Landowners want eminent domain tweaked: Casper (WY) Star-Tribune, 7/7/06

By Dustin Bleizeffer

A landowner advocacy group says private property rights — particularly for rural landowners — will diminish if lawmakers don't reform Wyoming's eminent domain laws.

Laurie Goodman, of the Landowners Association of Wyoming, said the state must act soon because the federal government is identifying energy corridors across public lands in the West, which will essentially create de facto corridors across private lands as well.

"Most landowners recognize the need to develop. What they don't get is why they, as private landowners, don't have the same rights as states and the federal government, and why they have so little negotiating power," Goodman said.

As the state prepares its official comments to the federal government on its plan to identify corridors across the West for power lines and pipelines, groups including the Landowners Association of Wyoming continue to push for eminent domain reform. The Wyoming Legislature's Interim Agriculture, Public Lands and Water Resources Committee is considering several proposed changes to Wyoming's eminent domain laws. Eminent domain usually describes the power of a government to force access to private land through easement, lease or sale for public use. In Wyoming, eminent domain powers have long been extended to private companies that require easements for water facilities, oil and natural gas pipelines and electrical power lines and substations.

Goodman's group wants lawmakers to extend the same rights that the state enjoys under eminent domain laws to its rural landowners. They include:
  • A requirement for prior notice.
  • Initial and annual fees to landowners.
  • A 30-year limit on all contracts, rather than in perpetuity.

In addition, the Landowners Association of Wyoming wants eminent domain reform to provide for a peer review of whether parties participated in "good faith" negotiations and whether a "taking" of private property is in the greater public interest.

But some industry leaders, including the state's own Wyoming Infrastructure Authority and Wyoming Pipeline Authority, contend those types of changes may have the unintended consequence of making wire and pipeline projects prone to lawsuits and "not in my backyard" delays. When the legislative committee met in April, members agreed not to make any sweeping changes to Wyoming's eminent domain laws, but they did warm to proposals for "good-faith negotiations" and peer review board requirements.

Gov. Dave Freudenthal recently echoed those sentiments.

In response to a survey by the Powder River Basin Resource Council, Freudenthal said he didn't want to repeal private industry's broad use of eminent domain authority because Wyoming's economy relies heavily on energy development. However, he does favor tempering that use by inserting a statutory "good-faith negotiation" requirement — borrowing from the state's year-old Split Estates Act.

"I am opposed to the use of public condemnation in instances like those upheld in the (U.S. Supreme Court) case of Kelo v. City of New London — where economic development was the cited public benefit," Freudenthal said in his written response to the resource council. "In the context of private condemnation, the ability to construct pipelines, power lines and other infrastructure is simply too important to Wyoming's economy to support any repeal of private condemnation authority."

Goodman said that approach puts rural landowners at a disadvantage that urban landowners wouldn't face. She said Wyoming has long contradicted its image as an individual-rights bastion by placing energy development ahead of private property rights and that supporters of eminent-domain reform just want to level the playing field.

"We have five major transmission lines in the works, numerous pipelines, the DM&E rail line in the northeastern part of the state and increasing use of eminent domain authority by coalbed methane gas developers," Goodman said. "It seems to us there's a greater appetite by both public and private parties to use eminent domain, and yet it's supposed to be a last resort."

Casper Star-Tribune: http://www.trib.com

Deception Underlies State Eminent Domain Initiative: BeyondChron (San Francisco CA), 7/6/06

by Randy Shaw

Those concerned about the misuse of eminent domain were encouraged by the circulation of a statewide initiative (Prop 90) to address the problem. Unfortunately, the initiative’s backers sought to capitalize on rising anti-eminent domain sentiment by inserting a sentence jeopardizing the future enactment of most land use laws, including amendments to San Francisco’s Rent Ordinance. This sentence- — which allows property owners to sue government entities over any new law that reduces their property values — overwhelms the good part of the initiative. Prop 90’s specific language limiting eminent domain made this broad sentence unnecessary, raising questions about the motives behind November’s “Protect our Homes” initiative.

Christine Minnehan of the Western Center on Law and Poverty is the chief — and indispensable — advocate for tenants in Sacramento. Minnehan has expressed deep concern about the impacts of the “Protect Our Homes” measure, particularly regarding future amendments to local and state laws protecting tenants. Minnehan writes:
Last week, the Anderson eminent domain initiative, known as the "Protect Our Homes", qualified for the November ballot. While this measure is ostensibly about eminent domain, it contains a very broad clause, authorizing litigation if government actions cause a substantial economic loss to ANY property (Section 19(b)(8) of the attached.) There is an exception for governmental actions to protect public health and safety, but no exception for the public welfare, environmental protection or economic regulation.

On its face, Prop. 90 would appear to create a damages action against a government agency for various kinds of economic regulation including inclusionary zoning, environmental protections and rent control. The attorneys for the steering group for the Anti Prop. 90 campaign, believe that the damages claims could be so large that government agencies would be unwilling to enact, implement or continue to implement these policies.

Prop. 90 does contain a savings clause to protect existing law. However, since future government actions include resolutions, it appears that future discretionary actions to implement existing law would trigger liability. In any event, any new laws would certainly be covered. Additionally, since the measure, if approved, would take effect in November, any laws passed in this session of the Legislature that don’t take effect until January would be subject to the measure.

Members of the Anti Prop. 90 steering committee think that the measure represents so radical a view of property rights that those rights would trump the right of the public’s elected representatives to act in the public welfare.

Not specifically mentioned in Minnehan’s analysis is that future limits to the state Ellis Act would appear to subject government entities to Prop 90 lawsuits. Overall, Prop 90 seems less an eminent domain reform initiative and more a product of property-rights zealots opposed to reasonable land use controls.

BeyondChron: http://www.beyondchron.org

Edgartown turns to eminent domain to expand cemetery: Martha's Vinyard Times (Vinyard Haven MA), 7/6/06

By Jesse Husid

Available land is precious and disappearing in Edgartown, for the living and for the dead. In fact, by one estimate, in 20 years Edgartown will run out of available burial space in town cemeteries.

Following a presentation by the Edgartown cemetery commission, on Monday Edgartown selectmen agreed to ask voters at a special town meeting on July 27 to take a 2.18-acre parcel of land adjacent to the New Westside Cemetery by eminent domain.

Alan Gowell, a member of the Edgartown cemetery commission and a memorial dealer, is intimately familiar with Edgartown's three cemeteries. That is why it came as quite a shock when he learned that the Edgartown United Methodist Church, which had inherited the parcel on Robinson Road adjacent to the New Westside Cemetery, had agreed to sell it to Paul Donovan, a Florida-based developer, without offering the property to the town.

The land is currently under agreement and Mr. Donovan has filed a four-lot subdivision plan with the Edgartown Planning Board.

According to Walter Bunge of Edgartown, treasurer of the Methodist Church and chairman of the committee responsible for selling the property, the parcel was listed openly last November and the town never made an offer.

At the Monday afternoon meeting, Mr. Gowell told the selectmen that the 56-year-old New Westside Cemetery is more than two-thirds sold, leaving what will most likely be less than 20 years worth of future cemetery land available. He said there are no more lots for sale at Edgartown's other three cemeteries: Westside Cemetery, Hilltop Cemetery at Chappaquiddick, and Old Town cemetery at Tower Hill. Taking the parcel he said would provide space for as many as 800 graves as well as a new and more attractive entryway.

Edgartown selectmen decided to let the voters have a say at the special town meeting. Following the presentation by Mr. Gowell, the selectmen agreed to place an article on the special town meeting warrant asking voters to authorize the selectmen to take the property by eminent domain. Mr. Gowell said the property is appraised at $1,550,000. A two-thirds vote would be required for approval.

If voters approve the taking, the purchase would be funded with $100,000 from the cemetery's sale of lots fund, and $400,000 from the Community Preservation Act (CPA) fund. The Edgartown Financial Advisory Committee has voted to recommend the purchase.

Currently covered with a tangle of vines and fallen trees and brush, the parcel lies between the New Westside Cemetery and the Edgartown Fire and Police Stations. It was owned by Mary Willey, an Edgartown School teacher who died in 1990. Ms. Willey left the property and buildings to the Edgartown Methodist Church with the provision that her son, Nathan, be allowed to live in the house. He died in 1994, clearing the way for a sale.

Reached by phone yesterday morning, Mr. Bunge said the town had not notified the Church about its intentions. "I still haven't heard from them on an official basis," said Mr. Bunge. "I was never officially notified about the town meeting."

Saying that it was the town that had been left in the dark, Mr. Gowell said the commission had expressed an interest in purchasing at least part of the property to the Church committee prior to hearing about the sale. "The Cemetery Committee was never apprised that the land was being offered for sale or I would have moved immediately," said Mr. Gowell.

Mr. Gowell said he met with Mr. Bunge this winter after hearing that that the Church had reached an agreement to sell the land to a developer. "I asked to be kept informed," said Mr. Gowell.

According to Mr. Gowell, the first deal fell through but he heard nothing from the church until there was another agreement.

"The next time I heard from the Church was after Mr. Donovan had an agreement to purchase the parcel," said Mr. Gowell. "They told me that the cemetery fence was 18 inches onto their property and asked if I would help." Mr. Gowell contacted Mr. Donovan to see if he would consider selling the parcel to the town for a modest profit. Mr. Donovan said he would not, according to Mr. Gowell.

