse, were forced by the city of Oakland to vacate their properties July 1, days after the June 23 Kelo decision, to make way for a city-subsidized apartment complex.

"We had one week to move all our equipment and vacate our property," which is prime commercial real estate a block from the 19th Street BART Station, Revelli said. "It was a horrible day. I wouldn't want anyone else to go through this."

Since the 1950s, African American communities have been targeted for "urban renewal" projects so many times that the redevelopment efforts came to be known as "black removal," said Hilary O. Shelton, director of the Washington office of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Minority and poor communities are affected more often by eminent domain and have less ability to fight back politically or legally, Shelton said. The recent Supreme Court decision "to allow the government or its designee to take property simply by asserting that it can put the property to a higher use will systematically sanction transfers from those with less resources to those with more," Shelton said.

Jose Mendoza, owner of San Jose Men's Wear in the Tropicana Shopping Center in East San Jose that is made up of Latino and Asian businesses, said he won an eminent domain case in 2003 against the city's redevelopment agency, which wanted to build a new shopping center on the site. Mendoza said he had already lost two properties, one in Salinas and one in downtown San Jose, through condemnation.

"When they came here, I was very, very, very upset," Mendoza, 68, said. "I said not the third time. And we fought until we beat them."

The Judiciary Committee heard testimony on a bill by conservative Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, co-sponsored by liberal California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, that would limit the power of eminent domain "for public use," and ban its use for private economic development.

The bill would apply to the federal government, but also discourage cities and states by blocking federal funds for any private economic redevelopment that uses eminent domain. Many such projects use federal money.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a former mayor of San Francisco, has expressed reservations about the Kelo decision but has not signed on to any bill. There are several other efforts in the Senate and House — where Waters has teamed with conservative Republican Rep. Richard Pombo of Tracy — to limit eminent domain.

"This issue is very dear to my heart," said Waters, who has fought condemnations for years in Los Angeles neighborhoods. "The taking of private property for private use is in my estimation unconstitutional, unAmerican and is not to be tolerated."

Susette Kelo, the nurse who was the lead plaintiff in the now famous case, testified that she bought a waterfront Victorian cottage in 1997 in New London, Conn. It was "a beautiful little place I could afford on my salary. I spent every spare moment fixing it up and creating the kind of home I always dreamed of."

She said she received an eviction notice from the city five years ago "to make way for a luxury hotel, upscale condos and other private developments," which the city said would bring in more tax revenue and jobs. Connecticut's governor recently suspended the evictions of Kelo and her neighbors while the state Legislature considers changing its rules.

"I'm not going anywhere," Kelo said after the hearing. Asked about the notoriety her case has created, she replied, "I'm really a very simple person. I wanted to keep my home."

Eddie Perez, mayor of Hartford, Conn., speaking on behalf of the National League of Cities, said the issue has been distorted by "frenzied rhetoric and misinformation." If used properly, he said, eminent domain "helps cities create jobs, grow business and strengthen neighborhoods.''

Perez said restricting the use of eminent domain "is going to make it harder for those communities to put these plans together." Citing New York's Lincoln Center and Baltimore's Inner Harbor developments, Perez said "New Orleans and Louisiana will not be able to develop" if eminent domain powers are restricted.

San Francisco Chronicle: www.sfgate.com

Your property might be taken for urban renewal

A Personal View
By Donald J. Umhoefer

Property owners in Menomonee Falls, WI were notified in early July that their land could be seized for a redevelopment project. The Certified Letter included the statement; “Implementing the proposed Redevelopment Plan may involve the condemnation of private property within the Redevelopment Area for urban renewal purposes. Accordingly, you are hereby notified that your property might be taken for urban renewal.”

In order to create the redevelopment district proposed, an inventory of all the homes and businesses within its boundaries has been completed. The entire area has been labeled “blighted”. Vibrant, functioning businesses as well as many homes have been determined to “Impair the sound growth of the community” simply because they do not fit into the proposed plan.

This area is by no means blighted as defined by Wisconsin Statute. I have heard it said that Wisconsin does not allow the use of eminent domain to acquire land for economic development as was the case in Kelo v New London. However, under the label of "Blight" that is exactly what happens... economic redevelopment. The whole Main Street Redevelopment proposal is based not on blight, but an economically depressed group of businesses. I'm sure the same reasoning and blurring of the definition of blight could also be used in other communities.

At a public hearing on Tuesday July 26, 2005 many citizen's spoke out against the use of the use of eminent domain for private gain and urged local elected officials to protect the rights of the individual property owners in the Village of Menomonee Falls.

On Monday September 19th the Menomonee Falls Village Board approved a resolution finding the area within the boundaries of the proposed Main Street Redevelopment Project to be "blighted" and approved the redevelopment plan. This approval places 80 parcels of land, many that are occupied, at risk for eminent domain abuse.

The property owners who have been notified of possible condemnation of their properties have been told that this is a long term plan and that eminent domain will only be used as a last resort.

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

The Village Trustees have told us that this is not their intention, but should we as private property owners even have to feel the threat of condemnation for a private development?

You can add my name to the long list of citizens throughout the nation losing sleep every night wondering if I will still have my home when this is all over...

Our elected officials should undo the damage done by the Supreme Court's decision and protect the residents of our country from the threat of condemnation of our homes and business in order to benefit private developers.

Donald J. Umhoefer: oompa@worldshare.net


Pallone touts bill to curb eminent domain: Asbury Park (NJ) Press, 9/20/05

By William H Sokoloc

Alba Borland runs a boutique on Ventnor Avenue [in Ventnor NJ]. She also draws income from renting apartments above her shop.

Borland would like to keep it that way. But her property has been targeted as part of Ventnor's plan to redevelop 28 acres near the Atlantic City boundary.

"The city will tell me to move from my house and close my business. That really hurts me," she said Monday outside her store. Borland and a couple of dozen other opponents to the plan gathered to hear Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., speak about legislation he expects to introduce this week to rein in the use of eminent domain where federal funds are involved.

Such use was bolstered this summer when the U.S. Supreme Court narrowly ruled in favor of eminent domain in a case involving private developers in New London, Conn.

"This is happening in many parts of the state," Pallone said. "Municipalities are taking nice homes and businesses and turning them over to developers for more expensive homes. It's just not right."

Camden's Cramer Hill is a case in point.

The $1.3 billion project, tied up in the courts by a challenge regarding eminent domain, includes 6,000 housing units and a golf course. It would displace more than 1,000 families, many of them homeowners.

But the situation is particularly acute along the Jersey Shore, where property values have skyrocketed with a growing demand for luxury housing.

Ventnor hasn't ruled out the use of eminent domain in its controversial redevelopment project, an official said.

But it would do so only when alternatives were exhausted, said city Administrator Drew J. McCrosson Jr.

"It was never our intent to use it carte blanche or to chase people from their homes or businesses," McCrosson said. "We have a diverse population which enriches the community."

Ventnor is negotiating a contract with Pulte Homes Inc. and Alliance Companies to construct some 375 upscale houses and additional retail shopping. The proposal has overcome lawsuits by residents and led to an agreement with the Hispanic Alliance of Atlantic County, which charged the plan discriminated against Latinos.

McCrosson cannot guarantee that all the homes and businesses will be able to remain after negotiations are completed.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling this summer in the case involving private developers in New London, Conn., will only make such situations worse, said Pallone, who discussed a proposal to limit the use of federal funds in projects that use eminent domain.

Pallone's bill is one example of how the New London case has triggered an outpouring of anti-eminent domain reaction from the public and lawmakers, said Damon Smith, assistant professor of law at Rutgers-Camden School of Law.

Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., has co-sponsored the Property Rights Protection Act, which prohibits a state or municipality from using economic development as a reason for eminent domain if federal funds are used to build the project.

The redevelopment plan in Ventnor does not use federal funds, McCrosson said. The Senate will hold hearings today in Washington on federal de-funding of eminent domain abuse.

Yet federal actions are restricted, Smith said.

In New Jersey and most other states, the power of eminent domain derives fromstate constitutional law.

Asbury Park Press: www.app.com

Panel wants review of eminent domain laws: Bismarck (ND) Tribune, 9/20/05

By Tom Rafferty

A North Dakota legislative committee is moving ahead with a study of eminent domain laws despite a declaration from a citizens group that its constitutional amendment will pass in June.

The amendment, which would restrict state or local governments from taking private land for economic development, will be voted on by the public in June if 26,688 signatures are gathered by March. Heidi Heitkamp, a former attorney general leading the initiative, said she is confident that it will happen.

Some legislators and special-interest groups want the issue to be studied and voted on by the Legislature before action is taken, but Heitkamp said the amendment was well thought out.

"I don't know what more you want to find out in determining if you want a constitutional amendment or not?" Heitkamp asked Sen. Stan Lyson, R-Williston, who is chairman of the Judicial Process Committee.

Legislators wouldn't be able to act on the issue until January 2007, unless a special session of the Legislature was called.

Lyson said the study is being done to determine if changing laws through the Legislature is a better way to go.

"We should get all the information out there so we can do it the right way with everything on the table," Lyson said.

The committee met Monday to discuss eminent domain, which has been a hot topic since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that the government can take private property for economic development.

In Kelo vs. New London, the court ruled 5-4 that the city of New London, Conn., did not violate the Constitution by using eminent domain to take property for a commercial development.

Heitkamp said states can prevent the taking of private property for economic development, but separate legislation will be needed in Congress to prevent the federal government from doing the same.

All of the people who testified at Monday's meeting advocated changes to eminent domain laws, but some were wary about changing the state Constitution through an initiated measure.

Claus Lembke, executive vice president of the North Dakota Association of Realtors, said the association is not opposed to changes, but its members want more time to give their input.

Lembke said there is concern the amendment could stifle the growth of cities.

"As a matter of fact, we are very, very scared about this proposal," Lembke said.

Myron Atkinson, a former legislator from Bismarck, said people should be careful when considering amendments to the state or U.S. constitutions.

Atkinson said the proposed amendment is extremely broad and restrictive.

Curly Haugland, a representative of the Landowners Association of North Dakota, said the initiated measure will create a forum for discussion.

"There is no better forum than the 26,000 or more citizens that will have to be convinced to put it on the ballot,"Haugland said.

The Landowners Association is working with Heitkamp to get the initiative approved.

Bismark Tribune: www.bismarcktribune.com

Manchester Auto Dealer Fights Eminent Domain: KSDK (St Louis MO), 9/19/05

By Ann Rubin

A Manchester business owner is the latest person to fight eminent domain. The city of Manchester wants to force him to sell his car dealership to make way for a big new shopping center.

Jim Butler says his Saturn dealership is immensely profitable. He doesn't want to sell and he says he shouldn't be forced to sell.

The dealership sits in a prime location: the corner of Manchester and 141. For the market he serves, he calls this the center of the world. Unfortunately, it is also the edge of a proposed new development.

Butler says, "We don't want to move. And if you can tell me where another five or six acres are on Manchester Road, I'd like to hear it because I can't find it."

He doesn't want to sell, but Pace Properties is desperate to buy. Pace needs his land as part of a new multimillion dollar development that will be accessed from Manchester Road. The city of Manchester may create a tax increment financing (TIF) district for the project. City leaders may also try to take over the dealership through eminent domain.

One Manchester alderman sponsored a bill trying to stop eminent domain for economic gain. Ward 1 Alderman Bob Tullock says, "To simply transfer property from one private owner to another private owner for capital gain, just because you think the second owner might be able to make more money with it, is fundamentally wrong."

But the bill didn't have the backing it needed and failed by a 4-2 vote. Mayor Larry Miles says eminent domain may be necessary in this case, "They got to take out one or two businesses just to put the street in. So they're going to have to be used. I'm sorry. That's my opinion."

The majority of residents in the area are already under contract for the project, which will be called Manchester Highlands. Most are ready to move as soon as the project is finalized. Homeowner, Kim Kloeppel says, "As far as the Saturn thing, I hope they work it out. I hope they don't have to use eminent domain, but I hope it doesn't delay the project."

Jim Butler says he's all for progress, just not at the expense of his business, "We're not against the development. We're against us being included in the TIF district."

There will be a TIF Commission public hearing to discuss this project. It will take place 7:00 p.m. Thursday at the Manchester United Methodist Church.

KSDK: www.ksdk.com

UNO set to purchase property without using eminent domain : The Gateway (UNO — The Univ of Nebraska at Omaha), 9/20/05

By Crystal Reid

Area businesses spoke against the university administration using eminent domain to acquire 17 acres of land around 64th and Center Streets, at the open session of the Board of Regents meeting on Friday.

After closing the meeting for debate, the regents decided that UNO could not pursue eminent domain until all other options were exhausted, said President/Regent Elizabeth Kraemer. Even then, eminent domain must be presented to and passed by the regents.

The regents unanimously voted 8-0 for UNO to proceed with acquiring the land, which would be used for what Kraemer described as "Aksarben Village," a UNO community residential, shopping and entertainment area. Other acquired land could be used for expanding south campus and athletic fields.

The area businesses that addressed the board were concerned about what eminent domain would mean for their future.

Ann Amato, co-owner of Amato's Cafe & Catering, said that their business was their life insurance policy.

"This is the future for our children," Amato said.

Sam Amato, a liver-transplant patient, said that taking away his business would give him nothing to do.

The owners of the three businesses implied that the offers made to them for their businesses were well below what they were worth.

Nils Anders Erickson, owner of Rainbow Recording Studios, said that he felt threatened by two real estate agents who said that he had 30 days to take their "low-ball" offer. The Amatos said that they would not be able to pay off their business and live comfortably off of the rest of the money for the next 15 years as they had planned.

The Gateway: www.unogateway.com

FRC Calls on Congress to Rein in Eminent Domain Power: Family Research Council, 9/20/05

Press release

Today the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony concerning the recent Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. New London which greatly expanded the eminent domain power of government to seize private property for "public use." Senators heard testimony from several victims of the Kelo decision, including Susette Kelo and Wilhelmina Dery. Family Research Council President Tony Perkins released the following statement:
"Today's Senate testimony revealed that the threat to freedom posed by the Supreme Court's Kelo decision is still very real. Hopefully still fresh in the Senate Judiciary Committee member's minds is the testimony they heard last week from Supreme Court nominee John Roberts. Judge Roberts reminded Congress they have the power to challenge Supreme Court rulings they disagree with. Such advice needs to be taken seriously.

"Following the Kelo decision, the House of Representatives approved legislation to use the spending power of Congress to protect private property owners who are threatened by the misuse of eminent domain. I call on the Senate to join the House in protecting the fundamental right to private property."

Family Research Council: www.frc.org

Eminent domain dispute brewing: Cedar Rapids (IA) Gazette, 9/20/05

Associated Press

Some Iowa lawmakers want to restrict government's ability to force the sale of property for economic development.

Several legislators say the use of eminent domain can hinder a property owner's rights. Some city leaders in Des Moines say it promotes economic development.

The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year reinforced the authority of government to buy property against the will of its owner. Such authority allows cities and county's to run roughshod over property rights, some lawmakers said.

"What we're looking at is something that would prevent governments from condemning private property and then turning it over to another private property owner," said Rep. Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha.

