Amendment puts restrictions on eminent domain: Joplin (MO) Independent, 10/20/05

The [US] Senate yesterday approved an amendment introduced by Senator Kit Bond that would restrict the use of federal funds on private development projects that seek to use the power of eminent domain.

"People should not be forced out their homes at the will of any private development," said Bond, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Transportation, Treasury and HUD Appropriations. "This amendment seeks to put some guidelines in place when it comes to the use of federal funds on projects where eminent domain is used. We need to take a closer look at how the use of eminent domain is effecting our communities."

Bond's amendment to the Treasury, Transportation and HUD appropriations bill specifically states that no funds provided in the bill may be used to support any federal, state or local projects that seek to use the power of eminent domain, unless eminent domain is employed only for a public use.

Bond drafted the measure in the wake of the Supreme Court decision on eminent domain and a local Missouri case in the St. Louis County town of Sunset Hills where homeowners are being forced from their homes after the developer of a proposed shopping center was granted eminent domain powers.

The amendment allows the use of federal funds for public projects involving highways, mass transit, airports, utilities and similar projects which benefit or serve the general public.

Bond's amendment also requires a study on the nationwide use of eminent domain conducted by the Government Accountability Office in consultation with organizations representing state and local governments and property rights organizations.

Joplin Independent: www.joplinindependent.com

Move City Forward After Eminent-domain Fiasco: The (New London CT) Day, 10/21/05

Letter To The Editor

By Sandra Clarke Oney, New London

Enough is enough is enough. For the past six years, Connecticut, New London and the New London Development Corp [NLDC]. have all spent a great deal of time and money defending their decision to take properties in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood by eminent domain. Meanwhile, many lawsuits have been filed on behalf of the six people who believe they still hold ownership to properties within this neighborhood.

The difference is that the Institute for Justice has done all of its legal work for free. During these six years the three defendants (Connecticut, New London and NLDC) have not wavered from their position that the taking of these properties is a process allowed by law, and in every courtroom including the Supreme Court they have been found to be correct. In other words, we won.

But political posturing has taken over the minds of two of the defendants. The state now wants New London to wait awhile so that it can “reconsider” the law as it is now written. The city has taken some knocks, too, and the councilors are also posturing as any politician can. But all three of the defendants were found to be correct in their decision to move forward with the projects in Fort Trumbull.

And so, New London should now move forward:
  • The council should immediately recall its votes of Oct. 17.
  • State officials should remember that they were the ones who agreed that eminent domain was the way to go, and they also have spent time and money defending this decision for six years. They should just back off.
  • And the NLDC should move to take the properties immediately. No more delays. The six people who believe that the money that they have been offered isn't enough can then fight the amounts in court if they want to, but the city and the state must move forward now.

The Day: www.theday.com

Sandra Clarke Oney is a member of the New London Development Corp


Johnson — Reform eminent domain: The (Kankakee, IL) Daily Journal, 10/11/05

By Mary Baskerville

Private property rights advanced a notch Friday when the [US] House Agriculture Committee approved legislation intended to thwart the impact of this year's controversial U.S. Supreme Court decision on government property seizure for development, says Committee member Tim Johnson, R-Urbana.

HR 3405 would block federal funds from going to any state or local government that uses eminent domain to take land from one private entity and give it to another for purposes of economic development, said Johnson, the only Illinois congressman on the committee.

It's a long road from committee approval to reversal of the impact of the Supreme Court's decision in Kelo versus City of New London; but House Agriculture Chairman Bob Goodlatte called the ruling an "appalling" expansion of "the ability of state and local governments to exercise eminent domain powers to seize property under the guise of "economic development" when the public use is as incidental as generating tax revenue or creating jobs."

Johnson said the Kelo decision, in allowing use of eminent domain to condemn homes so retail businesses could replace them, "destabilized" private property rights, which he called "a core right in this country."

"The bill we reported out — enthusiastically and overwhelmingly, I might add — is one step in correcting that decision."

The Daily Journal: www.daily-journal.com

State pushes eminent domain rule: The Prague (Czech Republic) Post, 10/19/05

Bill would force landowners to sell property to government

By František Bouc

A hotly debated bill allowing land appropriation for industrial park development will likely pass in November.

A potential $1.9 billion (46 billion Kč) investment from South Korean carmaker Hyundai has the government scrambling to push through a bill that would force landowners to sell their property to the government not only for major infrastructure projects but also the development of industrial parks.

"The issue of law expropriation for industrial parks became pressing in light of Hyundai's interest in building a plant in north Moravia," said Prime Minister Jiří Paroubek. "If we secure the land in time, we've got a big chance to receive the [Hyundai] investment."

Hyundai CEO Chung Mong-Koo paid a visit to north Moravia in late September to examine a possible site for the company's new European plant. Although Hyundai's management has not made a final decision, soon after Vice President Kim-Dong Jin visited the north Moravian industrial park in Nošovice, he said it was a hot contender to house the new plant.

However, to be able to offer the Nošovice industrial park to Hyundai, the government needs to acquire the land, 30 hectares (74 acres) of which is owned by about 170 land owners who have no interest in selling.

"The government began negotiating with us, but we do not want to sell the land. No money would actually compensate us for the loss of the [fertile] soil," said Jiří Vícha, chairman of the Nošovice agricultural cooperative.

Last year, similar disputes over the sale of the land at Nošovice turned away South Korean carmaker KIA, which decided to build its new plant in neighboring Slovakia instead.

Industry and Trade Minister Milan Urban said it was vital that the country not lose an investment that would bring new jobs and economic prosperity to the region. Acquiring the Hyundai investment was in the state's strategic interest, he said, so requiring landowners to sell their Nošovice land to the government was a legitimate expectation.

"Time is pushing us and we need to proceed fast," Urban said. "We would prefer reaching an agreement with [land] owners first, but should regional authorities fail to come to terms with the owners, we'll need to turn to land expropriation."

The new law is likely to pass in a second reading in Parliament in November. If it is adopted, Urban said, the first place it would be implemented is in Nošovice.

Strategic parks
Land appropriation to develop industrial parks has been hotly debated in political and business circles. In early June the Cabinet drafted a bill that would enable forced buyouts of land from private owners to build roads, motorways, railways and other projects of strategic public interest. The bill, however, did not include industrial parks. The Chamber of Deputies passed that bill in its first reading in August.

In September, Industry and Trade Minister Urban suggested inclusion of a statement that industrial parks are projects of strategic public interest before the second reading in the Parliament in November. Industry and Trade Ministry spokesman Ivo Mravinac admitted that Urban's proposal was prompted by the opposition the government was running into developing the Nošovice industrial park.

However, not everyone was in favor of including industrial parks into projects of strategic public interest. The Environment Ministry is categorically opposed to the idea. "The land would be bought for private investors, which cannot be considered as being in the public interest. We shall try to prevent such attempts to give an advantage to industrial parks," Environment Minister Libor Ambrozek insisted.

However, Radomil Novák, head of the state's inbound investment agency, CzechInvest, said industrial parks enjoy a similar privilege in other European countries.

"Expropriation of land for industrial parks as an extreme measure is applied across Europe and is, for instance, quite common in Britain," Novák said.

Shadow Industry and Trade Minister Martin Říman of the senior opposition Civic Democratic Party vehemently disagreed. The influx of foreign investment such as the one from Hyundai was desired, he said, but not at any cost. "Ownership rights need to be respected, and although expropriation needs to be used in some cases, development of industrial parks should not be the reason," Říman said.

This is the second time the Industry and Trade Ministry tried to push through a proposal to expropriate land for the purpose of building industrial parks. Three years ago, then-Industry and Trade Minister Miroslav Grégr failed to get a bill passed. His attempt had been prompted by the problems the government ran into trying to purchase a 1-hectare plot of land at Hranice na Moravě for a plant being built by multinational electronics manufacturer Philips. The owner of the property, Markéta Regecová, eventually sold the land to the government for 25 million Kč ($1.02 million).