Mr. Bunge said the reason the town was not contacted is that the church wanted to consummate a sale quickly because it needed the money. "Our committee felt the town wouldn't commit to the purchase," said Mr. Bunge. "This is a very small congregation and we needed to sell the land to make income. With the town, we thought it may take years to do that."

Mr. Gowell said he believes the closing has still not taken place and the parcel still belongs to the Church.

Martha's Vinyard Times: http://www.mvtimes.com

Alaska Governor Signs HB 318 - Eminent Domain: State of Alaska Press release, 7/5/06

Alaska Governor Frank H. Murkowski has signed into law HB 318, a bill that aims to clarify and limit the use of the power of eminent domain when it is used to take private property for government use. The bill, sponsored by Anchorage Representative Lesil McGuire, is in response last year’s US Supreme Court decision in the Kelo case from New London, Connecticut, in which the court said it was permissible for a local government to condemn private properties to allow economic development.

“Alaskans were justifiably upset by the Kelo decision and wanted to make sure the use of eminent domain is limited and narrow in scope,” Murkowski said. “Out of 365 million acres of land in Alaska, fewer than 2 million acres – less than one percent - are owned privately by individuals. An out-of-control government, deciding that taking private property through condemnation to benefit private economic interests, was simply unacceptable to Alaskans. In light of that legitimate concern, it was my pleasure to sign HB 318.”

In addition to restricting the use of eminent domain from being used to benefit private economic development, HB 318 also prohibits its use to take all or part of a primary residence for recreational facilities or projects. HB 318 has an immediate effective date.

Eminent domain conflict now up to city: Daily Toreador (Lubbock TX), 7/6/06


By Trey Caliva

The framers of the Constitution were marvelously remarkable in their ability to enumerate specific powers to the government. Powers, which to this day, are essential to its everyday business.

Eminent domain allows the procuring of private lands when needed, and with proper compensation, to benefit the public. The power of eminent domain is specifically laid out in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the final portion of which reads, "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." In most cases, the key battling point when it comes to decisions in eminent domain come from how much compensation should be given for the amount of property being taken.

That is the issue in the current eminent domain battle between the city of Lubbock and the Faith Assembly of God church. The church, which lies between Bangor and Chicago Avenues on 50th Street, is in the way from a planned widening of 50th Street west of Slide Road.

Initially the church had been told it would only lose approximately six-square-feet of land to the expansion and the city offered $250,000 in compensation. However, after closer examination of the projected expansion, the church realized that would literally put them right up against the newly constructed 50th Street. In order to ensure safety for the building and its worshippers the church will have to be moved back 30 feet from the street, at an estimated cost of around $1 million.

After notifying the city, a court-appointed commission rendered a decision that the dislocation would be worth $510,000. While the church agreed to that amount, the city rejected it and instead filed for eminent domain. After seeing the situation, City Councilman John Leonard (who was unavailable at the writing of this column) stated that it seems the city was "looking at the market value instead of the replacement value". He told KAMC News Channel 28, that he was "a little uncomfortable with where we are at."

I spoke with the Pastor of Faith Assembly of God, Terry Nesmith, and he informed me that his church's situation will be the first item on the agenda at the July 10 City Council meeting. It's good to see Councilman Leonard staying on top of the situation and getting this item up for discussion. Now, hopefully, the dilemma of a few of Lubbock's citizens can be appropriately solved.

Yes, 50th Street needs to be expanded. Lubbock is a continuously growing city, which means construction and infrastructure expansion are all too necessary. That expansion, however, cannot come at the expensive of its private citizens. The operable words outlying eminent domain in the Bill of Rights is "without just compensation". If you're going to force someone to relocate buildings and lose land, then make sure they can do so as easily as possible. For Lubbock to know of the $1 million price tag of relocation and cause them to invoke eminent domain (and retain the original $250,000 offering price) is absolutely ludicrous. It's now up to the city to make the right choice.

Daily Toreador: http://www.dailytoreador.com

Piscataway petition urges limits on eminent domain: Asbury Park (NJ) Press, 7/4/06

AT ISSUE: Township's effort to acquire and preserve a farm as open space

PROPONENTS: Don't seize private property for other than a public purpose

By Gene Racz

A citizens group called The Piscataway Property Rights Organization is working to collect 2,500 signatures by mid-August on a petition with the ultimate goal of limiting the township's power to seize private property through the use of eminent domain.

The PPRO wants to build support for a referendum that would ask Piscataway voters to forbid the township's governing body from condemning private property for redevelopment or any nonpublic purpose.

The PPRO will be gathering signatures door-to-door, at the local post office and even at today's Fourth of July parade.

"I think people want to preserve eminent domain for building things like a highway or a school," said Thom Ammirato, who works as a media consultant for PPRO as well as other groups that want to put restrictions on the use of eminent domain usage statewide.

"But," Ammirato added, "I don't think the public supports eminent domain for economic redevelopment purposes that allows a developer to come in and take private property and make a huge profit for its own purposes."

Citing an eminent domain example in town, Ammirato called the ongoing legal battle between Piscataway and its effort to seize the Halper family farm to preserve it as open space "the center in the battle of eminent domain in Piscataway."

The wrangling has dragged on in the courts since the fall of 1999.

As it stands now, the Halper family is facing eviction from the farm on July 12. Ammirato said a protest is in the process of being planned on or near the farm.

The state Supreme Court has ruled that the Halper farm did qualify as public purpose and open space under eminent domain. The remaining question now hinges on an upcoming evaluation date that will dictate the ultimate dollar figure that will be paid by the township.

It isn't expected to be heard for another six to eight months.

A jury has set the value of the farm at $17.9 million, which has been appealed by Piscataway.

Mayor Brian Wahler said he was suspicious that partisan politics were at play behind the signature drive, noting that the PPRO has members with strong ties to the Republican Party.

"This is America. Anybody is allowed to propose to oppose anything," the mayor said, adding that in his 14 years in office, "we have never used eminent domain other than for public purpose."

Asbury Park Press: www.app.com

Eminent domain could affect water rights: El Defensor Chieftain (Socorro NM), 7/5/06

By Argen Duncan

Board members of a group that works to protect private water rights spoke at a general meeting concerning signs that eminent domain could affect those rights.

In response to a question at a recent Rio Grande Water Rights Association meeting at the Socorro County Fairgrounds, water rights consultant and board member Suzanne Smith said the City of Alamogordo is attempting to condemn water rights. She also said Gov. Bill Richardson vetoed a bill that would have protected private property against eminent domain, which allows the government to take private property at a price without the owner's permission.

Board member Martin Haynes said the City of Albuquerque can condemn water rights, but a new project allows the city to divert an amount of water that will probably satisfy its demands for years.

Board member Dick Ritter said a U.S. Supreme Court case from 2005 sets a precedent for the government to take anything. In Kelo vs. City of New London, justices ruled that the constitution places no bar on local governments taking private property for development work.

Smith said she has seen the state engineer, who sets policy for New Mexico rivers and groundwater, take the position that someone who wants to buy water rights from a person whose well was on state land should make an offer to the state Land Office rather than the well owner.

She also said the state engineer no longer allows people to transfer groundwater rights from one well to another because of the position that all water diversions affect the Rio Grande. The state recently approved a permit with the conditions that officials could later decide the diversions affect the river and the owner has to acquire an old water right to use the water.

"You have no stability," she said.

El Defensor Chieftain: http://www.dchieftain.com

Council moves to protect use of eminent domain: Rio Rancho (NM) Observer, 7/8/06

By Tom Treweek

Even though the city council was not deciding to blight areas within Rio Rancho, eminent domain was once again on the agenda last Wednesday, as the city worked to protect what it has called an important tool.

The resolution before the council was a policy statement, sponsored by councilor Howard Balmer, aimed at Gov. Bill Richardson's task force on the "Responsible Use of Eminent Domain," which was established by executive order in June to "help recommend ways for New Mexico to prohibit abusive condemnation practices that could result because of the recent decision by the United States Supreme Court in Kelo v. The City of New London," according to the press release.

The resolution was unanimously approved.

In its resolution, the city council defended its right to utilize eminent domain in accordance with the State Metropolitan Redevelopment Code, which allows for condemning property in cases of "antiquated platting; multiple, disparate ownership; and the clear inability to otherwise effectuate real property consolidation, aggregation and acquisition," according to the resolution.

The council did allow for some variations in the current code, but only to coincide with measures the city has already taken. In January, then-Mayor Jim Owen introduced a resolution that prohibited the governing body from blighting a developed property for the purpose of economic development. In February, the council passed a resolution that required the city to educate residents about the uses of eminent domain, and another forcing the city to "assure fair and adequate compensation-value to individual property owners" who would be affected by the use of blighting.

The only discussion on the item was a motion by councilor Larry Naranjo that struck some of the language in the resolution. Originally, the resolution included language that indicated the city would support legislation that would uphold eminent domain but resist any attempt to limit the power of the city regarding blighting. Naranjo's motion, which passed unanimously, eliminated the city's promise of opposition.

The resolution, because the council passed it, is now the official position of the city. Mayor Kevin Jackson, who was appointed by Richardson to the task force, must now represent this view to that task force.

During his mayoral campaign, Jackson ran against the use of eminent domain for economic development, but he said Wednesday that he could put that aside to abide by the council's will.