Eminent domain is frequently used to acquire property for roads, but property rights advocates say it has been increasing used to push projects they think will boost property values.

"If it's for a public project, that's one thing, but to take it from one and give to another is a different issue altogether," said Iowa House Speaker Christopher Rants, R-Sioux City.

Des Moines officials say stripping away their authority could crush redevelopment efforts.

"If they want to shut down the development of our cities, that's the way to do it," said Rick Clark, acting Des Moines city manager.

Councilwoman Christine Hensley said Des Moines doesn't abuse eminent domain. She said it's one of the few tools the city has to push redevelopment.

Des Moines has threatened to use eminent domain on two downtown buildings owned by Brad Hamilton.

The buildings, city officials say, have not been updated to match others in the area, despite inspection reports that indicate there are no serious

"As long as their taxes are paid and it's not dangerous to the public, then they should leave them alone," said Don Roberts, owner of a nearby service station.

Nate Nicewanger, who owns a record store that is housed in one of Hamilton's buildings, said he wants the city to stop pressuring his landlord because he fears he will have to move his business.

"I'm just afraid the city is going to ask him to do some things that he might not be able to afford," Niceswanger said.

Tom Bredeweg, executive director of the Iowa League of Cities, said the group hopes Iowa "can find a middle ground" that ensures eminent domain "is used consistently with good public policy."

Sam Staley, policy director of the Los Angeles-based Reason Foundation, has worked with about a dozen cities and states to scale back the use of eminent domain.

He said property owners "shouldn't have to worry about other private owners coveting his property and using the government to seize it because they can't buy it on the open market.

"Essentially, what governments are doing is using the flimsiest of excuses, and everybody's property is at risk," Staley said. "It doesn't matter if it's a business or somebody's home."

Cedar Rapids Gazette: www.crgazette.com

Councilman proposes severe restrictions on eminent domain: The Boston (MA) Globe, 9/20/05

Members of the [Norwalk CT] Common Council will consider an ordinance that would severely restrict the use of eminent domain in Norwalk. Common Councilman Michael Coffey, as chairman of the Ordinance Committee, which was to meet Tuesday night, placed on the agenda an ordinance limiting the city's powers to seize private property solely to build public facilities, such as schools or roads; to preserve open space; or to address health or safety hazards.

City Attorney Louis Ciccarello had urged Coffey last week to delay discussions of eminent domain before the city's legal battle is resolved over taking the Maritime Motors, a South Norwalk Chevrolet dealership, for an office development.

The state Supreme Court was scheduled to hear arguments Tuesday on the Norwalk case. For more than two years, the car dealership has fought the forced sale of its showroom and storage yard.

"Any hearings or discussions by your committee on the subject of eminent domain may very well undermine or prejudice our position before the court," Ciccarello wrote Coffey. "I urge you to simply postpone discussion ... until the Supreme Court has acted."

Coffey said he had not received Ciccarello's correspondence and did not believe any eminent domain discussion would impact the Maritime Motors case.

If adopted by his committee and the full Democrat-majority council, the proposed ordinance would go into effect 15 days after publication in local newspapers.

Coffey began urging the Ordinance Committee to discuss eminent domain after the June decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 5-4 vote, the high court ruled that New London could take homes in Fort Trumbull to make way for a hotel and office space. But the justices added that states were free to ban the taking of property for economic development projects.

The Boston Globe: www.boston.com

Why The New York Times Loves Eminent Domain: Hawaii Reporter, 9/18/05

Elite Newspapers and Liberal Activists Embrace the Kelo Decision at Their Long-term Peril

By Matt Welch

On Sept. 24, 2001, as New York firefighters were still picking their comrades’ body parts out of the World Trade Center wreckage, New York Times Co. Vice Chairman and Senior Vice President Michael Golden announced that the Gray Lady was ready to do its part in the healing.

“We believe there could not be a greater contribution,” Golden told a clutch of city officials and journalists, “than to have the opportunity to start construction of the first major icon building in New York City after the tragic events of Sept. 11.” Bruce Ratner, president of the real estate development company working with the Times on its proposed new Eighth Avenue headquarters, called the project a “very important testament to our values, culture and democratic ideals.”

Those “values” and “democratic ideals” included using eminent domain to forcibly evict 55 businesses—including a trade school, a student housing unit, a Donna Karan outlet, and several mom-and-pop stores—against their will, under the legal cover of erasing “blight,” in order to clear ground for a 52-story skyscraper. The Times and Ratner, who never bothered making an offer to the property owners, bought the Port Authority-adjacent property at a steep discount ($85 million) from a state agency that seized the 11 buildings on it; should legal settlements with the original tenants exceed that amount, taxpayers will have to make up the difference. On top of that gift, the city and state offered the Times $26 million in tax breaks for the project, and Ratner even lobbied to receive $400 million worth of U.S. Treasury–backed Liberty Bonds—instruments created by Congress to help rebuild Lower Manhattan. Which is four miles away.

If you think the Times’ editorial division would be outraged to see the business side trampling the Little Guy, you probably haven’t been following the political evolution of the nation’s leading newspapers. For decades now, the country’s elite dailies and those papers that emulate them have deliberately eschewed individual stories in favor of broader “trend” pieces (especially when it comes to crime); routinely endorsed government action to cure society’s ills; and mocked the “tabloid” populism of the more right-leaning media organizations that dwell on single cases of outrage. Like the activist who loves The People but despises every actual person he meets, the Times’ editorial page takes liberal stands when the issue is safely abstract—but when it comes to the paper’s profits and political battles, the Little Guy can get bent.

Nowhere was this anti-populist, ends-justify-the-means approach on more naked display than after the Supreme Court’s 5-to-4 ruling in Kelo v. City of New London. That June 23 decision upheld governments’ broad leeway to use eminent domain to transfer property from one private owner to a richer one — in that particular case, from Connecticut homeowners to an upscale real estate development. While much of the country howled in protest at the fact that, in the words of dissenting Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, “nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory,” the Times, in an editorial entitled “The Limits of Property Rights,” let out a lusty cheer. Kelo, the paper declared, is “a welcome vindication of cities’ ability to act in the public interest” and “a setback to the ‘property rights’ movement, which is trying to block government from imposing reasonable zoning and environmental regulations.”

Even more interesting than the scare quotes around “property rights” (imagine replacing the word “property” with “civil”) was that the Times — normally the benchmark upon which other newspapers measure and model themselves — was almost completely alone in its judgment. The Richmond Times-Dispatch, for example, headlined its editorial “Court-Endorsed Theft.” The Hartford Courant went with “A Sad Day for Property Rights,” the St. Petersburg Times chose “Eminent Mistake,” and the Chattanooga Times Free Press thundered: “Your Home, Freedom Attacked.” Even The Boston Globe, owned by The New York Times, condemned the ruling. One of the few other newspapers to endorse the decision, and then grudgingly, was the other national daily that sees itself as a crucial player in the country’s professional political debate: The Washington Post.

“The vast majority of newspapers have editorialized against it,” says Scott Bullock, senior attorney at the Institute for Justice, who unsuccessfully litigated Kelo in front of the Supreme Court. “The only real exceptions were the elite-opinion papers.”

As the Post and the Times cheered on the government’s ability to break a few individual eggs in order to make a more perfect public-interest omelette, Kelo was prompting an ideologically diverse backlash against eminent domain abuse. The week after the decision, far-left California Democrat Rep. Maxine Waters joined far-right Texas Republican Rep. Tom DeLay in supporting an amendment to an appropriations bill barring federal Community Block Grant funds for any locale that doesn’t prohibit eminent domain seizures for private development. It passed 231 to 189, and a similar bipartisan bill has been introduced in the Senate.