This time the government will not be blackmailed, Grégr said. It intends to buy the Nošovice land at fair market price, which is about 150 Kč per square meter. North Moravian Deputy Regional Governor Pavel Drobil said the land should be in the hands of the government by the end of this year.

The Prague Post: www.praguepost.com

Eminent domain vote stalled: San Gabriel Valley (CA) Tribune, 10/20/05

Monterey Park considers condemning buildings

By Jason Kosareff

The [Monterey Park] City Council had not voted by 11 p.m. Wednesday on whether to use its eminent domain powers to condemn three commercial buildings, a move that would displace several businesses.

The council, acting as the city's Redevelopment Agency, deliberated for several hours on condemning buildings at 620, 608 and 608 1/2 N. Atlantic Blvd. to make way for Atlantic Times Square, a long-awaited major development.

To use its eminent domain powers, the panel must first determine that the commercial properties are blighted and that the new development would benefit the public.

Arcadia-based Kam Sang Co. wants to build 200,000 square feet of retail, 200 condominiums and a 14-screen movie theater on the property at the southwest corner of Atlantic Boulevard and Hellman Avenue.

"I think this is project is a tremendous step forward in this community," said Councilman Mike Eng.

Kit Leung owns an accounting business at 608 N. Atlantic Blvd.

Kam Sang recently purchased the property where Leung has a month-to-month lease. She said having to move the business she has spent three years building up would result in a financial hardship.

Tony Wang owns a cell-phone shop at 608 N. Atlantic.

"My whole family's living is based on my business," he said.

Leung and Wang asked for fair and just compensation if they are forced to leave. City officials made assurances they would be properly compensated.

Eng and other council members cited financial figures to make their case for the public benefits of the project:
  • The development would create $26 million in taxes for the city over 33 years.
  • More than 400 jobs would be created.
  • More than $200,000 in annual property taxes would be created by the project.
  • Kam Sang would have to pay $200,000 into a fund for city parks.

While discussion on the matter went late into the night, at least one council member expressed doubt that the property at 608 N. Atlantic is truly blighted.

Councilwoman Betty Tom Chu said that when she inspected the property it did not appear visibly blighted to her.

City Manager Chris Jeffers said blight could also be defined by the low economic performance of the property.

Of the eight businesses housed in the three commercial buildings, four have already reached a settlement with Kam Sang and the city. Happy Family Restaurant II at 608 N. Atlantic is close to reaching a deal, according to the restaurant owner's attorney.

San Gabriel Valley Tribune: www2.sgvtribune.com

Knopp — Eminent domain issue was steamrolled: Stamford (CT) Advocate, 10/20/05

By Brian Lockhart

Mayor Alex Knopp believes the [Norwalk CT] Common Council's Ordinance Committee acted too quickly and emotionally in recommending a ban on the use of eminent domain for economic development.

"I don't feel this issue has received the right attention by the Ordinance Committee or council," Knopp said in an interview yesterday. "It has been . . . steamrolled."

Knopp, however, would not say whether he would veto the proposal if it passes the full 15-member Common Council on Tuesday.

"I'll cross that bridge when I come to it," he said.

He was not present Tuesday night when the Ordinance Committee, led by Democrat Michael Coffey, voted in favor of legislation that would limit property seizures.

Knopp's Democrat-majority administration is in various stages planning the revitalization of Wall Street, West Avenue and the Webster Street parking lot.

All three plans call for acquiring some homes and businesses, and all have received backing from some of the same council members who now want to curtail eminent domain.

"There's been a lot of 'Johnny-come-lately' politicization because of the emotional chord (New London) homeowners have legitimately created," Knopp said.

The mayor yesterday echoed complaints voiced by some developers and business officials after September's Ordinance Committee meeting that the group has not sought balanced testimony before making its decision.

At that meeting, Coffey allowed Scott Sawyer, whose firm represented the New London homeowners, and John Louizos, who successfully thwarted Stamford's attempts to seize Curley's Diner, to address the Ordinance Committee as eminent domain experts. Both attorneys have been retained by Wall Street [in Norwalk] property owners and both encouraged the committee to pass an eminent domain ban.

Coffey has said he invited Norwalk Redevelopment Director Timothy Sheehan and Knopp, but both have refused to address the ordinance on the advice of counsel.

City attorneys have said it is inappropriate to discuss Coffey's legislation while Norwalk is fighting to seize Maritime Motors, a South Norwalk car dealership, for a 1 million-square-foot office complex. The project is in the heart of the Reed-Putnam redevelopment area, just south of Interstate 95 off West Avenue.

Both sides are awaiting a decision on the seizure from the state Supreme Court, which heard the case Sept. 20.

Knopp said Coffey could have invited other pro-eminent domain groups, such as the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities or the Connecticut Association of Economic Development Directors, to either meeting.

"Why only one side?" Knopp said. "This deserves an inclusive and deliberate process rather than trying to rush through an ordinance just before an election."

Ultimately, Knopp said he believes Norwalk should not act on any local legislation until state officials conclude an ongoing revision of Connecticut's eminent domain laws.

"This is the kind of topic that makes for a single, statewide standard rather than having 169 different municipal laws," Knopp said.

Knopp said he has no reason to question the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, but is "against what happened in New London" and distinguished that city's approach to eminent domain from his administration's.

New London wanted to seize 15 houses to increase tax revenue through private development, but there was no finding of blight to further support the takings.

"That's not the principal goal of Wall Street," Knopp said of the massive plan now beginning to redevelop the old city center, destroyed by the 1955 flood. "It's to revitalize an area of the city blighted with empty stores, rundown buildings, where the private market has shunned investment."

To bolster its case for eminent domain, the city's Redevelopment Agency has made a determination of blight on Wall Street and is working on one for West Avenue.

Ordinance Committee members acknowledged they were moved Tuesday by testimony from homeowners and businesses whose property has been seized or is threatened by eminent domain. Many argued blight is in the eyes of the beholder, and that the threat of eminent domain leads owners to stop investing in properties.

For a property owner who does not want to sell a home or relocate a business, Knopp said "there are a lot of ways to work these things out," including trying to incorporate businesses into redevelopment plans.

But if such efforts fail, he indicated that the property must be seized.

"The community has an interest in the revitalization of its downtown areas," Knopp said.

He said there has to be a "balance between property rights and the role of the community, expressed through its representatives, to make decisions about the public good."

"It can't be all on one side or all on the other side," Knopp said.

Stamford Advocate: www.stamfordadvocate.com


Landowner fears losing nest egg to eminent domain: (Westchester NY) Journal News, 10/19/05

By Brian J Howard

Helen Christian always dreamed that the property she and her husband bought when they were first married might be a nest egg she could cash in at retirement.

But waterfront redevelopment plans and the specter of eminent domain have the Peekskill native worried about losing the half-acre lot at Requa and South streets she held onto for nearly 50 years.

"I saved and sacrificed because that was going to be my 401(k)," said Christian, 70. "It hurts because I don't feel that they should have the right to take it away from me and destroy my dream."

Ginsburg Development of Hawthorne has been negotiating to acquire a number of residential and commercial properties on the waterfront and has reached deals with several owners.

But at a public meeting last month, Mayor John Testa said that while the city had no intention of using its authority to take private property, that option wouldn't be ruled out. That left Christian, who lives in Somers, worried because she knew Ginsburg eyed her land for a 500-car garage.

The property once housed an apartment building that was razed by the city after a fire in 1968. The lot has been vacant ever since.

Steven O'Brien, Ginsburg's director of development, said the company was committed to negotiating amicably with any property owner displaced by the project.

"It's not a zero-sum game," O'Brien said. "It's one of those opportunities where both sides can be winners and both sides can feel they were treated fairly."

Christian says she is no opportunist. And she does not want to stand in the way of progress. She only wants a fair deal, she said.