"I understand what my marching orders are," he said. "Regardless of my personal viewpoint of the use of eminent domain, I will serve on the governor's task force objectively representing the views of our citizens."

But Jackson could not say that the will of the council, which represents Rio Rancho residents, actually matched the views of those who live within the city.

Previously, the city was vilified by the community for its use of eminent domain in Unit 13 along Loma Colorado Drive and its proposed blighting study in Unit 10, which is southwest of Southern and Unser boulevards. The latter proposal was indefinitely postponed by the council in January.

Rio Rancho Observer: http://www.observer-online.com


Little help for little guy with eminent domain problem: MetroWest Daily News (Framingham MA), 6/30/06


By John P. Lambert

The great howl of rage that greeted the Supreme Court's Kelo decision a few months ago is but a whisper in state legislatures today. A lot of people would be hard put to remember even that Kelo sustained the right of local and state governments to seize private property in order to deliver same to a second private party who could make better economic use of the property and generate greater tax revenue from the taking.

Prior to the ruling, there was strong feeling that many local jurisdictions nationwide had flagrantly abused their eminent domain powers in the furtherance of economic development. Kelo let loose a flood of pent up takings that had been held in abeyance while awaiting the decision. More than two days after the ruling came down, Boston officials called on their mayor to seize waterfront property from unwilling sellers in that city for use in the South Boston convention center (Fan Pier) development project.

Such was the furor over the ruling and the moves by municipal officials nationwide to exercise the approved powers,some 50 house members in the Massachusetts Legislature signed onto a resolution indicating disagreement with the Supreme Court's decision. A bill and a proposed constitutional amendment were also filed limiting taking private property for the sole purpose of economic development unless the seized property was considered dilapidated or "blighted."

The two proposed reforms have not progressed far in the legislative process.

For one thing, constitutional amendments are a rough road to haul. Whereas laws are more easily enacted, they can be changed in a "heartbeat," often in midnight sessions. "Blight" itself, like beauty, is too much that in the eye of the beholder. The term lends itself to interpretation and provides a huge loophole through which to drive a bulldozer.

Elsewhere, Rhode Island merely contented itself with a bill urging Congress to, among other things, nullify the Kelo decision. What affect such resolutions have on Congress is problematical. Connecticut, the state which gave rise to the Kelo ruling, called for a moratorium on the use of eminent domain by all its cities until it could revise its law to protect property owners.

Eight states are currently drafting amendments to their constitutions to prohibit the use of eminent domain for private developments.

Georgia is considering a law prohibiting using eminent domain for "retail, office, commercial, or residential development." Alabama is considering a similar measure.

Texas has a bill that calls for a constitutional amendment to prohibit taking private property for the primary purpose of economic development.

In California, a senator has proposed a constitutional amendment prohibiting use of eminent domain for private use "under all circumstances."

At least ten states — Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Montana, South Carolina, Utah and Washington — already forbid the use of eminent domain for economic development.

The immediate effect of the Kelo decision and the proposed restrictions on the eminent domain powers of local government has been a rush to takings in the many states (as in Boston's Fan Pier project).

Meanwhile, the pace of proposed reform bills nationwide has slowed to a crawl. An observer of legislative action of eminent domain revisions has commented that he suspects most proposals "are going to die on the vine." Corporate pressure and municipal lobbying has been heavy to preserve eminent domain as a tool in economic development at the local level.

There is much hypocrisy among state legislators in dealing with changes in state laws. Many have been busy watering down bills before them through grandfather clauses and exceptions provisions like the "blight" exemptions.

Clearly, Justice Sandra O'Connor's "little guy" cited in her majority opinion in Kelo has as much clout with state legislators as he does with today's Congress. As for recourse to the ballot box ... what is there to say?

MetroWest Daily News: http://www.metrowestdailynews.com

N.C. General Assembly looks to close eminent domain loophole: The Business Journal of the Greater Triad (Greensboro NC) Area, 7/2/06

By Matt Harrington

The N.C. General Assembly is taking steps to strengthen existing state statutes that outlaw the use of eminent domain for economic development projects in what is a hot-button issue nationally.

As of presstime, the N.C. Senate had not yet passed a modified version of House Bill 1965, which was one of the many proposals put forward by legislators in the year since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a Connecticut state statute that allowed a city there to take houses for a hotel and convention center.

Pete Brunstetter, R-Forsyth, who serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is crafting the Senate's version of the bill, said North Carolina was one of many states that reacted after the Supreme Court's decision last year.

North Carolina's state statues, similar to Connecticut's, have a loophole that could theoretically allow for eminent domain to be used for private-development projects, he said.

"Most of the states have been scrambling to plug the holes," said Brunstetter, also an attorney for Kilpatrick Stockton and former chair of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners.

The state's loophole is due to a clause about using eminent-domain powers for urban redevelopment of blighted areas, which are defined as areas where two-thirds of the properties are blighted. The statute says that in such cases, the entire area could be condemned by the local government, as was the case in Connecticut. The Senate bill will try to amend that language to say that only blighted parcels could be taken via eminent domain for a private project.

"The fear that happened was people saying 'Is our statute broad enough to allow for this type of eminent domain action?'" he said.

Brunstetter said it was Sen. Phil Berger, R-Guilford/Rockingham, who found the loophole late Tuesday, while the Senate was considering a bill on the subject. Now that bill has gone back to the Judiciary Committee for further language adjustments. While it was not immediately known when the bill might next be taken up, Brunstetter said he thought it would eventually pass.

"If we're serious about plugging the hole from the (Connecticut) case, this is what we need to do," Brunstetter said.

Berger said he had not heard of any opposition to his amendment yet, but knew that several legislators planned to check with the N.C. League of Municipalities, which published a statement after the Connecticut case last year saying that North Carolina did not have any loopholes in its eminent domain laws.

A call to the League of Municipalities for comment was not immediately returned.

Should a bill pass the Senate, it would then go into a conference committee, where the differences between the House and Senate versions would be resolved and the final bill would go to both the House and Senate for approval.

Berger said another option to close the loophole would be a state constitutional amendment making it clear that the state could never use eminent domain for private projects. Such a bill, proposed by Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, is currently in the House, but Berger said he wasn't sure it would be well supported.

The Business Journal of the Greater Triad Area: http://triad.bizjournals.com/triad


Stop Eminent Domain eviction at the Halper Farm in Piscataway NJ

Drive your RV, pitch your tents, and take a stand against eminent domain abuse by camping out at the Halper Farm until the moment of eviction.

The demonstration starts Saturday July 8th, 2006 and lasts until at least the scheduled eviction on Monday July 10th at 3pm

Location is the farm of Larry and Clara Halper, 4 Bella Drive, Piscataway, New Jersey 08854. The halpers welcome one and all to camp on their land. There is plenty of space.

For information:
Freestar Media LLC
7657 Winnetka Avenue #707
Canoga Park, CA 91306

Board may acquire land through eminent domain: Mt Vernon (OH) News, 7/1/06

By Melissa Raines

“As you can imagine, this is very upsetting and difficult for my family, as we have owned parts of this ground for more than 30 years,” Fredericktown [OH] resident Jim Fox said of his closed-door meeting with the Fredericktown Board of Education Thursday night.

During an executive session held after the general meeting, the Fox family said it was told the board plans to acquire 4.3 acres of their land through eminent domain if a settlement in current sale negotiations cannot be reached.

“Last evening the board told me that if we did not sell the ground that they wanted for the price they wanted to pay, they would take the property by eminent domain,” said Fox.

Fredericktown Superintendent Dan Humphrey confirmed Fox’s statement.

“Bottom line is, if negotiations break down and we cannot reach an agreement on a sale price, we will look into eminent domain possibilities,” he said.

Eminent domain allows school systems and other state agencies to purchase land forcibly even when the land is not for sale, or if a sale price cannot be agreed upon.

Humphrey said the land is important to the Fredericktown Schools expansion project. The board would like to use the 4.3 acres in question for parking and a practice field.

“It may be practice fields, it may be parking. We do need parking down there. The plan is not to put a building down there,” Humphrey said.

According to Humphrey, a second access road would also be built on the parcel, upon the specifications of the Ohio School Facilities Commission. The road would run south of the football stadium and exit onto Columbus Road, east of the Fredericktown United Methodist Church. Fox said he is planning to donate the portion of his land needed for the road construction.

The board wants to acquire the four acres, which contains 17 proposed building sites, while it is still vacant.

“We’re looking at what we need down the road. We feel like we’re landlocked back there, and the board is trying to use foresight. We have to make sure that we have what we need for the future,” Humphrey said.

Fox, who has lived in Fredericktown for 43 years, said he has been asked by the school board to attend three closed-door meetings recently, to discuss the matter. Humphrey said the subject has only been discussed in executive sessions because land negotiations are involved.

“Any time you negotiate for land, that’s very legal to negotiate in executive session. Any time you’re dealing with land purchase, that’s how you do it,” he said.

Residents who have expressed concerns about how additional traffic in the area caused by a second access road would affect their property values, privacy and safety, declined to go on record. Humphrey said no residents have spoken to him about the matter, and he was surprised the newspaper had been contacted.

“If they’ve got some concerns, I’d appreciate them sharing those with me or another school board member,” he said. The superintendent said the next Board of Education meeting is July 11, and that public discussion is always part of the general meetings.