Alabama successfully prohibited such transfers in nonblighted areas on July 27 (joining eight other states with similar laws); Texas is trying to get a ban on the November ballot, and several other state legislatures are contemplating quick action in the wake of Kelo. Supporting these efforts is a politically broad variety of groups, from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to RightMarch.com. Outrage at Kelo united columnists Molly Ivins and George Will, fire breathers Rush Limbaugh and Ralph Nader. “The only people who supported the decision,” Bullock says, “were cities who want the tax dollars, some developers who want to get their projects approved, and then a couple of random academics.”

But there was another group of eminent domain supporters: those liberal activists, who, like The New York Times, saw Kelo as a Trojan horse for rapacious capitalists and sneaky Republicans. “Eminent domain is the partial-birth abortion of property rights — a practice so evidently heinous that people who might otherwise not be sympathetic to the cause are drawn in,” warned Alyssa Katz on the Web site of The American Prospect, a magazine dedicated to “giving progressive political leaders the weapons they need for battle.”

The Prospect’s Matthew Yglesias also saw the case as a trick. “It speaks well of the intelligence of the libertarian legal community that when they try and establish precedents that will make it much harder to regulate large corporations and wealthy individuals in the public interest that…they pick cases like [Gonzales v.] Raich and Kelo, where liberal egalitarians may sympathize with plaintiffs ostensibly besieged by Big Government. ... [But they] have an extreme and pernicious view of property rights that, if implemented in full, would have disastrous consequences for the country.”

In his 1965 essay “On Evasive Thinking,” then-dissident Vaclav Havel identified the dangers of such hyperactive contextualizing by heaping criticism on a Czech newspaper columnist who reacted to two cases of pedestrians being killed by falling window ledges by waxing at length about the rosy future prospects made possible by the Communist Party. “The so-called prospects of mankind are nothing but an empty platitude,” Havel warned, “if they distract us from our particular worry about who might be killed by a third window ledge.”

Both Prospect-style liberals and the nation’s great newspapers have been falling off the ledge of popularity for some time now. If they don’t relearn the ability to locate outrage at individual cases of injustice, and cease subsuming them within the “bigger picture” of the struggle against evil Republicanism, it’s hard to imagine that trend being reversed.

“The malignant idea that governmental assertions about collective needs outweighed fundamental human rights was supposed to have died with the Soviet Union,” the Richmond Times-Dispatch editorialized, in what would make a fine epitaph for The New York Times. “On Thursday the Court proved that it not only lives, but thrives.”

source: www.HawaiiReporter.com

Activist’s fight is personal in scrap over eminent domain: New Jersey Jewish News, 9/19/05

By Enid Weiss

As a longtime activist with the National Council of Jewish Women, Michele Bobrow has fought for a bevy of national causes.

This time her cause is hitting a little closer to home.

Bobrow and her husband, Harold, live in Maplewood and — for now — have a townhouse in Long Branch. Keeping her beach home however, has required that she fight the proverbial fight against city hall: Hers is one of several townhouses slated to be bulldozed to make way for a new development.

The plans are part of the 12-year-old Long Branch Redevelopment Zone’s $1 billion project. It includes demolishing 140 homes to make way for nearly 300 townhouses and condominiums as well as retail and recreation spots. The first stage, Pier Village, is already up and the next stage requires bulldozing 15 homes, one of which is Bobrow’s.

“They’re going to take our home and put it to ‘better use.’ Number one, our home is not blighted,” Bobrow said. “Number two, who’s to determine better use? And number three, what happened to ownership rights and property rights?” The Constitution allows municipalities to condemn private property, she said, “but ethics and morality don’t.”

To defend her and others’ homes, Bobrow has formed a statewide coalition of property owners engaged in redevelopment battles with various municipalities. The group, called NAEDA, or Neighbors Against Eminent Domain Abuse, has lobbied politicians to support a state bill that would limit local condemnation powers.

The issue of eminent domain has become a hot-button one for many politicians since a June ruling by the United States Supreme Court that allowed New London, Conn., to condemn property for the town’s economic benefit. The decision gave the green light to municipalities to take property in order to spur economic development.

Long Branch Mayor Adam Schneider defended the town’s redevelopment project, although he added that if he could, he would work around the 15 homes.

“This was no secret,” said Schneider, who is Jewish. “We’ve been working on this since 1993. I ran in three elections on this.” Schneider said the plan was part of his platform to turn around a town that had fallen victim to urban blight and high crime rates. Where there once were “go-go bars and liquor stores” there are now restaurants, he said.

“It’s the hypocrisy that gets me,” Schneider said. The plan “was okay until it affected [the homeowners]. We started buying properties along the oceanfront six years ago.… We did this the right way — slow planning; we involved the public, held hearings, and when we passed the resolution, only one of the 700 property owners challenged it. Unfortunately many property owners waited until too late to protest.”

While the Bobrows and other homeowners in the areas designated for redevelopment are able to negotiate price and other conditions regarding the purchase of their property, it’s not a fair bargaining table, Michele Bobrow said. The owners can contest the price but ultimately are forced to make a deal because retaining ownership is not an option. It’s an emotional issue, with people facing the loss of homes they’ve lived in for years.

“Their lives are shattered,” Bobrow said. “You put your faith in a government you elect and they turn around and betray you. It’s infuriating.”

Bobrow said hers is a personal battle and not connected with her longtime membership in NCJW, whose state public affairs committee she formerly chaired. But it follows her progressive politics in the sense that the situation “is unfair to the little guys; [homeowners] are fighting the large developers with deep pockets.”

The bill Bobrow supports, S-2739, is in committee and is sponsored by New Jersey Sens. Nia H. Gill (D-Dist. 34) and Diane Allen (R-Dist. 7). The Allen-Gill measure would exempt from condemnation legally occupied residential property that is maintained in accordance with applicable housing codes and standards.

“Taking private property from one private owner and transferring it to another seriously jeopardizes the security of all private property ownership,” said Gill. “Being able to own property is part of the American dream that is undeniably desired by everyone. It is a dream which must be protected.”

Added Allen: “We must take action that provides the necessary protections to ensure that the ownership of private property is not relegated to the whims of a powerful few.”

Gill said the bill is especially needed in the wake of the June Supreme Court decision. A bill similar to the Allen-Gill legislation, A4392, is in the Assembly, and two other Assembly bills would change the state’s constitutional amendments defining redevelopment regulations.

NAEDA also is calling on acting Gov. Richard Codey to put a moratorium on eminent domain activities until several cases on the issue in NJ courts are ruled upon. The group has scheduled rallies to promote its cause on Oct. 15 in Long Branch and Oct. 19 in Trenton.

But Schneider said Codey doesn’t have the authority to override local governments on the issue. He also doesn’t expect the bills infringing on urban redevelopment to make it to law, because their enactment would destroy the state’s cities.

“It’s saying you can’t do urban planning anymore; you’d have to do it on a block-by-block basis,” Schneider said. “If we can’t do urban planning and put it into play, what you’re saying is the poor areas stay poor and get worse.”

Despite the costly and time-consuming battle, Schneider said the redevelopment plan is a success. “Long Branch has become a destination for the first time in 30 to 40 years,” the mayor said.

Maybe it is good for the town, Bobrow said, but at what cost?

“We’ve been going to city council meetings but we’ve been stonewalled,” she said. “They feel it’s for the good of the town, but what about the residents and businesses that supported the politicians, paid our taxes, and now are being shafted?”

New Jersey Jewish News: www.njjewishnews.com

Legislative panel seeks proposals to limit eminent domain powers: Orlando (FL) Sentinel, 9/19/05

By Ludmilla Lelis

Backlash is building over the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that gave governments a green light to seize private homes and businesses to make way for more-lucrative private development.