When the two sides met last spring, her attorney balked at a city appraisal that valued the property at $120,000. She said if Ginsburg built condos there, it would sell for many times that.

O'Brien indicated he would be reaching out to Christian soon. He acknowledged the heightened sensitivity surrounding eminent domain, particularly since the U.S. Supreme Court in June affirmed local governments' right to take properties for redevelopment.

Both Ginsburg and the city say it is a tool that should remain available to municipalities.

Sherwood Martinelli of Requa Street, a self-described activist who has been advising Christian, called that a "veiled threat."

"I'm a Midwestern farm boy," he said. "Property to me is almost sacred. I've watched farmers pushed off their lands by means almost (as) deplorable as eminent domain."

Ironically, a South Street building the mayor's family owned for three generations was condemned when Washington Street was extended. Testa said the boyhood experience sensitized him to the issue.

"It wasn't taking anyone's homes away," he said, "but it was taking a piece of family history away, which obviously I can relate to."

The Journal News: www.thejournalnews.com

Council Clarifies Position on Eminent Domain Issue: (Ellicott City MD) View, 10/19/05

By Paul Peluso Jr

Members of the County Council decided that it was important to clarify their stance on eminent domain after the Supreme Court ruled on a precedent setting case this past summer.

The June ruling in the case of Kelo versus the City of New London, Conn., gave local jurisdictions the power to seize people’s homes or businesses for private economic development.

“The Supreme Court has ruled and we felt that it was important to reaffirm and clarify our position that eminent domain should be used in very limited circumstances,” Council Chair Guy Guzzone said.

Guzzone, a North Laurel Democrat, and Council member Ken Ulman, a Columbia Democrat, introduced the resolution to the council earlier this month.

The resolution would not only clarify the council’s position, but would also request the Maryland General Assembly to limit the state’s power of eminent domain.

Both Guzzone and Ulman said that they received numerous phone calls and letters from constituents after the New London Development Corporation won the case against Susette Kelo and several other homeowners. The city won the right to raze the working-class community homes in order to build a riverfront hotel.

According to the filling of the residents in the case, seven states allow condemnations for private business development including Maryland, Connecticut, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and North Dakota.

Guzzone noted, however, that the County Council had already limited its own powers of eminent domain in the past to projects including water and sewer lines, roads, streets, public parks, public buildings and other similar projects.

“The county has already self-limited itself,” Guzzone said. “We felt it was important to clarify that to the community.”

The submitted resolution, which will be voted on by the council Nov. 7, states that transfers of private property should not be made without the owners consent if the transfer is only for purposes of economic development.

Guzzone pointed out, however, that the Board of Education — which is currently trying to secure a piece of land for an access road for the planned Northeastern Elementary School — has its own set of eminent domain rules.

Although there is legislation limiting the County’s use of eminent domain, Guzzone said that in the case of economic blight, the power could be used.

“There are some cases that it would be necessary in which an area was blighted to the point it was causing not only aesthetic affects, but elevated crime.”

The View: www.theviewnewspapers.com

Boynton OKs eminent domain takeover of 12 properties from unwilling owners: (South FL) Sun-Sentinel, 10/19/05

By Edward Sifuentes

[Boynton Beach] City commissioners approved an agreement Tuesday with the Community Redevelopment Agency to take more than a dozen properties in the Heart of Boynton neighborhood through eminent domain.

The vote was 4-1, with Vice Mayor Mack McCray, who represents the area, voting against.

Rev. Eddie Evans, of the Jesus House of Worship church on Seacrest Boulevard, offered an emotional plea for his property.

"My concern is, if you demand that I go from there, where am I going to go?" Evans said.

Under the terms of the agreement, the property owners will be given one more opportunity to negotiate the purchase of the properties with the CRA.

The City Commission will still have to approve eminent domain procedures for those that do not agree to sell.

City officials have been working to revitalize the Heart of Boynton neighborhood for years. The properties along Martin Luther King Jr. and Seacrest boulevards are the first phase of their plan.

After the CRA gathers all the properties, it will offer them to developers to build new homes and businesses.

Many of the buildings and empty lots that make up the area serve as gathering places for drug dealers and other criminals, city officials and residents say.

"If we do not go forward with this plan, the situation that this community has been living with will continue," said Quintus Greene, the city's director of development.

In other action, the City Commission also agreed to ask for a grant from the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council to study whether the city could use an old landfill.

Commissioner Mike Ferguson wants the city to consider whether affordable homes can be built on 40 acres east of the city's Boynton Links Golf Course, possibly using some of the golf course land for the project as well.

His plan includes a city community land trust. The trust would issue $100,000 vouchers to homebuyers to offset the price of homes. The money would revert to the land trust when the home is sold.

The City Commission agreed to postpone an evaluation of City Manager Kurt Bressner until after a union contract is completed. Union workers said they wanted to speak about their grievances once the negotiations are over.

Sun-Sentinel: www.sun-sentinel.com

Maryland Lawmakers Seek to Limit Eminent Domain: Fox News, 10/18/05

By Elizabeth Coe

Republican legislators in Maryland said Tuesday they will propose an amendment to the state's constitution that would ban the seizure of private property by government if it is to be turned over to private developers.

"Private property is private property," said state Republican Sen. Allan H. Kittleman. "When you own something it shouldn't be taken by the government."

This normally obscure issue of eminent domain came to national attention with the controversial Kelo et. al. v. the City of New London, Conn., decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in June, which established that government could force the sale of private property for economic development.

"This is encouraging the displacement of low income residents," Kittleman said. "It's a reverse 'Robin Hood effect' — taking from the poor and giving to the rich."

The proposed amendment, announced at a news conference on Tuesday, is being called the Property Protection Act of 2006 and would limit the state to seizing property only for a public use — such as for schools, parks or roads, legislators said.

For the amendment to pass, it must receive three-fifths majorities of both the House of Delegates and Senate, and then must be approved by the state's voters in a referendum.

A spokesman for the Ehrlich administration said that the governor, a Republican, called the proposal a "very positive first step" but said Gov. Robert Ehrlich (search) would reserve judgment until he has seen the final draft of the amendment. Both Republicans and Democrats have emerged as supporters of the proposed amendment, or similar legislation, and have said economic development should not be considered a public use.

Sen. Jennie M. Forehand said she and several of her Democratic colleagues have been working toward legislation placing restrictions on eminent domain.

"There are different ways to solve this problem," she said. "But something needs to be done to solve it. It would be wonderful to find something we can agree on."

Andrew Langer, spokesman for the National Federation of Independent Business, Maryland's largest small business advocacy group, said this issue is especially important to small businesses and small property owners who can most easily be hurt when developers and government come together.

"The founders didn't envision that the power of eminent domain would be used this way," he said.

Eminent domain should only be used when a legitimate public use can be demonstrated and when just compensation to the property owner can be paid, he said.

"A loose definition of public use leads to an abuse of power when it comes to eminent domain," he said. "The power to physically take property away from citizens should be constrained."

Although the exact language of the proposed amendment has not yet been drafted, Langer said he thinks most members of small businesses in Maryland will come out in favor of acting on this issue.

Republican Delegate Anthony J. O'Donnell said this type of legislation makes sense because there are other ways the government could work toward economic development, such as by using free-market incentives.

"Eminent domain should be an issue of last resort," he said. "Everybody feels that the Kelo decision was very wrong."

Republican Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus said the issue of eminent domain is a "bedrock principle" for Republicans, but will be supported by legislators on both sides of the aisle.

He predicted that the House and Senate will work together during the next session to draft an amendment that both houses can accept.

Fox News: www.foxnews.com

Realtors Urge Eminant Domain Reform: Georgia Association of Realtors

Position Statement

By Jan Baker

The Georgia Association of Realtors is an 85-year-old organization made up of more than 36,000 residential and commercial Realtors throughout the state. Our primary mission is the protection and preservation of private property rights in Georgia.