Fox, who originally offered to sell the schools 2.3 acres of the area in question, and an additional two acres near the current school property, was turned down.

“It just didn’t meet our needs. We think that our needs are better met by acquiring the land in one piece,” Humphrey explained.

The school district recently had the 4.3 acre parcel appraised, and Humphrey said the schools’ purchase offer, which both he and Fox declined to disclose, was “much higher than the appraisal.”

Humphrey said he believes the two sides are so far apart at this point that negotiations are in jeopardy. Fox agreed. Both sides are consulting attorneys and preparing new offers. Humphrey said eminent domain action would take a school board resolution, which has not yet happened. A jury would then be chosen by the courts to determine a fair price to pay for the land.

Humphrey added that the board’s decision to use eminent domain would be based on what the board members feel is in the best interest of the Fredericktown schools.

“There’s no hard feelings between us and the Foxes. We’re trying to make sound business decisions, just like Jim’s trying to make sound business decisions for his family. I have to look at it from the perspective of 1,200 students and their families, and I want to make sure that we spend the money of the community wisely,” said Humphrey.

Fox said his family’s perspective is a desire for fairness.

“They want ground that I don’t want to sell,” he said. “We had our plans for that land all made, and a month ago they came to us and said they wanted it. They came to us and said, ‘this is what we want.’ We told them what we were willing to sell, two acres that they wanted, plus an additional two separate acres. They turned us down, and now it’s back to what they want. They want the land that we’ve already put money into developing. We feel there has to be some give and take.”

Fox said he was surprised by the board’s plans to use eminent domain as a possible means to acquire the property.

“It is hard to believe that one day you can wake up and the government says ‘we are going to take your property.’ That is what is happening to us,” Fox said.

Mt Vernon news: http://www.mountvernonnews.com

New blog on eminent domain focuses on historic preservation, education, and development, 7/1/06

A new blog on eminent domain — focusing on historic preservation, education, and development — will feature news, information, and opinions on the sensitive topic of eminent domain & historic renewel of older Eastern US cities.

"Our first case in point is New London CT, touching on the Kelo vs. City of New London Supreme Court Case" said blog creator Evan J. Andriopoulos. "I thought it was time to touch on that specific case and let people know of the "local" history of the various development proposals by a city grasping for economic lifelines to survive and alleviate the tax burden of its citizens."

Older cities face the challenge of attempting to stop the proverbial "bleeding" of tax dollars, citizens, and business to the suburbs, Mr Andriopoulos noted. It will be instructive to examine what these cities are doing to stop the bleeding and bring back citizens and businesses. In the New London case, he explained, many different views of eminent domain have tarnished efforts of private citizens to preserve historic buildings and create a quality of life desirable for the new urbanists.

The Web Site is:

Eminent domain is the sticker: York (PA) Dispatch, 6/30/06

The problem for most Yorkers with the county commissioners' plan for a 725-acre park along the Susquehanna River in Lower Windsor Township is not the park concept itself.

It's what the commissioners are willing to do to achieve their aims — take private property and public opposition be damned.

The recent York Dispatch public opinion poll indicated that 73.1 percent of those surveyed disagree with the use of eminent domain to develop Lauxmont Farms into a county park— and that only 12.6 percent favor such action.

Most York countians obviously are not taking issue with the proclaimed "vision" of the two commissioners behind the park plan that is called into question, but most are opposed to their chosen means to reach that end.

The poll results show that the two commissioners, Lori Mitrick and Doug Kilgore, have no clear mandate from county residents in their quest to create the riverlands park.

Of 396 individuals surveyed, 34 percent said they disagreed with the creation of the new park with the assumption that eminent domain would be used to acquire the land, while 17.8 percent were undecided. Meanwhile 48.2 percent said they agreed with the creation of the park.

County Commissioner Steve Chronister has consistently opposed the creation of the park.

The two other commissioners already have successfully seized the Highpoint area that was under private development as part of their park plan. What that seizure will eventually cost the county has yet to be determined.

That taking and the attempted seizure of hundreds of acres of the Kohr family's Lauxmont Farms to make up the majority of the park are what have sparked the most public outcry over the project.

Public meetings have been conducted on the project, with opponents of the plan stifled in their attempts to provide opposing views. The proposal has split the county board of commissioners, with Chronister criticized by his colleagues on the board and by the president of the York Lancaster Heritage Region, Mark Platts, for "interfering" on behalf of the Kohr family.

The issue also has effectively split the county and promises to be a 2007 election issue, as early as the primaries for county commissioner posts. It didn't have to be this way. There's little that's inappropriate with using the "bully pulpit" to sway public opinion on a pet project.

But the county commissioners' tactics in brooking no opposition to their self-proclaimed vision smacks more of sheer bullying, with no attempt at accommodation.

With that attitude, they have taken the park issue out of public debate, where it belongs, and made it a personal fight where no quarter will be given or taken.

That's not why they were elected.

York Dispatch: http://www.yorkdispatch.com

Appeals court rules against homeowners in eminent domain case: Akron (OH) Beacon-Journal, 6/30/06

By Associated Press

An 80-year-old woman who has fought [Cincinnati's] attempt to take her house for a road project lost her claim in a state appeals court.

The 1st Ohio District Court of Appeals has ruled that two property owners cannot appeal the city's claim of eminent domain until after a jury trial determines the value of their properties.

The ruling clears the way for Cincinnati to tear down the two houses, because eminent domain law allows the city to take possession of a property after providing the court its estimated value, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported Friday.

Emma Dimasi had lived in one of the houses for 47 years before a judge ordered her to move out in May or face a $1,000 fine for every day she stayed. She has been living with her son - who also is her lawyer - since leaving her small, brick home.

"Basically the choices we have are to drop this whole thing or file an appeal with the (Ohio) Supreme Court," her son, Vincent Dimasi, told the newspaper.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that cities and states have the power to take private property to give to another private owner, but that states have the power to enact stronger rights for property owners.

In the first challenge of property rights laws to reach a state high court since then, the Ohio Supreme Court is considering whether Norwood, a Cincinnati suburb, can take residential property and give it to a developer for a shopping mall. A ruling is pending.

The Dimasis argue that case could have implications for them. They claim the road project would benefit a $122 million hospital expansion.

The city and the hospital say the timing of the two projects is coincidental.

Akron beacon-Journal: http://www.ohio.com/mld/beaconjournal

Eminent Domain Amendment OK'd: Norwalk (CT) Citizen-News, 6/29/06

By Leslie Hutchison

Hoping to level the playing field between property owners and developers, the [Norwalk] Common Council on Tuesday added an amendment addressing eminent domain to the resolution for the West Avenue Corridor Redevelopment Plan.

The amendment was proposed by the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency and approved in a 12-1 vote with council President Michael Coffey, D-At Large, in opposition.

The amendment states that the NRA has "no present legislative approval" to "exercise the power to condemn private property without such approval first being obtained by an affirmative vote of the Common Council. The Common Council shall review on a case by case basis each request made by the Redevelopment Agency to use eminent domain and upon such review may approve or deny any request "

Coffey had presented a separate amendment on June 13 that placed restrictions on the taking of private property through eminent domain. His amendment stated that the redevelopment plan "is approved without the granting of authority of the [NRA] to exercise the power to condemn private property within the redevelopment area unless expressly authorized by further action by the council."

At that time the council declined to vote on Coffey's amendment until a legal opinion about how it would effect the status of the resolution could be obtained. NRA Executive Director Tim Sheehan had voiced concern that Coffey's amendment would represent a substantial change to the resolution and force the agency to begin the approval process all over again, causing months of delay.

In response to Coffey's amendment, the NRA amendment was drawn up in an effort to give the council the authority it sought to review eminent domain issues on a parcel-by-parcel basis.

Attorney Neal Rogan, who represents the agency, said the amendment allows that the "NRA may identify properties [slated to be condemned], but approval rests on an up or down vote by the Common Council." He added that Coffey's Amendment "eviscerates" the state law concerning eminent domain. He said a local legislative body couldn't legally reduce the role of redevelopment agencies. "The change should be made in Hartford," he noted.

To add any amendment, the council first had to vote to reconsider the entire resolution because it had been approved at the June 13 meeting.

Coffey made a motion to table the resolution for two weeks while the corporation counsel reviewed the wording of the NRA amendment. Immediately after that motion, Mayor Richard Moccia called for a five-minute recess.

When the council reconvened, Coffey withdrew his motion to table the resolution and added, "as to the proposal, there is some progress." The council is "beginning to understand the seriousness of eminent domain," he said. "It's a step in the significant direction of providing more rights for citizens."

The West Avenue plan covers 48 acres in three distinct areas, A, B and C. The so-called Area B has received the most attention because it contains 52 privately owned properties. The boundaries of the three-block area are the western side of West Avenue, Chapel Street to the north, Butler Street to the south and Academy Street and mid-block properties to the west.

According to Sheehan, Area B is the first section to be slated for redevelopment. The plan notes that the size of the area would permit the construction of a mixed-use project with a maximum of 535,750 square feet of retail space, 350 new residential units and 75,000 square feet of office space.

A handful of residents of Area B addressed the council Tuesday to express their concern about the plan.

"The developers shouldn't be able to come in and take our property unless we get a fair deal," said Lou D'Acunto.