Government officials who think the ruling gave them too much power are pushing political reforms to rein in local cities or counties that might try to start a land grab.

During the past few weeks, a few local governments such as Palm Bay and Polk County have voted to limit the use of condemnation or to support private-property rights.

Now the Florida Legislature is wading into the issue. On Wednesday a newly created legislative committee began work to develop recommendations to give property owners more protection under state law.

The groundswell of opposition to expanding the use of eminent domain offers hope to some property owners such as Daytona Beach resident Peter Colt, who fears his beachside neighborhood could be targeted for a future condemnation.

"Nothing has stirred people as much as this decision on private-property rights," Colt said. "Now the pressure is on to do something about it."

In June, a sharply divided Supreme Court approved a plan that forces a group of Connecticut homeowners to sell their houses for a future business development, because that new development promises more jobs and higher tax revenue.

Though decades of legal decisions had been building toward that ruling, it was the first time many people became aware that governments could use the power of eminent domain to go beyond the traditional use: condemning land for roads, schools or other public needs.

"The fact that land could be taken at all, and given to another private entity, is just very troubling," said Scottie Butler, general counsel for the Florida Farm Bureau Federation.

However, the justices made it clear that their June 23 ruling does not prevent any local limits on eminent domain.

"After the decision, there was a wave of outrage that swept the country," said Dana Berliner, senior attorney for the Washington-based Institute for Justice, the nonprofit law firm that supported the Connecticut landowners in the Supreme Court case. "What the court said was that you, the landowner, have no protection under the federal Constitution, and your only hope is in your state legislatures."

Several states already have responded, according to a survey by the National Conference of State Legislatures. As many as 30 state legislatures have passed or are considering changes to their eminent-domain laws.

In Florida, the new House Select Committee to Protect Private Property Rights plans to study the issue and come up with recommendations by January so that a potential bill or constitutional amendment could be ready for next year's legislative session.

"You'll find it is a complex issue ... in addition to being a passionate political issue," said the committee chairman, Rep. Marco Rubio, R-Miami.

The select bipartisan committee appears universally opposed to the Supreme Court decision. Although that high-court opinion has no direct impact on Florida law, the concern is about how judges may interpret the state law.

Several members suggested tightening the state law regarding what kind of private property can be taken and the reasons a government could condemn land.

"Economic development cannot be the sole purpose for the taking of property," said Rep. Jack Seiler, D-Wilton Manors.

Unlike Connecticut, Florida law doesn't specifically allow cities and counties to condemn private land for economic development. Local officials can condemn land for redevelopment if that land is "blighted." The state law lists 14 factors for a blight designation, from high crime rates to lagging property values.

"You could drive a truck through our blight regulations, it's that broad," said Carol Saviak, executive director of the Coalition for Property Rights, based in Orlando. "It's just prime for abuse."

Once a city declares an area blighted, that is enough to condemn land, which is what happened to three businesses on the Daytona Beach Boardwalk.

Quoting heavily from the Supreme Court decision, a circuit judge in Daytona Beach ruled last month that a 24-year-old blight designation is enough to empower the city to force the sale of those properties.

Daytona officials want to replace the outdated arcades with a $120 million condominium and retail development.

With this kind of power available to local governments, a few cities have taken the lead in setting their own limits on eminent domain.

"This is a basic fundamental right from our founding fathers," Palm Bay Deputy Mayor Andy Anderson said. "You've got to protect it in your own back yard."

All of this potential reform comes too late for the Boardwalk businesses, which are destined to be bulldozed.

"There's nothing in place to protect a small business," said Darrell Hunter, whose 50-year business run on the Boardwalk ends next month. "When the government can just kick you out, why would you bother spending your life building a business?

"Where is the American dream?"

Orlando Sentinel: www.sun-sentinel.com


Geneva may use eminent domain to build store: (Chicago IL) Beacon News, 9/18/05

By Michele du Vair

The [Geneva IL] City Council is considering the use of eminent domain to pave the way for a long-sought East Side development.

Geneva Economic Development Director Chris Aiston said the city has received an offer to build a grocery-anchored retail center on the northeast corner of East Side Drive and Route 38.

The development would include an 18,000-square-foot grocery store, an additional 10,000 square feet of commercial space and the expansion of the existing Orlando's Pizza into a 3,000-square-foot restaurant.

A 140-space parking lot and access roads would be built as well.

The project would require the acquisition at least part of five existing parcels owned by three individuals.

Two of the three owners are in favor of selling, said Aiston. Carl Safanda, owner of Safanda Law Firm, is not. The city needs about 7,000 square feet, or one-quarter of Safanda's existing law firm site.

And it needs to remove an existing easement granting Safanda access to both East Side Drive and Route 38.

This does not mean Safanda would have to move, but it does mean his parking lot would be smaller and that the firm would be a mere 25 feet from the back of the grocery and retail stores.

Aiston said an appraisal of the Safanda assets has been performed, and the grocer has made Safanda an offer that is in line with the appraisal.

Several of the city's aldermen expressed frustration with Safanda last week, saying he has been unwilling to even state what it would take to allow the project to happen.

"People are throwing money at them, and there's been no response," Alderman Dawn Vogelsberg said.

But Safanda, who did not attend this meeting, later said that all the East Side residents he has spoken with don't even want a grocery store there. He said he's answered the city with a firm "no."

"We don't want to sell," said Safanda. "We like it here. It's a nice property."

The real problem is that the property is too small for the kind of development proposed, Safanda said. The site has been the subject of development debate for years. In 2000, the city created the East State Street Tax Increment Financing District (TIF) which consisted of 34 acres primarily along Route 38 and includes both the Safanda law firm and the proposed grocery store parcels.

And because it is a TIF district, Aiston believes the city has the legal right to invoke eminent domain, which allows a governing body to force an owner to sell his property at fair market value in order to develop a piece of property for the "greater good of the community."

If developed, the stores would bring in an estimated $600,000-$700,000 annually in tax revenue.

Resident response
East Side resident Jim Kautz said he would like to see a grocery store on that corner, and said he'd prefer keeping his grocery store money in Geneva, instead of traveling to Kirk Road in St. Charles to shop. But he says East Side projects often seem to stall.

"I'm just frustrated that meaningful redevelopment projects on the East Side take so much longer than redevelopment on the West Side," he said.

Geneva resident Chuck Ellenbaum wants the grocery store development as well, but warns against using eminent domain to get it. He feels eminent domain should be invoked only when necessary and for noncommercial projects like the East Side fire station.

Beacon News: www.suburbanchicagonews.com/beaconnews

UAB in eminent domain scrap: Birmingham (AL) News, 9/18/05

By Russell Hubbard

For more than 80 years, Irvin Siegal's family has owned a nice block of land near the [UAB] University of Alabama at Birmingham, a school that didn't exist when Siegal's father opened an auto parts business just before the Great Depression.

Now, the university the family watched grow from scratch into the largest downtown landowner is hungrily eyeing the land, and there is little they can do to stop it. UAB invoked its eminent domain rights, and has the authority to take the property upon payment of compensation. Siegal won't go quietly.

"We wanted to leave this to our children as a legacy," said Siegal, 81, of the property that now houses Panda Buffet and McAlisters Deli on 18th Street South. "I'm passionate about this and ready to fight it all the way."

The case is scheduled to be heard in Jefferson County Circuit Court after Siegal appealed the taking, saying the UAB price approved by probate commissioners - $2.1 million for one of the prime restaurant sites in town - was far too low. UAB also appealed the decision on how much the probate panel ordered it to pay.