When the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its now infamous eminent domain decision this summer, we quickly reviewed the ruling and concluded, as did most reasonable people, that it represented an almost unthinkable blow to our traditional understanding of private property rights.

Historically, most of us have understood – and accepted – that governmental entities at the local, state and federal levels exercise the power of eminent domain to take private property for important public uses, including public schools, roads, bridges and the like. Few if any landowners ever like having their property seized by eminent domain, but most of us acknowledge that in rare cases there are legitimate public purposes for which the use of that power is appropriate.

But the Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. New London changes all that... Now, local governments can seize private property for much broader public uses, including the elimination of so-called “blighted” properties and the enhancement of tax bases, and, worst of all, then transfer that property to another private party.

Now, in the United States of America, a nation whose founding principles included private property rights, landowners can have their homes and businesses seized not just to make way for a new elementary school or library, but to help facilitate a larger private development whose value will add to the tax digest of a local community.

Like virtually all political leaders who spoke out following the Supreme Court decision, Georgia’s Realtors were shocked by this decision and believe that the Georgia General Assembly must act quickly and decisively to shut this loophole once and for all. We applaud the Governor and those leaders who have stepped up to address the issue and those who have indicated a willingness to work with us on righting this wrong.

From reading the press coverage following the decision, you might think it is a forgone conclusion that corrective action will be taken as soon as the legislature convenes in January. While we certainly hope that is the case, the Realtors do not believe we can or should take it for granted that that will occur. Groups such as the Georgia Municipal Association are engaging in a campaign to keep this loophole open.

We believe that a failure to explicitly define, and curb, the eminent domain powers of our state and local governments would prove to be a very grave error that will haunt current and future Georgia property owners for decades to come.

We have already seen a New London eminent domain nightmare begin to play out in the Henry County City of Stockbridge, where the city government is seizing both homes and small businesses in the downtown area to facilitate not just the construction of new public buildings, but new – and higher value – private development as well. We have also seen the beginnings of an effort by local elected officials, including the leaders in Smyrna, to justify the kinds of eminent domain powers conferred by the Supreme Court.

On its Web site, the Georgia Municipal Association has posted a remarkably ambiguous position paper arguing that Georgia is a state that “does it right” when it comes to eminent domain and that the state legislature does not need to rush to correct a problem that GMA suggests does not exist. That, of course, was before the Stockbridge case burst into the headlines. We wonder if they still feel that way.

For all these reasons, the Georgia Association of Realtors is launching ... a campaign to close the New London eminent domain loophole in Georgia by passing legislation that will limit the eminent domain powers of state and local governmental entities to a very explicit set of public uses.

At this point, we are favoring a Constitutional amendment on the ballot for the 2006 General Election next November, and to do that the General Assembly will have to pass an appropriate resolution at the 2006 General Assembly.

This campaign will have a number of specific components.

First, we will be working to mobilize all 36,000 Realtors throughout Georgia. We will encourage them to let their local legislators know their views on this issue. At the same time, Realtors will play a key role in educating property owners in their communities about the importance of this issue and encouraging them to communicate with their elected officials about the issue.

As part of the local Realtors involvement in this campaign, you can expect to see yard signs and bumper stickers bearing logos such as these throughout Georgia.

The second component is that ... we will launch a radio advertising campaign in major markets throughout the state to build awareness of the issue and to generate support for closing the New London loophole once and for all. As a final legislative proposal is developed, the advertising will be refined to build support for the specific legislation we will need to pass in order to get this issue before the Georgia voters in November of 2006...

Another objective of the advertising will be to drive listeners to a new Web site, which is the third component of this campaign. We have ... launched a Web site at www.protectGAprivateproperty.com. The Georgia Association of Realtors is establishing this as a separate site to provide information about this issue and to give Georgia property owners and voters an easy way to get involved. Among other things, Georgia property owners will be able to register online in support of protecting private property and to let their legislators know of their support for legislation closing the New London loophole.

We believe this campaign can be successful and that it will protect Georgia’s property owners from uses of eminent domain that were never contemplated when the power was first conceived. We believe that it will only succeed with the active involvement and support of the property owners across this state. We believe that Georgia can lead the nation by setting an example of how a state should work to protect private property rights.

We mean no disrespect to the good and well-intentioned people who serve in our local governments. But it is almost a law of nature that there will be those governments like Stockbridge, granted new power or authority, which will abuse that power and fight to keep it.

Our legislators, county commissioners, city council members and others need to hear Georgians speak as one on this issue, and the Georgia Association of Realtors is proud to take a leadership role on this most critical issue.

Georgia Association of Realtors: www.garealtor.com

Jan Baker is president of the Georgia Association of Realtors

New London severs ties with development authority: The (New London CT) Day, 10/18/05

The [New London] city council has voted to sever ties with the quasi-public development authority at the center of a national debate over eminent domain powers.

The council voted 6-0 Monday night to revoke the designation of the New London Development Corp. as the city's "implementing agency" for its Fort Trumbull development. The agency has guided the $73 million state-funded project since its inception in 1998.

The U.S. Supreme Court sparked a national debate in June when it ruled the development authority had the power to take homes for the private development project.

But the development corporation angered state and local officials by sending orders to vacate to five Fort Trumbull residents living on the property that the developer wants for a hotel and office space.

State officials had asked municipalities to hold off on property seizures until the legislature considers changing the state's eminent domain laws.

City officials asked the development authorities' two leaders to resign, but they declined. They did rescind the orders to vacate under pressure from Gov. M. Jodi Rell.

But council members said they could no longer deal with an agency that disregared the city's rights as a development partner and the wishes of the community.

"I don't think you can continue a partnership where there's only one partner saying, 'I'm willing to go back and forth,' and the other's saying, 'I've heard you, but I'm going the other way,"' Councilor Rob Pero said.

The council also voted Monday to demand the agency transfer title to all its real estate in the project area to the city of New London. That includes the former Naval Undersea Warfare Center at Fort Trumbull, which was transferred by the U.S. government to the development authority, not the city.

"I think we're divorced," Mayor Jane Glover said.

The future of the homes and the development project is unclear.

City Lawyer Thomas Londregan had asked the council to postpone the vote, until it consulted with the state Department of Economic and Community Development.

"The state has a 70 plus million dollar mortgage on the (affected) property," Londregan wrote in a memo also provided to the council. "We need to hear from them."

The development corporation's president, Michael Joplin, did not return calls seeking comment on the vote.

The Day: www.theday.com

Beware Eminent Domain Ploys: Hartford (CT) Courant, 10/18/05


By Scott Bullock, Institute for Justice

Connecticut legislators will soon have an opportunity to end eminent domain abuse in their state. With Connecticut being the home of perhaps the most universally despised decision in recent U.S. Supreme Court history - Kelo vs. City of New London - the nation will be watching to see if Connecticut stops the abuse of eminent domain for private business development.

Unfortunately for Connecticut people, most of the legislative proposals under consideration fall very far short of the mark in protecting property owners.

Connecticut has perhaps the most sweeping law in the country authorizing the use of eminent domain for private development. The primary law by which Connecticut cities and towns may abuse eminent domain is Chapter 132, the statute at issue in the Kelo case. Unlike condemnations for so-called blighted areas, which must meet statutorily defined standards, the eminent domain power for economic development applies anywhere and to all types of property, including homes and small businesses. Under Chapter 132, two or more parcels of property can be condemned for a "business" purpose, defined as "any commercial, financial or retail enterprise." This is a breathtakingly broad authorization for the use of eminent domain for private business development.

The authorization for eminent domain should be removed from Chapter 132. Moreover, Connecticut's urban renewal laws should be tightened to ensure that they are not used as a back-door vehicle to gain property for private development.

All other powers and methods available to promote economic development would remain untouched if eminent domain authority was removed under these laws. The use of eminent domain for traditional public uses, such as roads, parks and reservoirs, would remain in place.