Anthony Savas asked, "How much diversity will remain if the project goes forward? We won't be able to afford to live in Norwalk. Your concern should be that you'll become the next New London," where an eminent domain battle has been national news.

Council member Nicholas Kydes, R-District C, noted that "passing the resolution is not the last resort. We must have open dialogue."

Douglas Hempstead, R-District D, added, "Until the state gets its act together on eminent domain, we must move forward. We know what a success story can be" with the South Norwalk redevelopment. "This will be the rebirth of this section of Norwalk."

Moccia then announced that the city has "a good chance to get $1 million from the federal government" to support the West Avenue redevelopment. "We will have affordable housing and historical districts," he assured the public.

The approved plan will be taken up in September by the council's Planning Committee. At that time, Sheehan has said previously, "the point of discussion will be eminent domain, affordable housing and minority contractors."

Norwalk developer Stanley Seligson, who is likely to be designated the developer for the West Avenue project, told the council on June 13, "I will try to work as hard as I can, in a fair manner, to relocate or compensate as best we can" property owners whose buildings would be slated for demolition.

Area A contains 8.8 acres of commercial property on the west side of West Avenue, running from the YMCA to the south and Berkeley Street to the North.

The 12.25-acre Area C is designated as a Neighborhood Preservation Area. It is generally bounded by Chapel Street to the north, Harbor Avenue to the east, Butler Street to the south and several blocks of Quincy Street going east to Academy Street.

Norwalk Citizen-News: http://www.norwalkcitizen-news.com

Legislature to meet July 14 over eminent domain: Des Moines (IL) Register, 6/29/06

By Jonathan Roos

The Iowa Legislature will meet in special session on Friday, July 14, to deal with a bill vetoed by Gov. Tom Vilsack that would have restricted local governments’ power to seize property for business development.

The outcome of the special session announced today by legislative leaders remains unclear.

Republican leaders of the House and Senate want lawmakers to override Vilsack's veto of House File 2351. Senate Democratic leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs favors negotiations with the governor that would lead to passage of a new property protection bill.

Vilsack, a Democrat, said in vetoing the legislation June 2 that it did not contain the proper balance of protecting property rights and allowing economic development.

A veto override would require the approval of two-thirds of the House, or 67 members, and two-thirds of the Senate, or 34 members.

The Legislature decided to tackle the issue during the regular 2006 session because of a June 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld the use of eminent domain in the development of a Connecticut project that included offices, a riverfront hotel and health club.

Des Moines Register: http://desmoinesregister.com

Eminent domain concerns are raised: Chicago (IL) Tribune, 6/29/06

By Rebecca Little

Des Plaines [IL] residents and business owners expressed concerns about eminent domain this week as city officials discussed the proposed "Five Corners" tax-increment financing district.

More than 200 people turned out for Monday's public hearing, most speaking out against the district that would encompass 90 acres.

Officials proposed the district last year to attract large retailers. The main concern of the residents and business owners was that the city might use eminent domain powers to make way for development.

"I am against potentially forcing a property or business owner to sell their property," said Eugene Cohen, owner of Maine Scrap Metal, 1274 Rand Rd. "Complete the previous TIFs that have been started and fill in those vacant stores first."

Many of the residents who spoke said they felt condemnation was an abuse of government powers.

"It feels threatening to me," said David Abrudean, who owns property in the proposed district.

Gabriella Marquez, who lives in a townhouse in the area, said her home is among the most affordable in the city. "If we had to move, we would not be able to stay in Des Plaines," she said.

City Manager David Niemeyer said before the meeting that forming a TIF does not necessarily mean the city would use eminent domain.

Resident Scott Olsen said that by relocating businesses and offering the property to outside retailers, the "City Council is giving the upper hand and better locations to big-box owners," Olsen said.

Ninety-one residents and business owners have filed with the council to be removed from the proposed district.

Four residents hired an independent consultant to counter the city's claims that the area qualifies for a TIF. Allen Kracower of Kracower and Associates noted that the language in the study was taken directly from a study that the City Council's consultant, Kane McKenna and Associates, also did for Oak Lawn.

"These are two totally different communities," Kracower said. "How can they have the same findings?"

Phil McKenna, president of Kane McKenna and Associates, said municipalities often have the same qualifying reasons for a special taxing district. But Ald. Dick Sayad said it appears as though the firm had a "canned system."

The next public hearing is scheduled for Sept. 25.

Chicago Tribune: http://www.chicagotribune.com

Eminent domain law won't affect city project: (St Paul MN) Pioneer Press, 6/29/06

New restrictions don't apply to plan adopted in 2004

By Maricella Miranda

Property owners and businesses in Rosemount [MN] had hoped a new, stricter eminent domain law would keep the city from seizing their land for redevelopment. It won't.

The new law, which protects homes and businesses from being bulldozed by cities and counties for larger tax-generating commercial developments, will not apply to Rosemount's downtown project. But if the city doesn't acquire the downtown properties by Feb. 1, 2008, analysts say the city would be required to offer more compensation to landowners and businesses, according to the new law.

The new law restricts eminent domain to projects that have a public purpose. It also states that cities and counties can only acquire properties if the land is severely blighted, environmentally contaminated, abandoned or a clear public nuisance.

City officials say a clause in the new eminent domain law would grandfather in the project because the city created a tax-increment financing district and plan for the downtown project before Feb. 1, 2006. The plan, which was adopted on April 20, 2004, says the city can seize any property in the downtown tax-increment district.

However, it's still unclear exactly what the new law would mean for projects currently underway.

Only a handful of projects will be grandfathered under the clause, said Louis Jambois, executive director of the Association of Metropolitan Municipalities. Eminent domain has been used for about 30 development projects in the past six years.

The Rosemount project runs a block east and west on both sides of Minnesota 3, from 143rd Street to the north to County Road 42 to the south. The city still needs to acquire four remaining properties, which house six businesses, for the project's first phase, Core Block East.

Kurt Hansen owns three homes in Core Block East, which he rents to three businesses. Before the city chose Contractor Property Developers Co. of Roseville to develop the area, Hansen approached the city wanting to redevelop the project himself. Officials from the city and CPDC proposed a financial partnership with Hansen for Core Block East a few months ago. But the partnership hasn't moved forward since then.

"I need more information. I'm interested in a partnership, but I have no information to base the partnership on," Hansen said.

City Administrator Jamie Verbrugge said the details of the project are still unclear.

"The city normally will want to make sure that we have a viable project before we would consider taking … an extraordinary measure" such as eminent domain, Verbrugge said.

The next step for Core Block East is for CPDC to find potential users for the site, which could include offices, a restaurant, stores and urban housing. Once there's a clear vision, the city and CPDC will negotiate on a final agreement, most likely in the fall.

City officials also will decide in the agreement how much tax-increment financing the project will get from Rosemount. Tax-increment financing diverts tax revenue generated by new development to offset building costs initially paid for by the developer.

Mayor Bill Droste said the final redevelopment agreement can't be made until the city owns all the properties in Core Block East. But he said the city isn't working on a deadline.

"This is a long process," said Droste, adding that the city has been trying to acquire land in Core Block East for 15 years. "To move a business or to relocate a business — those are big decisions."

Kim Mohrhauser, co-owner of Fluegel's Farm Garden and Pet, 14700 S. Robert Trail, won't sell part of her property in Core Block East unless CPDC finds a place to relocate a Quonset hut there now, she said. The developer is working on a space-needs study.

"We've tried to come up with solutions, but we just haven't found any that could work for us," Mohrhauser said. "We don't have property to build the size of building we need. Are they willing to take a part of our business that we need to function?"

While the city tries to buy all properties in the first phase, city officials also are moving forward with plans to develop Core Block West, an area across the street. Early concepts include preserving some historic buildings. Once city officials review initial ideas, they will ask developers to submit redevelopment plans and the city will choose one among them.

Although property owners fear the city using eminent domain, Verbrugge said, "The intent is to accomplish redevelopment without having to resort to eminent domain."

Pioneer Press: http://www.twincities.com

Eminent domain initiative qualifies for Nov. ballot: KTVB-TV7 (Boise ID), 6/29/06

By Associated Press

An initiative that would require government to pay any Idaho landowner whose property value is reduced by land-use laws has qualified for the November ballot. [Note: this is referred to as a "regulatory taking."]

Initiative sponsor Laird Maxwell yesterday turned in more than 49,000 signatures to qualify the measure.

Jerry Mason, an attorney who represents the Association of Idaho Cities, says cities and counties will not be able to afford to pay landowners who choose to use the law.

The New York-based Fund for Democracy spent $237,000 to pay a Colorado firm to collect signatures in Idaho for the measure.

KTVB-TV7: http://www.ktvb.com

Eminent Domain Legislation to Become Law in Alaska, 6/29/06

News Release

HB 318 will become [Alaska] law on Wednesday, July 5th. This legislation, sponsored by Representative Lesil McGuire (R-Anchorage) is aimed at protecting the rights of property owners.

One of the primary rights of Alaskans is the right to own private property. On June 23rd, 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld government efforts to use the power of eminent domain to seize private property for economic development.

HB 318 strengthens the private property rights of Alaskans by limiting a government's ability to take private property and transfer it to another private party for economic gain. This legislation protects the private homes of our families, friends and neighbors.

"I was outraged by the Supreme Court decision and heard more from neighbors on this issue than any other since I began serving. With the incredible feedback, along with support from constituents and people from across the entire state, we were able to get this legislation passed both the House and Senate," said Representative McGuire.