It's a problem that is apt to vex downtown landowners and the state's largest research institution for some years to come. The campus that was home to 365 students in 1939 now enrolls 17,000, and they have a voracious appetite for parking lots, office buildings, classrooms and health clinics that can come only from land that is now in private hands.

"We have a master plan for development of UAB and it does call for more limited expansion," said UAB spokesman Gary Mans. "We try to work with landowners as the campus grows physically and hope to come to mutual agreement on land purchases. We also look upon eminent domain as a last resort."

Siegal's land has been in the family since the 1920s, and for many years was the site of Alabama Auto Parts Co., the firm his father founded. It is just one of three parcels UAB wants for a women and children's health center. The school also wants the site of a nearby Arby's restaurant, and the historic Young & Vann Supply Co., built in the 1890s as a beer warehouse.

Arby's has also appealed being thrown off its land, saying UAB's price was too low. The owners of the Young & Vann building haven't appealed.

"We are just very unhappy about the way UAB has decided to compensate us," said Siegal, who owns the land with his sister. "The figure we would sell at is far greater than anything they offered."

UAB's price doesn't even come close to approximating the value of the land, Siegal said. It would be financial suicide, he said, to accept such a price, especially considering his sister, whose husband is disabled, depends upon rental income for survival. He said he would consider swapping his land for a similar property, but that hasn't been offered.

UAB has ambitious plans for the sites. The women and infants hospital will specialize in high-risk obstetrics and consolidate services now scattered across 11 blocks between Children's Hospital and UAB's medical centers. The proposed hospital would also house gynecological cancer services and intensive care wards for newborn children.

Last year, the University of Alabama System board of trustees' properties committee gave UAB approval to use its power of eminent domain to condemn land it needs for the project if it does not reach a sale agreement with owners.

Siegal has his own ideas. He has already planned it out with his children for when he dies: the property would be redeveloped into an retail/medical office project. That way, it stays in the family and serves the area, too, he said.

"That would perfectly suit the medical and health community," he said.

UAB doesn't want to deprive anyone, said spokesman Mans, but makes no apologies for fulfilling its mission.

"The offers that we have made to the owners are based upon appraisals that we have received," he said. "For UAB Hospital to continue to provide the high-quality patient care that people expect and demand, it is necessary for us to update our facilities."

Siegal is tough, too, and a has one of those vita's that command instant respect - World War II veteran, University of Alabama business school graduate, former Small Business Administration Businessman of the Year.

"It's a shame UAB has the power to do this to people and it could happen to anyone," Siegal said. "Sure, the have the right, but is it fair? If they want the right, they should pay fairly for it."

Birmingham News: www.al.com

A Vested Interest In Eminent Domain: Hartford (CT) Courant, 9/18/05


By Laurence D. Cohen

The New London eminent domain case that roused the U.S. Supreme Court to encourage local politicians to seize your property and play economic development games with their developer pals horrified and agitated the Connecticut populace for about 3 minutes and 16 seconds.

Oh, the obligatory political press conferences were held to promise (cross their hearts and hope to develop a new hotel) that the eminent domain process would be "fair"; the make-believe public hearings were held so that "experts" could nod their heads wisely and tell the politicians what they wanted to hear: Go slow in "reforming" eminent domain.

Of course, nothing has changed. Gov. M. Jodi Rell noted, for one brief moment, that the discontent with the seemingly unfettered nature of eminent domain had created a "Boston Tea Party" sense of revolution among the great unwashed. But nothing has changed.

Short of marching in the streets and padlocking themselves to the front door of the state Capitol, the normal people aren't going to get protection from politicians who enjoy abusing eminent domain powers for their own amusement - and the profits of their developer pals.

The politicians aren't your friends on this issue. They don't "represent" you. You are the enemy that stands in the way of allowing them to bulldoze you out of the way to make room for "progress."

The National League of Cities and the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities and other special-interest groups masquerading as your friends have had their discreet huddles on the eminent domain conspiracy. They have launched the public relations counter-offensive to guarantee that at the end of the day, you can be given a check (paid for with your own tax money) and sent packing to make room for that dreamy new economic development scheme.

The lobbyists poised to kill any eminent domain reform that manages to survive a committee vote next year in the General Assembly won't be limited to the paid gunslingers for the developers who find you all a nuisance. No, lined up to kill the reforms will be the municipal politicians elected to represent you. They will be up there in Hartford working against your best interests.

The local politicians will pretend that they are up there opposing eminent domain reform because they happened to wake up one morning and decide that it's simply too "dangerous" to protect our private property rights. But the campaign is already being orchestrated; the boys and girls who control the economic development loot have already begun to work their magic, in cahoots with one another.

Consider the September opinion essay written by First Selectwoman Dolores Schiesel of Kent, which appeared in the weekly Litchfield County Times. It is an impassioned request to "go slow' on changing eminent domain; it is a personal, anguished defense of this "essential tool" for local government.

Here's an excerpt from what she wrote: "To this end, I encourage our legislative leaders and the governor to consult with municipal officials as they consider modifications of state law concerning municipal acquisition of property for a public purpose." Doesn't it bring tears to your eye? Very heartfelt and personal.

Now, ponder another essay on eminent domain, written by Town Council Chairwoman Helen Bergenty of Plainville, which appeared in August in the Herald newspaper of New Britain.

"To this end, I encourage our legislative leaders and the governor to consult with municipal officials as they consider modifications of state law concerning municipal acquisition of property for a public purpose."

Yes, it's identical. Some flourishes and minor differences have been inserted in their pieces so they can pretend they are not part of the larger conspiracy to sabotage your property rights and lock them in some desk drawer at town hall.

This is war. Your local pols are not on your side. With the exception of a few brave state legislators, who will be squashed like bugs on this issue, the political interests are as one in their love affair with the notion that they can call in the bulldozers and play development games with your property.

You'll be seeing quite a few impassioned opinion essays on this subject.

The propaganda machine is already hard at work, writing "individual" pieces for the local pols to sign off on.

Connecticut won't reform its eminent domain laws. It's a disgrace.

Hartford Courant: www.courant.com

Laurence D. Cohen is a public policy consultant who served as special assistant to former Gov. John G. Rowland: cohencolumn@aol.com

City to use eminent domain for rail spur: Victorville (CA) Daily Press, 9/17/05

By Miguel Gonzalez

The [Victorville CA] City Council is set to vote next week on exercising its power of eminent domain to acquire five parcels that will be used for construction of a rail spur to Southern California Logistics Airport.

But not without a good fight first, according to residents and business owners affected by the construction.

For Victorville the construction of the rail spur has been touted as the final piece of the puzzle that will make the Southern California Logistics Airport a full intermodal location for companies that will bring thousands of jobs to the area.

Construction of the rail spur is slated to start construction by early 2006, according to city spokeswoman Yvonne Hester.

The five parcels in question are owned by three different people. One is Jeff Himmelrick, who on Friday said the city is trying to take his land without any compensation.

"They want 634 feet of my property and they don't feel they should have to pay anything. Now tell me, how is that fair?" Himmelrick said Friday.

Half a mile south of Himmelrick, a housing complex is almost vacant after the city reached agreements with residents living directly in the path of the rail construction. Richard Rogaischio rents a house in the same complex and said he has not moved because he thinks the city is trying to cheat him out of money.

"I don't want to leave, and the city is being as cheap as possible," Rogaischio said of the $14,000 offer.

A judge will set the prices the city must pay for the land it acquires under eminent domain.

The project also includes construction of an underpass under National Trails Highway, just before Turner Road, and the laying of rail at a cost of $25 million, according to Hester.

Deputy City Attorney Bill Medlen said all offers for the land have been made based on appraisals. Medlen added that because of the tight schedule for construction, the issue has been brought to City Council.