Supporters of eminent domain, such as the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, have adopted a tactic of pushing for meaningless changes to the law so they can claim that home and small-business owners are now protected. People should not fall for these ploys.

One such tactic is proposing a property rights ombudsman. Another is revising procedures for the preparation, modification, approval, etc., of redevelopment projects. Of course, such proposals do not end the use of eminent domain for private economic development. They simply require that local governments and planning bodies produce more paperwork and jump through more procedural hoops.

These so-called solutions might be better called the Full Employment for Planners Act. Better planning will not prevent the use of eminent domain for private commercial development. And although it is not a bad idea to have an ombudsman help property owners in eminent domain battles, that alone will not solve the problem. Indeed, a property rights ombudsman would have no power to stop local officials from taking homes for a shopping mall or small businesses for national chain stores.

Connecticut has an opportunity to reverse years of exploitation of the eminent domain power. The courts have failed to protect the constitutional rights of Connecticut residents, but the General Assembly can protect them from an unholy alliance between local officials and powerful private interests. Most of the proposals the legislature is considering fail utterly to protect property owners, but there is still time to pass meaningful eminent domain reform.

The Hartford Courant: www.courant.com

Scott Bullock is a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice, the public interest law firm that represented the property owners in Kelo vs. New London

Eminent domain foes will appeal to jury: (Woodland CA) Daily Democrat, 10/18/05

By Ben Antonius

Foes of the county's attempt to take over the Conaway Ranch announced another attack on Monday - an appeal to the Yolo County grand jury.

In a statement distributed Monday, the California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights called for the jury to look into a "handshake deal" between the county and the Rumsey Band of Wintun Indians.

The tribe has promised to pay the acquisition price of the land, saying it wants to strengthen its relationships in the county.

However, the alliance statement noted the arrangement was announced just weeks after the county approved an 18-hole golf course component to the tribe's casino/resort. County approval was crucial because land for the course had to be removed from Williamson Act farmland preservation contracts.

Supervisors could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.

Since the Conaway deal was reached with the tribe, supervisors have repeatedly told skeptics there are no strings attached. Even after a gubernatorial veto prevented the tribe from participating in the management of the ranch, a tribal spokesman reiterated the support.

Yolo County Grand Jury Forewoman Charlotte Beal said Monday she could neither confirm nor deny the jury had received a formal request to investigate the county.

In deciding what to look into, she said the jury will consider whether the investigation is feasible within its term - the final report is usually written in May - and whether the issue is within its purview. She noted that in general, there are added challenges in cases involving multiple governments.

The county's takeover effort faces a critical court date on Nov. 1, when a judge will decide whether the county is justified in using its eminent domain powers to take the 17,300-acre property. After that, a jury would determine the purchase price. The county expects the cost to be near the appraised value of $50 million, while ranchowners have reportedly sought twice that.

The county is seeking to take the property because it fears the current ownership group, led by Sacramento developer Steve Guidaro, will attempt to develop part of the land or sell the water rights.

The owners, who bought the property after eminent domain proceedings were already under way, have mentioned selling habitat mitigation rights as a possible return on investment.

Daily Democrat: www.dailydemocrat.com

State GOP wants to limit eminent domain: The (Annapolis MD) Capital, 10/18/05

By David Abrams

State Republicans this morning called for a constitutional amendment limiting the state's ability to seize property for public use.

Prompted by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that broadened the power of eminent domain, Del. David Boschert, one of a host of Republicans in the state House and Senate behind the amendment, said giving government the power to take private property "at any old time" is wrong.

The high court's ruling gave the states permission to set their own specific rules, including a clear definition of what "public use" is. The GOP amendment would say the state can only take land to build roads, schools and libraries. It would not apply to economic development purposes like creating jobs or generating tax revenue.

Mr. Boschert, R-Crownsville, said the General Assembly has to make sure that property owners are given all of the necessary due process before their land or building can be taken.

"I'm a firm believer in property rights protection," Mr. Boschert said.

The proposal would need three-fifths of the legislature's approval, and then the amendment would go on the ballot in the November 2006 gubernatorial election.

Democrats say changing the constitution is not necessary, and property rights can be protected through regular legislation.

Sen. Ed DeGrange Sr., D-Glen Burnie, said he's drafting a bill to address eminent domain for the session that opens in January.

"It's just going to make it through the legislative process" instead of amending the constitution, he said. "If it's passed, you just need a majority, not a super-majority of votes. It would take effect a lot more quickly."

If his bill passes, Mr. DeGrange said the tighter standards would be in effect by July.

The Supreme Court ruling came after an intense debate in 2000 in the assembly over a Baltimore County bill that would let the government seize property for a commercial waterfront development in the name of economic development.

That bill failed, and officials are moving forward with the project without eminent domain.

Businesses around a planned multi-million dollar revitalization in west Baltimore City could also be affected by any change to the law. Mr. DeGrange said small businesses there are worried they will be pushed out.

"Let's face it, the government has attorneys," Mr. DeGrange said, noting that he would wait on recommendations from a business task force before tweaking his bill. "They have the tools in their toolbox and the resources to do this. Small businesses don't have those resources."

Sen. Janet Greenip, R-Crofton, who attended the news conference in Annapolis this morning along with with Dels. John Leopold, R-Pasadena, Tony McConkey, R-Severna Park, and Mr. Boshert, said property rights in general will be a huge issue this year in the assembly session. Every day, she said she gets calls from confused or angry homeowners who aren't allowed to build houses, swimming pools or other improvements because of government regulations - especially on the water.

Sen. Allan H. Kittleman, R-Howard, said eminent domain causes a "reverse Robin Hood effect," stealing from the poor to give to the rich.

"We need to stand up for all Marylanders, not just those with influence and power," he said.

Shareese N. DeLeaver, a spokesman for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., said the governor doesn't take a position on bills until he has reviewed specific legislation, but in general he supports property rights.

Scores of states have been focusing on how to adapt their laws to the Supreme Court ruling. It stems from a Connecticut case where the city of New London wanted to transform 90 acres of property into a commercial development.

Thousands of jobs were lost in the area around Fort Trumbell in 1996, when the Navy's Undersea Warfare Center was closed. Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, Inc. wanted to build a large research facility there.

The state's supreme court sided with 15 property owners who sued, and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld that ruling.

The Capital: www.hometownannapolis.com


Eminent domain battles heat up: Marietta (GA) Daily Journal, 10/17/05

The battle is heating up over the use of eminent domain powers for economic development in Georgia.

The Georgia Association of Realtors has taken up the cause of property owners with a campaign to amend the state constitution to limit the condemnation powers of local governments.

GAR adds its considerable punch - 36,000 members - to the effort mounted by state Sen. Jeff Chapman (R-Brunswick) and other Senate Republican leaders to curb eminent domain in the wake of the infamous U.S. Supreme Court decision last June allowing seizure of private property for economic development.

That case, Kelo v. City of New London (Conn.), was decided by a 5-4 vote of the left-leaning wing of the court. The outrageous decision prompted Justice Sandra Day O'Conner to dissent in graphic terms:
"The specter of condemnation hangs over all property. 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."

You want confirmation?

Ask Mark and Regina Meeks, a hard-working couple who started living their American dream 22 years ago. They opened a florist business in the town of Stockbridge, about 12 miles south of Atlanta. Incidentally, Mark, 49, was born at Kennestone when his father worked at Lockheed.

Two years ago the Meeks were in the process of selling their property and moving their going business to an adjacent location.

Then things fell apart.

The City of Stockbridge rezoned the Meeks property without prior notification, the Meeks say. That killed their sale and move.

The city offered them one-third of the selling price and threatened to use eminent domain if necessary. The city wanted to "revitalize" its downtown area with a new development of shops, offices and residences on 22 acres including the Meeks shop.

The Meeks and several other property owners refused to sell. They got condemnation notices. The Meeks are contesting the condemnation in court but fear they will lose and have no recourse until the General Assembly convenes in January, too late to save their property.