Lesil McGuire
State Capitol, Room 118
Juneau AK 99801-1182
800-365-2995 or 907-465-2995, fax 907-465-6592

Opposing views of how eminent domain is applied: Asbury Park (NJ) Press, 6/28/06

Letter to the editor
Judge failed to address public use in Long Branch

By Lee and Denise Hoagland

On June 22, Superior Court Judge Lawrence M. Lawson lawfully stripped our family and neighbors of the American Dream. ("Long Branch wins eminent domain suit; Paves way for redevelopment," June 23.) The judge's opinion was abusive. Long Branch City Attorney James G. Aaron and Mayor Adam Schneider could not have written the response better themselves.

In reading the opinion, one fact is still missing. What is the public use? Or public purpose? We keep skipping the core of this argument. What is the purpose? What is the reasoning behind taking our homes?

What will the taxpaying citizens of Long Branch get in return? Higher taxes (don't think they aren't coming soon), selected areas maintained, public housing with a "preferred" waiting list and restaurants and retail stores the average homeowner cannot afford to participate in. This seems more like a "cleansing."

Improving the quality of life for Long Branch citizens? How can making people homeless improve quality of life? There is an old movie that was played in the '70s called "The Lottery." In the movie, every year there is a stoning of one person.

The situation in Long Branch and eminent domain abuse across the country needs to be humanized. We are human people who are being stoned. Think about being unwelcome in your community, outcast and berated. Unfortunately, this is our reality.

Depending on the outcome of an appeal to the Appellate Division of state Superior Court, we could be homeless soon. If that day comes, it will be painful because the community and citizens of Long Branch permitted this to happen. We all participate in volunteer work throughout the community for food pantries, counseling, child abuse, domestic violence, fighting disease and working on the PTO or PTA. But Long Branch citizens find it acceptable to turn their heads on stripping people of their livelihoods while holding their breaths with the hope they will not be picked for the lottery of demise. Only when it becomes tangible do people react.

Politicians depend on the lack of participation by their citizens. With the lack of voting in Long Branch, this is proved to be true. People are under the misconception that this can't happen to them until their lottery number has been pulled. We are not casting stones. We are merely opening the window to expose the reality of suffrage that the community in Long Branch is in denial of and has accepted as a common practice.

Asbury Park Press: www.app.com

Eminent domain deal struck: Tiffin (OH) Advertiser-Tribune, 6/27/06

By Jill Gosche

The parties in an eminent domain case [in Tiffin OH] reached a settlement Tuesday, and a university is to pay $430,000 for the property.

Earl McGimpsey, the judge assigned to the case, said the plaintiff and defendants in Tiffin University vs. Stanley Rosenblatt, et al., have a settlement contingent on TU receiving grant money to remediate and clean up any environmental problems at the scrapyard property at 322 Miami St.

If the university is successful in its quest for funds, officials are to complete a purchase agreement and exchange deeds, he said.

“Believe me folks, you are now bound,” McGimpsey said at the conclusion of Tuesday’s session.

The sides started negotiating around 2 p.m. and returned to the Seneca County Common Pleas courtroom around 4:45 p.m. to announce the agreement. The proceedings ended before 6:30 p.m.

“My client and I went to court today to negotiate a settlement. Tiffin University also came prepared to negotiate a settlement,” said John Barga — attorney for Dennis Harrod, president of Harrod Corp. — following the court proceedings. “None of the other property owners were willing to negotiate at all. … Without the efforts of my client and Tiffin University, I don’t believe we would have reached a settlement (Tuesday).”

Derek DeVine — TU’s attorney — said Harrod hopefully is to sign the agreement today, and Rosenblatts are to sign it Thursday.

He said after the court proceedings the agreement states Harrod is to sell his portion for $140,000 and is allowed to use parts of the property for his business ventures until TU needs the property.

Also, TU is to pay the Rosenblatt family $290,000.

“They get to divide that any way they see fit,” he said. “They’ve all agreed to sell it to us for 290.”

Thomas Sobecki, Charles Rosenblatt’s lawyer, said his client claims ownership of one-third of the property. Negotiations regarding how the money is to be divided between the Rosenblatt family members are ongoing, he said.

He said he’s optimistic Charles Rosenblatt is to reach a resolution with the other members of his family.

“I’m working to that end,” he said in the courtroom.

Sobecki said after the proceedings Charles Rosenblatt signed a paper stating he doesn’t oppose TU’s purchase of the property and accepts $290,000 as the settlement for the Rosenblatt family.

“He’s always been on good terms with the school,” he said.

DeVine said the sale is contingent on TU receiving a $750,000 Clean Ohio grant. TU’s intention is to dismiss the eminent domain case if the school does not receive the grant, he said.

Michael A. Grandillo, vice president for development and public affairs at TU, said — after the day’s proceedings in court — the university received a deadline extension from Dec. 31 to Friday because the grant administrators thought the school officials were working on a good program.

“Everything’s done except the purchase agreement to put into the grant,” he said.

Grandillo said the grant application for property remediation is to sit in the Tiffin-Seneca Public Library for 45 days.

“It needs to sit in the library before June 30,” he said.

Barga said he’s hopeful the state of Ohio approves TU’s application for the grant money.

“If that happens, then we will have finality to this entire case,” he said. “The past couple of months have been especially hard on my client, who has struggled to make arrangements to keep his business going and try to make plans for the future. … At the present time, we have some plans spelled out in the purchase agreement, which include the continued use of the impound lot, the block building on Fairfield (Avenue) and some of the other grounds.”

Stanley Rosenblatt said following the court proceedings his family always has had a willingness to cooperate with the university.

“I’m always pleased when a case is settled. I think it will be beneficial to everyone,” he said. “What’s good for the university is good for the town.”

Tiffin Advertiser-Tribune: http://www.advertiser-tribune.com

Eminent Domain Back on the Table: WIBW-TV13 (Topeka KS), 6/27/06

Eminent Domain Debate Returns

By Stephanie Wurtz

After a rather public debate on eminent domain earlier this year, it's back on the table, as developers and a current business owner butt heads over space in the College Hill project.

"It's an issue and it's an issue that needs to be dealt with," says Bill Newsome, a developer working on the College Hill project.

Newsome owns the building Mike Calvin's been leasing the past 8 years for his liquor store.

Newsome is asking the city to exercise its power of eminent domain, because he and Calvin can't reach an agreement on the purchase price for Calvin's lot.

And that's where the debate begins.

"It's a logical, systematic and fair way to bring two sides together and establish market value," Newsome says of eminent domain.

"I don't know why they insist that I'm not entitled to anything, for all my loss of income, my loss of business, that I should just relocate to some vacant building somewhere, I'm not sure why they think that is right," says Calvin.

The full council will consider the ordinance at its next meeting, July 11.

Council members did decide to move forward on one aspect of the project.

In a 7-1 vote, the council approved an ordinance solidifying the funding commitments for the development.

"It means that the road map to our obligations and the city's obligations have been finalized, and it allows the bond to be sold," says Newsome of the ordinance.

Calvin did not want to speak with 13 News on camera, but he did tell the council, he'll offer an even lower bargaining price to developers, before the upcoming vote on condemning his business.

WIBW-TV13: http://www.wibw.com

Eminent domain measure qualifies for Nov. ballot: San Francisco (CA) Chronicle, 6/27/06

By Patrick Hoge

An initiative that would ban government seizure of land to facilitate private developments has qualified for California's November ballot, the Secretary of State's office said today.

Supporters of the so-called "Protect Our Homes Act'' collected about 1 million signatures, many more than the 600,000 valid signatures needed to qualify.

It is one of many initiatives appearing on ballots across the country in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling last year upholding a Connecticut town's right use eminent domain to seize private land to develop a hotel, condominiums and commercial space.

The California measure would require governments to occupy seized property themselves or contract out for public use. It also could increase how much governments must pay for seized property.

Critics say the California initiative is grossly misleading because in addition to the eminent domain provisions it would gut government's ability to regulate land use and urban growth.

In particular, the measure contains controversial language that would require governments to compensate landowners if new regulations not directly related to public safety hurt a property's value - unless the property is exempted from the new restrictions.

Cities, redevelopment agencies, urban planners and environmental, school and public safety groups say they will vigorously fight the measure.

San Francisco Chronicle: http://sfgate.com

Lynch signs eminent domain bill into law: Boston (MA) Globe, 6/27/06

[New Hampshire] Gov. John Lynch has signed a bill that provides citizens with meaningful protection against eminent domain for private profit.

While the bill continues to allow the use of eminent domain for the elimination of so-called "blight," it requires that an individual property, as opposed to an area, be "a menace to health and safety."

It's been a year since the U.S. Supreme Court decided an eminent domain case in Connecticut favoring a developer. Since then, 25 states have passed reforms and New Hampshire is one of a few states that will put a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot in November.

Boston Globe: http://www.boston.com

City Files Eminent Domain Against Lubbock Church: KAMC-TV28 (Lubbock TX), 6/28/06

A local pastor says his church could be forced to shut down if the city gets what it wants.

The city has been planning for years to widen 50th Street west of Slide Road to seven lanes. In order to do that, they need some land from the Faith Assembly of God Church.

Earlier this week, the city filed eminent domain proceedings, and the church congregation says it`s just not right.