"If council decides to vote for eminent domain, it would allow us to get possession of the properties so we can start building," Medlen said. "Nobody is going to be displaced here, and we are negotiating with fair prices."

Victorville Mayor Mike Rothschild said that as many as 12,000 SCLA jobs could depend on how fast rail is constructed.

"I've always said that for the rail spur I would not hesitate to pull the trigger on eminent domain because it would benefit all 400,000 residents of the High Desert," Rothschild said. "We are offering more than fair price for the properties, and we can't cheat anybody because the courts set the prices we pay for land."

Himmelrick said he will attend City Council on Tuesday to plead his case.

"I bought that land three years ago for $108,000, I have paid taxes, and I am not going to give it away."

Rothschild said that Himmelrick had his facts wrong because it was impossible that "we could get away with not paying for a property."

Rogaischio said that although his boxes are packed up and he knows he will have to move soon, he will hold out until the city offers what he considers a fair price.

"I know this is coming but not without a fight," he said.

Victorville Daily Press: www.vvdailypress.com

Eminent domain is the law to beat: Bismark (ND) Tribune, 9/17/05

By Tom Rafferty

A citizens' petition drive to change North Dakota's eminent domain laws isn't stopping the Legislature from attacking the issue - even though it might be dead by the time lawmakers can fight it.

On Monday, the Judicial Process Committee will meet in the Capitol to study what can be done about a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in June that allows the government to take private property for economic development. The committee will discuss the issue at 1:30 p.m. in the Harvest Room during a meeting that is open to the public.

Former Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat, is leading a petition drive to let people vote on an amendment to the state constitution. The amendment would prohibit the government from taking land for economic development purposes.

Heitkamp said she hopes the committee endorses the initiative Monday.

"We think this is a pretty good working product," Heitkamp said.

Although the Legislature can study the issue, unless a special session is called, lawmakers wouldn't be able to vote on legislation targeting eminent domain until at least January 2007.

By that time the initiative could be a done deal.

Heitkamp said her goal is to start this month on getting the 25,688 signatures needed to put the issue to a vote, which could come in June 2006.

"The plan is we want to get this on the ballot as soon as possible," Heitkamp said.

Sen. Stan Lyson, R-Williston, chairman of the Judicial Process Committee, said the committee wants to make sure they find the best way to address the issue.

"We're not opposed to the initiative," Lyson said. "We want to know: Is it the right way to go?"

Sen. Bob Stenehjem, R-Bismarck, who is chairman of the Legislative Council, called for the study soon after the Supreme Court handed down its ruling. Stenehjem has said he thinks the issue would be best worked out during the Legislature, where citizens can testify during committee hearings.

Lyson said the study might find that the Legislature is best suited to address the issue.

Rep. Lawrence Klemin, R-Bismarck, said it's premature to say what the committee plans to do, but that the meeting will provide people an opportunity to testify about the initiative.

"The legislative process is a public forum," Klemin said. "The initiative petition is what some private individuals are doing."

Sen. Connie Triplett, D-Grand Forks, said it is a good idea for the Legislature to look at the issue because there's no guarantee the initiated measure will pass.

Triplett hasn't looked at the proposed constitutional amendment, but she is in favor of some change to prohibit taking land for economic development.

"I think the public needs some assurance of what the limits are," Triplett said.

The Legislature is not alone in its bid to change eminent domain laws.

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., introduced a bill in Congress to bar the use of federal funds for economic development projects involving land taken through eminent domain. Dorgan said he used the North Dakota initiative as a model for his bill because he believes this issue must be addressed on both the state and federal levels. Dorgan is supporting the North Dakota initiative as well.

Heitkamp, who has teamed up with the North Dakota Landowners Association in the petition drive, said the group has put many hours into the amendment and has asked several organizations to provide input.

"The Legislature isn't always the best forum for the people," Heitkamp said.

Heitkamp, who lost a bid for governor against Republican John Hoeven in 2000, has said she is not using the initiated measure as a way to get back into politics.

Bismark Tribune: www.bismarcktribune.com


This property is condemned - but why? (Central NJ) Home News Tribune, 9/1/05


By Ed Mueller, New Brunswick

The comments of New Brunswick planner Glenn Patterson in a recent article on the proposed Gateway development ("Gateway Plan Progresses") need to be addressed for the sake of balance and fairness.

I am a property owner on Somerset Street in the area that has been targeted for redevelopment by Mr. Patterson and the city's redevelopment arm - Devco. I have been at the location for 30 years. My buildings are well kept and so are those of my neighbors. The neighborhood is a thriving economic area.

Last February, Devco, the City Council and Rutgers University conducted a huge news conference to announce this over-ambitious $127 million project dubbed Gateway - but they didn't tell the public that in order to build this monstrosity, the city would have to forcibly take my buildings and many others - effectively putting us out of business.

Of course, the taking of our private property - which the city will give to Devco - was never mentioned at the press conference. Several months after the plans for Gateway were announced, the city planning board charged Mr. Patterson with the task of "investigating" the area for the proposed project to see if it is "blighted." And of course, Mr. Patterson came back with his results that showed indeed - the area is blighted and needs to be condemned. What else was Mr. Patterson expected to say after the politically connected Devco and the city council had already announced their redevelopment plans? If he had come back with any other finding, he probably would have been fired.

Mr. Patterson's findings are a clear example of "condemnation to order" - and further evidence that the eminent domain laws in New Jersey are being abused by the politically connected and need to be changed.

The fact is that the Somerset Street area is not a blighted area and that Mr. Patterson's report represents biased and shoddy work. For example, in one part of his report, he noted that my property was in disrepair because the "steps were crumbling." But he didn't note that the steps were crumbling because a few days before Mr. Patterson inspected the property, a car ran off the road and plowed into my building damaging the steps.

As for Mr. Patterson's defense of the process that resulted in condemnation, it has to be noted that the hearings before the planning board on Mr. Patterson's report were a complete sham. Questioning of Mr. Patterson by my attorney was limited, and frankly it didn't matter how many holes we found in Patterson's report because the Planning Board wasn't listening. The board was obviously under orders to recommend Somerset Street be condemned - and it did.

I will take the fight to keep my property to court. I won't give in to the strong-arm tactics of the city that thinks it can steamroll over small business owners just to fulfill the profit-driven desires of politically connected, big money developers.

Home News Tribune: www.thnt.com

Holladay turns down eminent domain: The Salt Lake (Salt Lake City UT) Tribune, 9/16/05

By Cathy McKitrick

Property owners and merchants in this affluent east-side city [of Halladay UT]expressed relief Thursday after the City Council, acting as the Redevelopment Agency board, voted to specify that eminent domain would never be used to obtain properties in the Village Center Redevelopment project.

The vote came down 4-1, with RDA board chairman Steve Peterson voting against nixing eminent domain.

“As a board, we hope we put the fear of eminent domain to rest. We want to use the carrot incentive rather than the stick. We won't be taking properties,” said Councilman Lynn Pace.

Public outcry earlier this summer against the threat of eminent domain in the future - should the Legislature choose to reinstate that power to Utah's cities - alerted Holladay officials that most residents and merchants opposed it.

Kerry Brown, owner of Olympus Pharmacy, felt the councilmembers made the right decision.

“Knowing the current council, I was aware that they'd be taking a huge political risk to use eminent domain for economic development,” Brown said.

The RDA board also pared down the 57-acre project area by removing 1.5 acres at the north end that are already under redevelopment, and also taking out the Holladay Villa Condominiums, another 4 acres.

Residents of the condos also had opposed the blight designation and feared the city had plans to force owners to sell.