Last week the Southeastern Legal Foundation, the Atlanta-based conservative public interest law firm - which intervened on the day of the condemnation, Sept. 19, and sought relief in federal court - announced an agreement with District Judge Charles Pannell and the City of Stockbridge to delay the taking until Superior Court rules on objections raised and the federal case is heard in December.

Based on Kelo v. New London, the outlook for the Meeks is dim.

The answer is to amend the Georgia Constitution to prevent taking unblighted private property for economic development, improving the tax base, etc., and allowing condemnation only for public purposes such as roads and schools within strict limits.

For Mark and Regina Meeks, their American dream has become a nightmare. They've spent a lot of money, forced to take out a mortgage on their house.

"This is not right," Mark said when we talked by phone. "We are going to fight it as long as we can."

Every right-thinking Georgian is with the Meeks in this fight.

Marietta Daily Journal: www.mdjonline.com

Eminent Domain — Awfully Close to Home: Washington (DC) Dateline, 10/16/05

By John Hall

Real estate speculators reportedly have been bidding up values on storm damaged property with an idea of rebuilding some of New Orleans' run-down neighborhoods into showplaces. Maybe it has to be this way if the city is to rise again, but when people are desperate for a place to live, this seems like a particularly cruel turn.

One question is where the power of eminent domain comes in, and on whose side it will be invoked. You can teach it both ways. Speculators could lose a bundle if they buy up parcels at a premium and the city or state invokes eminent domain for a public purpose like parks.

On the other hand, flood victims may have no rights if the city decides to seize their property. The Supreme Court ruled last spring in Kelo v. New London that the Constitution offered no protection to homeowners if a municipality decided to take their property for private development. So the city may be free to take that route if it chooses - and Louisiana courts allow it.

This country is getting acquainted all over again with the uses and abuses of the power of eminent domain. The Kelo case was decided on a 5-4 vote. There has been a slow burn about it ever since.

The idea that you can be forced to give up your home for an oncoming interstate highway is one thing. That's a public purpose. But to give it up for a private, profit-making enterprise takes some getting used to.

The Institute for Justice, a libertarian think tank which specializes in courtroom litigation, has taken the matter back to the states, hoping to get a more favorable reception there following its Supreme Court defeat.

The Ohio Supreme Court accepted the institute's appeal on behalf of a Norwood, Ohio couple who are about to lose their home to a politically-connected developer who is about to profit from the taking of private land. The developer wants to bulldoze their neighborhood and put in chain stores, offices and condominiums.

The pressure on municipalities to use eminent domain for such purposes isn't difficult to understand.

Usually, some industry has abandoned the city and unemployment or blight may be a problem. In the case of New London, it had lost a submarine base. The public purpose sometimes is a noble one - saving a community from slow strangulation or rebuilding Baltimore's waterfront.

But to many mayors with developers in their waiting rooms, eminent domain has become the magic elixir that can grow businesses, create jobs and strengthen the tax base, not to mention build their political futures.

In Congress, however, this issue is starting to cut the other way. It has become one of the populist hot potatoes of the year. Bills are being introduced to forbid the use of eminent domain for anything other than public purposes.

What's interesting are the sponsors. Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. Maxine Waters, both liberals, along with conservatives Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Richard Pombo joined together like birds of a feather on eminent domain abuse legislation. Those are people who ordinarily agree on nothing.

The Cornyn-Boxer bill would apply to the federal government, but also limit federal funds for private economic redevelopment using eminent domain for city and state projects.

Waters said her concern in New Orleans was that the "rich and powerful" would abuse eminent domain "to take property that belongs to poor people to get them out of the city."

Others have expressed concern that those who evacuated will simply have their property condemned and confiscated for redevelopment.

The big problem, according to the Institute for Justice, is that the courts are placing such a low value on home ownership.

In the Ohio case, the trial court found that the well-kept neighborhood was not blighted but agreed it was "deteriorating." Its reason - unbelievably – was that there were too many homes or small businesses owned by the people who lived there, according to the Institute of Justice.

Its definition of deteriorating "could include virtually every residential neighborhood in Ohio and the rest of the country," said Bert Gall, an attorney for the Institute.

Get this straight: a court has ruled that because too many homes were owned, that was a sign of neighborhood deterioration, and therefore the homes could be seized for private gain.

A lot of people may think Norwood looks like their own neighborhood.

Washington Dateline: http://washdateline.mgnetwork.com

In Long Branch, No Olive Branches : New York (NY) Times, 10/16/05

The Debate and the Tactics Over Development Turn Sharper

By Ronald Smothers

David Barry, the president of the Applied Companies, had just finished his presentation on a proposal to build an upscale residential and commercial project in this shore city. For the next phase of the redevelopment to continue, the town must condemn about four dozen neat, small homes on streets leading to the beach.

On a recent day, brightly colored artists' renderings were arrayed on easels across the front of the Town Council chambers, contrasting with the stony faces of the council members as they braced for the public's turn to talk.

Among the speakers was Bill Nordahl, a retired electronics company employee, whose apartment in a beachfront bungalow is in the path of the proposed redevelopment. He is a leader in the nearly two-year battle over the plans.

"What David Barry didn't mention is that he is president of Applied now because his father, Joe Barry, is in jail for bribing people," said Mr. Nordahl, referring to the elder Barry's sentencing in 2004 to 25 months in prison for making $115,000 in payoffs to Robert C. Janiszewski, the former Hudson County executive. "It is very clear that these people have too much power because they have so much money to throw around, and they are allowed to throw it around."

In Long Branch, there is no evidence or even a hint of illegal payments to anybody. But in the brave new world of redevelopment there is no tactic that is too extreme. Charging corruption or worse is all in the course of the war. "They will use any attack they can," Mr. Barry said in an interview, "and I have to sit there and listen to it."

Since a United States Supreme Court ruling in June — known as Kelo v. New London — emboldened municipalities to condemn property under eminent domain laws to make way for private development, anti-development groups have felt at once energized yet under siege, their avenues of legal recourse uncertain.

So in places like Long Branch, where the battle to block Applied's project was already emotion-drenched, the gloves have come off as anti-development groups try to block projects before the issue reaches the courts.

At the same time, many homeowners are looking to Trenton for the means to block redevelopment and the use of eminent domain. Legislation is pending to tighten the rules under which eminent domain can be invoked, and lawmakers as well as Acting Gov. Richard J. Codey have been asked to impose a moratorium on all redevelopment efforts relying on the use of eminent domain.

Local groups like those in Long Branch have held rallies and flooded state officials with letters and telephone calls in support of their cause. Yet those efforts do not have the support of local officials, especially those in distressed beachfront towns like Long Branch, Neptune and Asbury Park as well as in such urban centers as Newark, Camden and Jersey City.

William Dressel, the executive director of the New Jersey League of Municipalities, ways localities depend on growth.

"Given the fiscal condition of our state with its budget deficit and the absence of any lifeline whatsoever from the federal government, towns have been encouraged to work with the private sector ever since the redevelopment law in the state was passed in 1949 and amended in 1992 and 2003," Mr. Dressel said. "Where do people think development comes from? Some development fairy who waves her magic wand?"

Rather, local officials are working hand in hand with developers, who say they already face prohibitive economic and political restrictions and do not need more limits on building from the State Legislature.

Mr. Barry of Applied criticized homeowners, like those in Long Branch, who try to block redevelopment projects, describing them as "opportunists looking for higher prices for their property or the limelight and the very few who are really victims."

Political oddsmakers say that Governor Codey is unlikely to back a moratorium, although the two men currently running for governor have criticized the Supreme Court ruling and have said that they would curtail the use of eminent domain in New Jersey.

Against this backdrop, State Senator Diane B. Allen, Republican of Burlington, and State Senator Nia H. Gill, Democrat of Montclair, are pushing a bill they introduced this summer to address what they consider inequities in the eminent domain laws.

