Eminent domain poses threat to Lawnside: Philadelphia PA Inquirer, 8/24/06

Letter to the Editor

By Alice Harris-Wood

I am a business owner in Lawnside. My grandparents were one of the original families to come to Lawnside [NJ], and I am proud to be part of a town formed by free slaves that is the oldest black incorporated municipality in the North.

Although parts of the town remain open space, the community is well-developed, with desirable residential neighborhoods and thriving commercial areas. Large corporations - including Lowes, Home Depot, UPS and Sears - operate in town.

The adjacent PATCO High-Speed Line station at Woodcrest, in Cherry Hill, and direct access to Interstate 295 place Lawnside 50 miles from Atlantic City, 1-1/2 hours from New York, and 6 miles from Philadelphia.

Despite this, Lawnside retains the character and charm of a small town where everyone knows everyone else.

My concern is that the town is about to lose its sense of community. The very people who are supposed to be protecting us are selling us out.

Let me explain.

I recently returned from Washington, where I participated in a national conference on eminent-domain abuse.

At this conference I learned about how eminent domain can be abused to "redevelop" neighborhoods against the will of the property owners there.

One of the speakers was Hilary Shelton, director of the Washington bureau of the NAACP, and I was very proud to find out that the NAACP is against eminent-domain abuse. This gave me even more reason to stand up against it.

Our local government, in office for more than 20 years, is powerful but without a conscience.

These greedy politicians are willing to sweep aside the wishes of residents and go through with redevelopment plans that will only benefit them and outside development companies.

They won't allow residents to have any say. Our municipal leadership is in bed with rich developers against homeowners who have lived and paid taxes in Lawnside for years.

Our community is small - only about 3,000. Help is urgently needed from residents.

Things residents can do: Come out to council meetings. Write letters to the editor in newspapers. On Nov. 7, cast write-in votes for candidates of United Residents of Lawnside, which is campaigning for better government in the borough.

Philadelphia PA Inquirer: http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer

Alice Harris-Wood is owner of the Fisher House, a senior-citizen residence in Lawnside; president of the New Republican Party of Lawnside, and founder of United Residents of Lawnside.