The city determined the church would only lose about six-square-feet of its sanctuary in the deal, so they offered the church $250,000.

The pastor of the church, Terry Nesmith, says he couldn`t accept the offer because the church would actually lose 30-feet.

"There`s just no way we can replace what we`re losing with ($250,000)," he says.

A judge appointed a commissioners court to make a recommendation on a fair price for the land. That court came up with $510,000. Nesmith says the church was ready to accept, but the city appealed the offer, saying it was too much money and filed for emminent domain.

Church members say they were shocked.

"I hate to say it, but it`s reminding me of a dictatorship, or communism," says Woodie Chambers, a member of the church. "They take what they want and you don`t have any say so.

"What if this was your church? We`re not trying to get rich. We just want what`s fair. We`re not against widening the street."

City Councilman John Leonard says now that he`s seen for himself that more than half of the church`s sanctuary could be destroyed in the deal, he plans to have the city council take another look at the issue.

"I think we were looking at market value instead of replacement value," he says. "I`m a little uncomfortable with where we are at. We`ll see what we can do."

Leonard says they will discuss the church at their next city council meeting on July 10th.

Faith Assembly of God has been at its location on 50th Street for 35 years. Members of the congregation say they hope they get to stay.

KAMC-TV28: http://www.kamc28.tv

N.C. eminent domain proposals left in limbo: Fayetteville (NC) Online, 6/27/06

By Associated Press

With Democratic leaders changing course Tuesday, a [North Carolina] House committee refused to consider a constitutional amendment that would ban the use of eminent domain for the sake of economic development, instead sending it to another committee.

The House panel last week first considered altering the constitution to ban the practice. But just weeks after approving a regular bill on the same issue, seven Democratic lawmakers decided in a partisan vote to move the constitutional provision to the more powerful rules committee.

"No reason has yet to be given as to why people should not be protected in the Constitution," said Rep. Paul Stam, the architect of the constitutional amendment that had a bipartisan 88 sponsors. "Now the protection is likely dead."

Rules committee chairman Mickey Michaux affirmed that fear, calling the constitutional amendment "done."

"We don't like to tinker with the constitution unless it's absolutely necessary," said Michaux, D-Durham, echoing the arguments of Democrats who changed their position in committee. "The changes in statutes that we already passed make the law very clear."

Michaux was referring to another eminent domain measure, which the House unanimously approved earlier in the month. But the Senate on Monday took the bill onto the floor only to send it back to committee, with Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand asking about the proposal's purpose.

While Rand later said the bill will likely come to the floor before the end of the short session, Republicans fear the measure won't make it to the governor.

"There's not going to be any serious eminent domain reform out of this Assembly with the current leadership," said Stam, R-Wake.

Prompted by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that opened the door to government takings for the sake of economic development, property owners nationwide have urged their state legislatures to shore up eminent domain laws. More than a dozen state governments have considered changes since the decision, and one, Michigan, passed a constitutional amendment.

Amid the scramble, Andy Romanet of the North Carolina League of Municipalities questioned whether a hastily written constitutional amendment was the right way to address the problem — if there was a problem at all.

"It may make people feel good, but we really don't think a constitutional amendment's necessary," Romanet said. "But, if they do it, they need to proceed with caution. We had some concerns about the way it was written."

The coalition, representing about 522 local governments in North Carolina, along with Democratic leadership, helped thwart the constitutional amendment. Both groups said North Carolina law may already prohibit the use of eminent domain for private projects.

"Republicans seem to use constitutional amendments a lot to get out voters," said House Speaker Jim Black, D-Mecklenburg. "But we try not to touch the constitution when it can be done by changing state law."

However, Republicans such as Rep. Nelson Dollar pointed to the Supreme Court case of one year ago, which allowed a Connecticut town to seize 15 waterfront households as the site for office buildings, a marina and a Pfizer research center. Land rights advocates argue that Connecticut's law was similarly ambiguous.

"Taking people's land for economic development is against any fundamental tenant of American government," said Dollar, R-Wake. "This would simply put it on the ballot for the people to decide."

Fayetteville Online: http://www.fayettevillenc.com

Eminent Domain in new Jersey — a bad-news trifecta: The Press of Atlantic City (NJ), 6/27/06


They say bad news comes in threes. Last week proved that true, at least in the battle over eminent domain in New Jersey:
  • Last week was the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision giving municipalities virtual carte blanche to condemn homes of the less-affluent for private redevelopment projects. And in a report issued to mark that anniversary, New Jersey ranked fourth in the nation in the number of private properties slated to be condemned for bigger and better ratables, with 611 properties in question, according to the Institute for Justice, a group that represents homeowners in eminent-domain disputes.
  • A Superior Court judge on Thursday ruled against Long Branch homeowners who are being forced out of their homes so a private developer can build expensive condominiums. Long Branch is a poster child for how eminent domain should not be used to force poorer people off their valuable land near the water so housing for the wealthy can be built. Take a look at some of the small but tidy homes targeted in Long Branch, and a reasonable person would not say they are “blighted,” just modest.
  • The state Assembly passed a woefully deficient eminent—domain bill that is backed by builders and municipalities. The bill would tighten eminent-domain use, to be sure. But it leaves gaping holes in reform and is considered much weaker than a reform bill passed by neighboring Pennsylvania.

The Institute for Justice points out that the bill still contains vague terms for describing the conditions that must be met for eminent domain to be used for redevelopment — terms such as “obsolescent.” Some say that “obsolescent” could even be construed to mean a home without two bathrooms.

And while the bill does provide for better notification and better compensation for homeowners, it does not assure they will be able to move back to their old neighborhoods.

Most importantly, it fails to deal with a pay-to-play ban that would end the ability of developers to shovel campaign contributions to municipal officials, who then can award the developer lucrative redevelopment rights — complete with tax breaks and the ability to condemn homes. The state Senate must correct these errors. The public wants true reform that will end eminent-domain abuses — not a watered-down bill that gives lawmakers political cover without dealing comprehensively with the issue.

The Press of Atlantic City: http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com

Frostburg residents to petition eminent domain restrictions: Cumberland (MD) Times, 6/27/06


By Bernard W. Miltenberger and William Russell

It has been said, that all politics are local and that grassroots reform and debate are healthy for a democratic society to function well. Having said this, the Frostburg [MD] petitioners want to thank all of the Frostburg residents for getting involved in their local government and voting. The Frostburg petitioners are not finished in making sure their citizens' voices are heard and basic rights are protected. In the coming months we are going to ask the Frostburg mayor and commissioners to be the first city in the state of Maryland that will not allow the expansion of eminent domain within the city limits. Last year's Supreme Court decision giving local governments the power to seize land on behalf of private interests should not be taken lightly. The burdens it has imposed upon many property owners across the country can't possibly be overstated.

In a 5-4 ruling, the court said that the city of New London, Conn., could indeed seize private homes in the city's Fort Trumbull area and sell them to a private developer. This particular developer plans to build homes, a retail complex and offices. This, the city says, will be a "public use," because the development will pay more in local taxes than the homeowners would.

Five justices concurred, and in so doing have put every square inch of private property in this country at the disposal of local officials. It cannot be said too strongly enough or repeated too often: Kelo v. New London struck a near-fatal blow to property rights in this country. A year has passed and many private property owners through out this country can't believe that activist judges have so much power to change the basic tenants of Americans rights to own private property and that the United States Congress has not stepped up to protect these rights.

With the court's ruling in its back pocket, all a city or county has to do to seize private property and turn it over to private interests is to have - if we may borrow the court's words - "carefully formulated an economic development plan" that claims the new owners will generate more tax revenues.

It's not about improving an area, as even Justice John Paul Stevens, in writing for the majority, admitted: "There is no allegation that any of these properties is blighted or otherwise in poor condition; rather, they were condemned only because they happen to be located in the development area."

This shameful decision underscores yet again the importance of getting the right people on the bench and the right people elected to both state and federal legislatures. The nation needs judges and elected representatives who will respect the limitations the Founders put on government. We already have far too many judges and lawmakers who feel that freedom and constitutional limits on the state are quaint notions out of step with the times.

If private property is to be saved in Maryland, it will have to be done at the local level. The Environmental Matters Committee and Speaker Busch blocked House Bill 1224 and Senate Bill 923, introduced by Delegates Edwards, Kelly, Myers and Sen. Hafer along with other eminent domain bills introduced during the 2006 Maryland General Assembly. The Western Maryland Delegation members who believe that unmolested property ownership is the bedrock of freedom have crafted a bill that we feel has merit and should have had a proper review and a up or down vote from the Maryland General Assembly.

Their bills entitled Eminent Domain - Condemnation for Public Use and Repurchase of Condemned Property says the following: "Establishing that private property may not be acquired in Allegany County by condemnation unless it is necessary for specified public uses; establishing that private property acquired for a specified public use related to public health or safety may be used in any manner authorized by local zoning ordinances; requiring a condemnor in Allegany County that decides to sell condemned property to offer the property at a specified price first to a condemnee's heirs or assignees; etc."