“Blight is not anyone's favorite word, but there's no alternative that brings the benefits that the U.S. Supreme Court allows for RDAs. We're talking about a state definition of blight, not a street definition,” Pace said.

The council also approved a request for proposals for the 1.6 acres owned by the city at the historic heart of Holladay. This area has an awkward intersection where 2300 East, Holladay Boulevard and Murray-Holladay Road converge.

Today, the hulking Video Vern's building on this land purchased by the city in 2004 will be demolished.

The large structure was built in four stages between 1935 and 1951, and housed several businesses, including Erickson's Pharmacy, Color Tile, an Albertsons Grocery Store and of course Video Vern's, which touted a huge inventory of hard-to-find titles.

The city's intent is to remake the intersection into a pedestrian-friendly, unique market and gathering place with parking on the periphery.

Through September the city will receive written statements of interest from developers interested in the 1.6-acre parcel, and will view presentations during the month of October.

Come November, city officials hope to have a village center plan and budget to present to the residents of Holladay.

Salt Lake Tribune: www.sltrib.com

Eminent domain bills are stalled - except one for casino tribe: Sacramento (CA) Bee, 9/16/05

By Dan Walters

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this summer that governments could seize homes and other property to facilitate private development projects, it touched off a political firestorm throughout the nation - including California - and fueled demands for new barriers to misuse of governmental "eminent domain" powers.

California's version of the debate centered on the aggressive use of eminent domain -or the threat to use it - by city redevelopment agencies to assemble land for hotels, auto malls, big box retailers and other projects.

Although California law says that redevelopment powers can be invoked only to combat "blight," local officials have been quite creative in their application of the term. And when the Supreme Court declared that "there is no basis for exempting economic development from our traditionally broad understanding of public purposes," it seemingly validated those aggressive redevelopment efforts.

The resistance to aggressive misuse of eminent domain is one of those rare issues that cross usually stark ideological lines. Conservative property rights advocates and liberal activists for the poor are equally concerned about seizing homes and small businesses and bulldozing them on behalf of politically favored developers.

It's a little known fact, for example, that Delores Huerta, a much-venerated leader of the United Farm Workers union, originally became involved in social and political causes by resisting a redevelopment project that destroyed an entire neighborhood of working-class homes and businesses on the edge of downtown Stockton.

Tom McClintock, a Republican state senator from Thousand Oaks and a leading conservative political figure, took up the eminent domain crusade in the Legislature after the Supreme Court's ruling, saying that it "breaks the social compact that gives government its legitimacy and opened a new era when the rich and powerful can use government to seize property of ordinary citizens for private gain." He and others introduced bills, including constitutional amendments, to restrict such seizures to purely public projects.

Predictably, local government and redevelopment officials reacted with alarm that eminent domain could be severely restricted. The California Redevelopment Association and other advocates geared up to kill the measures and in the closing days of the legislative session, Democratic leaders ginned up a strategy to cool off the anti-eminent domain fervor. They unveiled legislation that would place a two-year moratorium on the seizure of private homes (but not commercial property), and authorize a study of the practice, thus giving their members a chance, or so it seemed, to side with the anti-eminent domain sentiment without doing any real damage to redevelopment agencies.

Quietly, however, the moratorium bills were themselves put on the shelf as the session ended - with Democrats blaming Republicans. "With every vote, they tried to derail this prudent response," said Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, who carried one of the moratorium bills.

Kehoe's finger-pointing, however, was more than a little disingenuous since the stalled bills required only simple majority votes and thus needed no Republicans to go along. Clearly, this was a Democratic action, not a Republican one, perhaps just a feint to pretend to do something about eminent domain without actually doing anything to upset the apple cart.

Ironically, the only eminent domain-related bill to reach Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk was a measure that allows the Rumsey Band of Wintun Indians, which operates the Cache Creek Casino in Yolo County, to join a joint powers consortium with local governments and the University of California to manage the 17,300-acre Conaway Ranch. While the county would purchase the land - or acquire it through eminent domain - the Rumsey Band has agreed to help finance the transaction.

Whether the tribe's interest in the Conaway Ranch is just an expression of civic involvement, or it has some other, more commercial interest is yet to be discovered. But allowing a casino-owning tribe to even indirectly participate in an eminent domain action sets a potentially worrisome precedent.

Sacramento Bee: www.sacbee.com

Legislators to tackle eminent domain issue: Laconia (NH) Citizen, 9/16/05

By Colin Manning

The issue of eminent domain will be tackled by a joint effort between the [New Hampshire] House and Senate on more than one front.

On Thursday, House Speaker Doug Scamman and Senate President Ted Gatsas announced there will be a constitutional amendment introduced in the House and a proposed changed in statute started in the Senate to ensure the state of New Hampshire doesn't see a similar case as the one that appeared in Connecticut recently.

"We're certainly going to go down the road united. We will propose a constitutional amendment to make sure this slide doesn't continue any further and we protect people's rights in the state of New Hampshire," Scamman said.

The issue of eminent domain is a major policy discussion at the Statehouse in the wake of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing the taking of private land for private development, known as the Kelo case out of New London, Conn. Scamman and Gatsas said the Legislature will focus on narrowing the law so that eminent domain will only be instituted in instances of a "public use" as opposed to a public benefit.

"We will be defining what a public use is. We'll also propose an amendment to the constitution to make sure any future interpretation is clear," Scamman added. Both lawmakers said they do not want to introduce changes which would halt so-called urban renewal. "If someone's property is turned over to a developer to have a strip mall built, that's not what people are looking for," Gatsas said.

The newly named Senate president also said a proposed constitutional amendment will be simply worded. "We want to be precise and to the point ... so when my mother goes to the polls she can read it and make a choice," Gatsas said. Neither Scamman nor Gatsas could offer any details as to what the language in the proposed bill or amendment will say. The Legislature convenes in January.

Laconia Citizen: www.citizen.com


Eminent domain ordinance moved for public hearing: Stratford (CT) Star, 9/14/05

By Fred Musante

The Town Council moved closer to approving an ordinance prohibiting the town from taking any property by eminent domain for economic development when it voted unanimously to send the proposed ordinance to its Ordinance Committee for a public hearing, the first step toward approval.

Curiously, the ordinance was revised so that it was virtually identical to a rival ordinance proposed by a mayoral candidate, a version that the council previously had rejected.

The revision deleted language that limited the scope of the ordinance to only owner-occupied residential property of four or fewer units, so that it now applies to all property, including commercial or industrial.

That was the language proposed by Republican mayoral hopeful Dominic Costello last month at a press conference a few days after Councilwoman Jennifer Hillgen-Santa, R-1, submitted the more limited ordinance without his knowledge.

At the council's meeting on Aug. 8, Councilman Michael Henrick, R-10, who supports Costello, tried unsuccessfully to put Costello's version on the agenda for consideration alongside Hillgen-Santa's. It was rejected by a 5-4 vote.

Hillgen-Santa was absent from that meeting, so her ordinance was tabled until this week. The council members also voted that the ordinance would be sponsored by all of them.

Strong voter sentiment favors the ordinance, which is a response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in July that the city of New London had the authority to condemn 10 private homes and businesses and turn them over to a private developer for a riverfront development project.

Norman Aldrich, R-8, cautioned that the more restrictive language might not be in the town's interest in the future. The town has very limited economic development options, and this would tie its hands, he said.

James Feehan, R-9, argued that "redistribution of wealth" was the cause of the fall of the Roman Empire, and he wanted to ensure that people get fair value for their property if it is turned over to a private developer to make a profit.

Aldrich noted that the revision doesn't address the "fair value" issue, but voted with the rest of the council members.

The Ordinance Committee will consider the eminent domain measure on Sept. 26.

Stratford Star: www.zwire.com