While the bill does not try to limit eminent domain, it calls for greater public involvement in the process. It increases the requirement for public hearings on condemnations and redevelopment plans, and narrows the definition of blight that could subject properties and whole areas to condemnation.

"The bill would make the process for condemnation more transparent," Ms. Allen said. "The bottom line is that the Supreme Court decision has jeopardized the security of many homeowners, and we should all be afraid."

Ms. Gill said that although she and Ms. Allen were trying to use widespread grass-roots concern about eminent domain to cajole developers into making compromises, "it won't be a cakewalk."

There is already a great deal of resistance. Mayor Sharpe James of Newark, who also represents his city in the State Senate, said that the bill appeared to be "a non-starter."

As Mr. James put it, the measure "handicaps mayors and developers" alike by undermining existing expectations about just compensation and limiting their ability to determine what is for the greater good.

But Joseph Maraziti, a former chairman of the New Jersey Planning Commission whose law firm represents several towns on redevelopment issues, said some of the proposed changes may be inevitable, although they may now seem like heresy to developers and local officials.

"All of the forces are stacked against the developers now, so some modest upside for property and homeowners may be called for," Mr. Maraziti said. "In the end, it is the future success or failure of these kinds of projects that matters the most to what we do."

If any eminent domain legislation is eventually passed, it may be too late for Mr. Nordahl and his neighbors along Ocean Terrace in Long Branch. These days, they scamper nervously from expanded bungalow to converted Cape Cod to see who in their neighborhood has already received the formal condemnation letters from the town. Once a letter arrives, a homeowner has 14 days to file a legal challenge.

In the last week, only 14 among about 40 property owners on the treeless, sun-baked blocks just west of the beachfront had received such notices. But they can see the signs of change outside their windows: just to the south, four- and five-story buildings with condominiums selling for $400,000 and up are under construction and advancing northward, as relentless as the ocean surf.

One of the Ocean Terrace homeowners, Rose LaRosa, and her daughter Joanne are less worried about compensation than the memories accumulated in their house. Sitting at the kitchen table, they recalled how Rose LaRosa's father bought the house sight unseen in 1944.

Mrs. LaRosa's children and her children's children have grown up vacationing in that house, where she now lives year-round and where time was marked by when the fountain in the yard was built or the hydrangeas were planted.

"They say this area is blighted," Joanne LaRosa said incredulously. "Does it look blighted to you? If anything, the town is trying to make it blighted because for the past decade they have denied permits and many of us have sought to make improvements."

The redevelopment plan seeks to replace the homes with 185 condominiums in three buildings, a community pavilion, a parkand a beachfront restaurant with windows jutting toward the ocean like the prow of a ship.

Mr. Nordahl likened the town's development plan to the Trojan horse. At first it appeared to residents as colorful maps in which their homes were in an area color-coded for in-fill housing, meaning only compatible new homes would be built on existing vacant lots and new sidewalks and lighting would be added.

"The in-fill areas were color-coded green, while the new construction areas were taupe, I think," he said. "We thought we were O.K., and as recently as a year ago, planners in town were still telling us we were still an in-fill area."

But the plan approved by the Town Council earlier this month would raze every house in the neighborhood.

To Joanne LaRosa the proposed development is an insult to family and memory, and an aesthetic blow as well. The neighborhood is an organic, almost whimsical collection of houses that have evolved over the years with second stories, additions and other embellishments — strikingly unlike the cookie-cutter condominiums moving north.

"It's getting like Disney World, an unreal, make-believe place," she said.

The New York Times: www.nytimes.com

Eminent domain raises fears: (Camden NJ) Courier Post, 10/16/05

By Alan Guenther

As a child, Catherine Lewis saw the government take away her parents' property for a highway that was never built, and she doesn't want anyone else to have to go through what she experienced.

In Haddon Township, Pastor Elwood Healy, 78, said he's concerned that a local disabled man who relies on PATCO Hi-Speedline transportation will lose his home if government plans move forward.

"I would like people to be able to hold on to what they have," Healy said.

At issue is whether the government should be allowed to take property from people so that private developers can build something new.

Candidates in Camden County's 6th District state Assembly race say more controls may be needed.

Republicans Marc Fleischner and JoAnn Gurenlian say the government has been abusing eminent domain.

Under eminent domain, a landowner can be paid for property and removed from it as long as the government thinks it's in the public's interest.

"We're against the abuse of it, the overuse of it," said Gurenlian. That's why she has called for a moratorium on the use of eminent domain until new laws and safeguards are in place.

The state constitution should be amended, she said, to make sure new protections cannot be removed.

Assembly Budget Chairman Louis D. Greenwald, D-Voorhees, and his running mate, Pamela Rosen Lampitt of Cherry Hill, would offer new protections but would not go as far as the Republicans.

The issue came up especially in Haddon Township, Greenwald said.

"Residents brought up the issue, and we reached out to them and offered to meet about their issues and concerns," he said. A person's right to own a home "should not ever be jeopardized" for the sake of "some private developer," Greenwald added.

But any new laws should be drafted carefully, he said. A single law "may not be one-size-fits-all."

But Lewis, now a resident of Cherry Hill, said she believes strong new protections must be enacted.

Lewis, 55, grew up in Chevy Chase, Md.

"The state took all the property around our home and just left us with our house," she said.

The Maryland officials were going to build a beltway to ease traffic.

Twenty years later, the government decided not to build the highway and tried to sell the land back — at more than double the price the state paid for it.

That's why, Lewis said, whenever she hears the term eminent domain, she is concerned. She's been following eminent domain projects in Haddon Township and in the Cramer Hill section of Camden.

"Having lived through it, I really feel for those people," she said. "At least when they took our property, it was to build an inner loop of the highway. In this area, they want to take the land and give it to private developers who'll make money."

Courier-Post: www.courierpostonline.com

Bugryns speak out on eminent domain: (Bristol CT) Herald Press, 10/16/05

By Jackie Majerus

Though their family lost its homestead when the city of Bristol took it by eminent domain more than four years ago, members of the Bugryn family are still speaking out on the issue.

"I don’t want this to happen to anybody else anymore," said Ronnie Bugryn. "It’s not right."

Bugryn and his cousin, Mike Dudko, have been taking part in rallies in support of New London property owners who have been fighting to keep their homes in an infamous eminent domain case in that city.

Dudko testified recently at a state legislative committee hearing about the impact that Bristol’s use of eminent domain — the government’s power to force the sale of private land for a public purpose — had on his family.

"There has to be a change," said Dudko. "The laws have to be reviewed. For 50 years, it slid to one direction. There’s problems, there’s flaws in the eminent domain law. They have to close some of these little tricks that local development boards can use."

"It was too much power given to officials to do anything they pleased," said Dudko. "There was nothing to protect the citizen."

Dudko said he told the committee his own family’s story to show that the New London case isn’t the only one.

"If they’re just focusing on New London, they’re making a mistake," Dudko said. "It’s important to see what went wrong in Bristol."

Bugryn and Dudko lost their homes when the city took their parents’ houses at 269 and 299 Middle St. in February 2000 to build an industrial park.

The city tore down the houses last year, but there are no factories, offices or warehouses on the land.

"Nothing’s been done with our property except a couple of signs saying ‘Keep Out,’" said Bugryn. "What’s the plan?"

City officials intend to build an industrial park on the land, which is next to the former Superior Electric property.

Jonathan Rosenthal, Bristol’s economic development director, has said that the number of possible tenants interested in the property have declined as the economy has lagged in recent years and has suggested that if there hadn’t been such a long fight over the land, it would have been filled up by now.

"The scheme that they dreamed up failed," said Bugryn, "and they have the nerve to say it’s our fault."

In a special session this week, state lawmakers are expected to take up the issue of eminent domain, among other things.

"I think things should be tightened up a little bit here," said Bugryn. "You have no property rights in this state. People don’t seem to realize this."

Bugryn said he wants the state to clamp down on the loopholes that "allowed these development authorities to run rampant in this country."