The bottom line is that if the state of Maryland won't protect our property rights, then we will demand local protection that amends the Frostburg City Charter to provide for this protection. We will be asking Mayor Bond and Commissioners Weimer, Ralston, Lemmert, and Keller to grants its citizens this protection taken away from us by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Cu,berland Times: http://www.times-news.com

Eminent Domain Holdouts Throw a Wrench into Development Plans: New York Jewish Times, 6/27/06

By Ted Landphair

Long before a giant office or shopping or housing complex can be built, the developer must buy up all the parcels of land on that site. Quietly, because if word gets out, the landowners will jack up their asking prices.

Sometimes they won't sell at all, at any price. Many of these "spikes," as stubborn holdouts are called in the trade, are the classic "little old ladies" — or men — who just can't bear to part with their homes or small businesses

In the 1960s, the Disney Company created a stealth corporation that secretly gobbled up 11,000 hectares in Florida for a mega-theme park. But two families simply would not sell their chunks of swampland. Disney had to re-route a huge drainage canal around one of these plots, both of which intrude into the Walt Disney World theme park to this day.

More recently, a Washington, D.C., man refused all offers for the two-story townhouse that he uses as his architect's office. So the developer's earth-movers have gouged a deep crater around three sides of him. The holdout owner says that once the new office towers rise around him, he'll open a pizzeria. Skeptics point out he'll have to sell a lot of pizzas to equal the millions of dollars he's been offered.

What can a developer do to pry loose these stubborn spikes? Some partner with a local or state government. That way, the project can be called "urban redevelopment." Governments, you see, have the authority, under the laws of eminent domain, to force a holdout to sell and move.

But if you can't get the government involved, sometimes just filing suit against holdouts, so they must hire lawyers and go to court, can convince them to give up. Then again, many a builder has learned the hard way that it can be a very bad idea to make a little old lady mad!

New York jewish Times: http://nyjtimes.com

Eminent Domain controversy in Acadia National Park

A controversy has been brewing for some time over the use of eminent domain by the US Government to acquire land from unwilling owners for Acadia National Park in Maine. Information is available online at:

Tuesday is D-day for Whalom Park eminent-domain proposal: Fitchburg (MA) Sentinel & Enterprise, 6/24/06

By Jordana Timerman

What will happen to the former Whalom Park [a long-shuttered former amusement park in Lunenberg MA]?

The question will be answered at Tuesday's special Town Meeting, when residents vote on Selectman Steven deBettencourt's proposal to take the site by eminent domain.

It is unclear what would happen at the site if residents approve the idea, which would also require devoting $5 million in public money to reimburse the land's owner, Global Property Development Corp. Global has an approved plan to build 240 condominiums on the site.

The general idea is to use the land for a development more to the town's liking, deBettencourt has said in the past month. He also mentioned incorporating affordable housing and public recreation space.

But deBettencourt said last week he will not present a specific proposal at the Town Meeting.

"It's not a Steve deBettencourt plan, it's a town consensus," he said. "It's whatever the town wants."

State law gives municipalities the right to take land for "any legitimate purpose," lawyer Christopher Petrini told the Sentinel & Enterprise last month.

But he could not rule out the possibility that other statutes limit the town's ability to take Whalom Park, said Petrini, a member of the Public Law Section Counsel of the Massachusetts Bar Association.

DeBettencourt said including affordable housing — helping the town meet the state's mandatory quota — and public space would constitute a public benefit, and justify taking the land.

A former Leominster resident gathering material for a book on Whalom Park has strongly advocated for another re-use concept.

Mark Chester would like to see the park turned into a public arts and cultural space that also includes recreational opportunities.

He points to the success of Glen Echo Park in Maryland. The park had been slated for development when residents turned it into a successful center for arts and education.

"Certainly there's a lot of sentiment involved, but there's also economics," Chester said. "I realize people aren't going to do things unless you give them an economic incentive to do it. You can't just preserve it because it was a place that made people happy. You need to preserve it for what it can do for people now and in the future."

Chester also envisioned using volunteers to lower costs on any project at the park site.

"When you have a project like this, there's an opportunity for businesses and individuals to donate in-kind materials and labor," he said. "I've gotten the e-mails from people who want to come and do what they can. There is a chance to really bring people together. It goes beyond Lunenburg."

The town might also find grant money to pursue a project at the former amusement park, Historical Commission Chair Rebecca Lantry said.

She is researching a federal Department of Transportation grant program that could provide $2 million.

All the town would have to do is make transportation-related improvements — such as creating a shelter for a nearby bus stop, she said.

Lantry has mixed feelings about taking the land by eminent domain.

"Do I like that we have to do it by eminent domain? No," she said. "Is it our last resort? Yes."

The town would have to pay a fair market price for taking the land, Petrini said.

Stephen Callahan of Global has said he will "absolutely" pursue litigation if the town moves to take the land.

"(The town will) force us into it," he said. "I would love to stop even the possibility that they could vote on this. It will become a much bigger issue if it ever gets voted on."

The article on the town meeting warrant calls for $5 million to be raised for the project.

Callahan said that amount is "several million" less than the developers' most recent appraisal of the land.

Callahan Finance LLC purchased the site from the Whalom Park Amusement Co. for $4,500,000 last week.

But the actual value of the land is far above its purchasing price due to additional costs faced by the developers, Callahan said.

The landowner can conduct his own appraisal if he is not satisfied with the reimbursement amount proposed by the town. If the parties cannot reach a settlement, the amount could eventually be settled by a court, Petrini said.

Callahan said he is puzzled by the eminent domain proposal.

"We've been very happy with the (approval) process, but don't really understand at the 11th hour this outrageous position," he said. "It just looks like someone's trying to stop the project."

Sentinel & Enterprise: http://www.sentinelandenterprise.com

Executive Order of President George W Bush: Protecting the Property Rights of the American People, 6/23/06

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and to strengthen the rights of the American people against the taking of their private property, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Policy. It is the policy of the United States to protect the rights of Americans to their private property, including by limiting the taking of private property by the Federal Government to situations in which the taking is for public use, with just compensation, and for the purpose of benefiting the general public and not merely for the purpose of advancing the economic interest of private parties to be given ownership or use of the property taken.

Sec. 2. Implementation.
(a) The Attorney General shall:
    i) issue instructions to the heads of departments and agencies to implement the policy set forth in section 1 of this order; and

    (ii) monitor takings by departments and agencies for compliance with the policy set forth in section 1 of this order.

(b) Heads of departments and agencies shall, to the extent permitted by law:
    (i) comply with instructions issued under subsection (a)(i); and

    (ii) provide to the Attorney General such information as the Attorney General determines necessary to carry out subsection (a)(ii).

Sec. 3. Specific Exclusions. Nothing in this order shall be construed to prohibit a taking of private property by the Federal Government, that otherwise complies with applicable law, for the purpose of:

(a) public ownership or exclusive use of the property by the public, such as for a public medical facility, roadway, park, forest, governmental office building, or military reservation;

(b) projects designated for public, common carrier, public transportation, or public utility use, including those for which a fee is assessed, that serve the general public and are subject to regulation by a governmental entity;

(c) conveying the property to a nongovernmental entity, such as a telecommunications or transportation common carrier, that makes the property available for use by the general public as of right;

(d) preventing or mitigating a harmful use of land that constitutes a threat to public health, safety, or the environment;

(e) acquiring abandoned property;

(f) quieting title to real property;

(g) acquiring ownership or use by a public utility;

(h) facilitating the disposal or exchange of Federal property; or

(i) meeting military, law enforcement, public safety, public transportation, or public health emergencies.

Sec. 4. General Provisions.

(a) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(b) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
    (i) authority granted by law to a department or agency or the head thereof; or

    (ii) functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budget, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(c) This order shall be implemented in a manner consistent with Executive Order 12630 of March 15, 1988.

(d) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity against the United States, its departments, agencies, entities, officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

Eminent domain foes rally in Westville: (S Jersey) Courier-Post, 6/24/06

By Wilford S Shamlin

Opponents of eminent domain abuse rallied in the drizzling rain during Friday evening's rush hour as a controversial redevelopment project [in Westville NJ] moves toward a final vote.

About 40 residents and elected officials from Westville, Lawnside, Haddon Township and Camden, who gathered outside Grabbe's Seafood Restaurant, screamed and cheered as passing motorists honked their horns.

Participants from other towns simply came to show their support.

"This is our fight, for the people," said Willa Coltrane, 65, whose Oak Avenue home in Lawnside is targeted for redevelopment. "This is our country, and we have to help each other fight this fight."

In Westville, Fieldstone Associates of Doylestown, Pa., has proposed town houses, condominiums, restaurants, commercial and retail stores and a marina in a redevelopment zone along Big Timber Creek, jeopardizing existing homes and a landmark business.

The conceptual plan was unveiled in January 2005, but the borough council, which has final say on the project, has not yet taken a formal vote.

"Eminent domain is wrong," said Sue Rodgers, a Republican councilwoman. "Eminent domain is stealing. Would you want it to be your house?"

Lou Achilles, co-owner of Grabbe's, called the June 2005 Kelo decision by the U.S. Supreme Court upholding the government's right to seize property for private development "grievous. They took our rights away," he said.

The protest was organized by We The People of Westville.

Louis Bezich, owner of Public Solutions, a public relations firm representing Fieldstone, sympathized with the protesters.

"In all of our projects, we view eminent domain as a course of last resort, and that continues to be our policy," Bezich said.

Michael Galbraith, a Democratic mayoral candidate running unopposed, said the borough's elected officials "would never abuse eminent domain."

Courier-Post: http://www.courierpostonline.com