The fact that the land remains vacant isn’t a surprise, said Dudko. He said the city’s only plan for the land was for a new headquarters for Yarde Metals. The company was interested, but eventually grew tired of waiting and moved to Southington instead.

"The city had full intention of giving it to Yarde Metals. That was their only major prospect. They had nobody else nibbling," Dudko said. "I would love to go back to Middle Street. I would love to have some of the frontage where our homes were."

"They’ll never give it back to us," Bugryn said.

But they continue to rail against the system that made it possible for the family to lose their land.

"It’s always been with the power of the legislature to change things," said Dudko. "A person has a right to keep their home."

"There’s still a faction in my family that feels we got screwed," Bugryn said. "The property wasn’t for sale. We have no right to say no?"

Herald Press: www.bristolpress.com

Port may use eminent domain to take land from Mar Com: The Oregonoan, 10/15/05

No deal The one-time ship repair firm says the offer of $1.2 million for five-plus Willamette River acres is low
By Alex Pulaski

The Port of Portland, unable to reach agreement to buy a Willamette River industrial property, may use its eminent domain power to take the land.

Port commissioners agreed last month to authorize condemnation proceedings against Mar Com Holding Inc., owner of five-plus acres between the Port's Terminal 4 and the St. Johns Bridge.

Mar Com was part of Portland's shipbuilding trade until October 2003, when, caught between shrinking orders and increasing environmental costs, it shut its doors and left 70 to 80 employees out of work.

Though both sides said they would to try to reach a deal, the negotiations pit Mar Com against an institution that contributed to its demise.

In 2000, the Port sold its 57-acre shipyard on Swan Island to shipbuilder Cascade General for $30.8 million.

Mar Com's owner, Tom Maples, and others protested then that the price was too low and that the Port was subsidizing one competitor. The following year, Cascade General sold its biggest drydock to a company in the Bahamas for $25 million.

Until the shipyard was sold, Mar Com was performing ship and boat repair in leased spaced there and in Vancouver. The company bought the property next to Terminal 4 in the mid-1990s and invested about $1 million in its drydock.

In the late 1990s, the West Coast's ship repair jobs began to dry up. Countries with Third World wages, nonunion laborers and few environmental rules won the work.

Later, Mar Com faced increasing environmental costs as the state and federal governments increased scrutiny of a six-mile stretch of the Willamette known as Portland Harbor. The area was listed as a federal Superfund site in 2000.

The Port says the Mar Com property would allow for expansion of Toyota's auto-import operation at Terminal 4. Though the Port's container business is struggling, its car operations are booming. Toyota imports through Portland are up 11.6 percent from a year ago, to 110,184 vehicles through August.

Port documents indicate it also intends to obtain 1.1 acres of filled land fronting the Mar Com acreage, either from the state, which owns it, or from Mar Com, which holds a purchase right.

The Port's evaluation of the property concluded it would have to spend $25,000 to clean up grit piles and contaminated soil. The agency intends to avoid the site's Superfund liability by not taking ownership of any land under water.

Eric Hedaa, a Port spokesman, said the Port commission had authorized condemnation proceedings only twice in recent memory: for West Hayden Island in 1992 and for disposal sites for the Columbia River channel dredging begun this year. Hedaa said the Port did not use the condemnation authority in either case.

The Port has offered Maples $1.2 million for the property.

Maples would not comment on his asking price or the Port's offer, other than to say "that's not fair market value."

He said he had two buyers willing to pay more than what the Port is offering.

The Oregonian: www.oregonlive.com

Eminent domain fight in Bayonne?The Jersey Journal, 10/15/05

By Ronald Leir

Bayonne may use its power of eminent domain to take title to a downtown parcel that has been approved for condo development and put a "pee-wee" soccer field there.

The City Council will discuss introducing ordinances at Wednesday's council meeting to begin condemnation proceedings for the property, on North Street off Avenue A, and to hire Hugh McGuire for real estate appraisal services in connection with the condemnation.

The ordinances are backed by Mayor Joseph V. Doria Jr.

City Law Director John Coffey II said the city has state Green Acres funds available to acquire the North Street land for recreational use.

"This is exactly what eminent domain is set up for under the state statute," Coffey said.

And, he noted, the statute requires the city to set aside an amount of money that it determines the property to be worth.

Caroline Esposito, a North Street neighbor of the site, said that she and other residents who spoke against the development "are very happy that Mayor Doria has chosen to go forward. We are totally supportive of this move."

Meanwhile, Rich Cirminello, a partner with Eric Cherchio in North Street Associates, LLC - which won city Zoning Board approval just last month to build a 28-unit condominium building on less than an acre of land on the north side of North Street - said he's "not surprised" by the city's move to take the land.

"This is not about getting a pee-wee soccer field - it's about votes," he said. "And if they end up taking our land, they'll be spending taxpayer money just to get those votes."

Cirminello, born and raised in Bayonne and a former sponsor of local children's soccer, said that contrary to residents' claims, the developers' traffic expert had projected that any additional traffic from the condos could be readily handled without hardship to the neighborhood.

In fact, the proposed children's soccer field would mean far more parking and traffic headaches in the neighborhood on game days, Cirminello said.

And, Cirminello said, if the city goes through with its plan to take the property, it will lose $225,000 in annual tax revenues that the condo project is expected to generate.

"This project took us four years of planning and we were going to devote a year to seeing it through so, if we lose it, I don't know what's going to happen to our business because we've made commitments to our office staff, estimators, local contractors and so forth," he said.

Jersey Journal: www.nj.com

Tempe challenges eminent domain standard: KPHO-TV5 (Phoenix AZ), 10/15/05

By Associated Press

The city of Tempe has asked the Arizona Supreme Court to overturn the standard set for governments in trying to seize privately owned land in redevelopment efforts.

Tempe's legal challenge to the standard comes in a case in which the city wants to seize land for a massive shopping center.

The city argues that the public will benefit from seizure of blighted properties, even if that means condemning land and turning it over to a private developer who will profit in the deal.

The standard being challenged was established when the city of Mesa tried to condemn a brake shop owner's property so a hardware store could be built there.

The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled in October 2003 that Mesa failed to demonstrate that public benefits from condemnation would substantially outweigh the private nature of the planned use of the site for a hardware store.

KPHO: www.kpho.com

Backers and opponents of expanded eminent domain laws face off: Access North Georgia, 10/15/05

Associated Press

The debate over the power of state and local governments to seize private land flared in [Stockbridge GA] this suburban Atlanta town that has become a flashpoint over disputed eminent domain laws.

At a public meeting Friday, a study committee representing state lawmakers heard from residents who want to prevent the government from condemning private property, as it happened in New London, Conn., after the U.S. Supreme Court permitted city officials to take a group of older homes along the city's waterfront for a private developer who plans to build offices, a hotel and convention center.

While eminent domain allows the government to take over private land for public services such as building roads and utilities, the latest ruling expands the definition to include development projects that would be profitable for a town's tax base.

"Our government should not be allowed to take our property by force for the benefit of another private party ... no matter how high the promised new tax revenues, no matter how large the number of jobs promised," said Kelly McCutchen of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

In Stockbridge, residents have rallied against the city's condemning of properties to build a multi-use complex that will combine a city hall, retail shops and homes. Mark Meeks, who owns a flower shop in the line of the construction, is challenging the process in court.

Officials from the Association County Commissioners of Georgia and the Georgia Municipal Association said Friday that local governments should be able to seize land for economic development when it might be the only way to take depressed areas away from landlords and revitalize them.

Cam Jordan, executive director of the Fitzgerald-Ben Hill County Development Authority, said his city's successful makeover would not have happened without eminent domain proceedings.

"Whole neighborhoods turned around," he said. "If you were in downtown Fitzgerald 10 years ago and today, you probably wouldn't realize you were in the same place

Access North Georgia: www.accessnorthga.com