Bill foreseen to curb eminent domain: Crain's Cleveland OH Business, 9/25/06

By Jay Miller

Eminent domain will be on the menu for the lame duck session of the Ohio Legislature, and it might affect the outcome of the effort to take Flats properties [in Cleveland] for the Wolstein Group’s East Bank mixed-use development.

State Rep. Bill Seitz of Green Township, near Cincinnati, said he and state Sen. Tim Grendell of Chesterland plan to introduce legislation after the November election that will follow recommendations submitted to the Legislature in August by the eminent domain task force the pair chaired.

Rep. Seitz said the bill may be written to apply to all cases where a jury has not been empaneled. That caveat would include the Flats East Bank cases, which have been filed by the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority but have not entered their jury phase.

Crain's Cleveland OH Business: http://www.crainscleveland.com

Council Bluffs Decides Tonight On Eminent Domain Law: KETV-7 Omaha NE, 9/25/06

Vine Street Neighbors Fight City Takover

Council Bluffs [IA] City Council members have one week to approve a law that would allow them to use an existing eminent domain law to acquire 66 properties across the city.

After Oct. 1, the law in Iowa becomes much more restrictive. Until then, the city can take a property that needs to be developed.

The area currently in the city's sights is near North 16th Street to 25th Street and around downtown Council Bluffs. One property on the list is a little neighborhood off the beaten path, and neighbors of Vine Street - a block-long residential spot - have heard the threats before.

"Every few years, they talk about this block being torn down and urban renewal coming in. The last time was four years ago," said Susan Parker, who has owned a home on Vine Street for 20 years. "When I bought it, we knew. The neighbor man knows. We know on this block."

Parker said she's not ready to give up her home yet.

"All your life, you pay for your home and you'd like to stay there until you're old and gray," she said.

Vine Street is threatened because it sits on a creek that runs behind the fence in Parker's back yard.

"It's kind of in a floodway situation, so this would be the opportunity to develop that and improve that waterway situation," said Council Bluffs Mayor Tom Hanafan.

Hanafan said that's why Vine Street is on the city's list of 66 eminent domain properties. He said developing those areas would help rejuvenate the city.

"They've been in the works, or we have plans for rehabilitation of downtown, and rehabilitation of certain areas," the mayor said.

City Council members will talk about the eminent domain properties at Monday night's council meeting. If it doesn't pass a law to take those properties before Oct. 1, it will lose the chance. The new law goes into effect in October of next year. It says cities can't condemn a private property unless 75 percent of it is blighted.

Plans for Vine Street could include retail or putting water back into the creek. Hanafan said just because it's on the list doesn't mean the city will definitely take it.

Iowa is one of 22 states that passed a law that put eminent domain restrictions on cities. That was in response to last year's U.S. Supreme Court ruling stating that cities could force homeowners to sell their land to the city even if it wasn't blighted. Local governments would then have the right to give builders the go-ahead to develop that land.

KETV-7 Omaha NE: http://www.ketv.com

City Council's Consideration - Eminent domain to cure blight? Wichita KS Eagle, 9/25/06

By Brent D Wistrom

Where Wichita's housing director Mary Kay Vaughn sees a chance to rebuild faltering neighborhoods, some property rights advocates see an opening for big government to snatch away people's homes.

Early discussions about creating a redevelopment authority in Wichita have sparked polarized opinions.

The Wichita City Council is considering setting up a five-member redevelopment authority that could acquire rundown properties and turn them over to developers who want to renovate them or build new houses, apartments or businesses in their place.

The authority would get the properties by buying them from willing sellers, buying tax-foreclosed properties, or forcing unwilling property owners to sell their homes through eminent domain.

That could vastly improve some neighborhoods that are striving for improvement, Vaughn said.

As it is now, neighborhood groups often create plans calling for more homeownership, less blight and more attractive businesses. But they don't always get the follow-through they deserve, she said.

"It's just a shame that so many people would be involved in really thorough reviews of what they want and not be able to go forward," she said.

The redevelopment authority would focus solely on that, eventually leading to renewed neighborhoods, Vaughn said.

Flaws of urban renewal
Not everyone is convinced this plan will benefit Wichitans.

Karl Peterjohn, executive director of the Kansas Taxpayers Network, which advocates for tax reductions, said Wichita should look more closely at the failures of urban renewal, an effort in the mid-20th century to revitalize city cores that has been severely criticized for uprooting neighborhoods, especially poor or black neighborhoods, and replacing them with commercial development.

"Urban renewal didn't work and didn't achieve the good intentions that many people had," he said. "We're going to create a new city bureaucracy. I'm afraid we're going to repeat past mistakes."

A better solution may be to focus on reducing crime, he said, adding, "Blight is a result, not a cause."

Of particular concern is the potential for the city to use eminent domain to take people's homes, said Alan Cobb, director of the Kansas branch of Americans for Prosperity, which advocates for limited government.

"This proposal raises all kinds of red flags," Cobb wrote in an e-mail. "Until I know more, I am concerned about the potential abuse of the power of eminent domain here.

"I think we need more private property ownership to turn around neighborhoods, not less," he said. "Not having security in the ownership of your property is hardly economic development."

Power of eminent domain
For now, government agencies in Kansas can force people to sell their property for an economic development project even if the property is not blighted.

That was affirmed in a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year in which 15 homeowners fought to stay on about an acre and a half of a 90-acre plot that the city of New London, Conn., wanted to turn over to private developers for office buildings and condos.

But that power will be restricted in Kansas starting in July 2007. That's when a new law takes effect requiring agencies to get approval from the Legislature to force people out.

Unsafe property could still be condemned and torn down. And property could still be taken if it's for public purposes, like Wichita's forthcoming downtown arena or utility lines.

City Manager George Kolb said Wichita and other cities will go to the Legislature next year to try to secure the right to use eminent domain to obtain blighted properties.

Even without that power, a redevelopment authority could succeed by using other tools like equity partnerships that allow landowners and building owners to share profits, Kolb said.

The city is also looking into whether it can purchase tax-foreclosed properties before they go to auction. It's not yet clear if that would require a change in state law, Kolb said.

The authority would require at least $1 million in start-up money to buy property, Kolb said. That money has been set aside in the capital improvements fund.

The authority could get additional funding by channeling parking fees from city-owned lots to the program and by collecting fees from any bonds the authority issues.

Eventually, Kolb said, the authority should become self-sufficient, selling property the city owns and maybe even charging consulting services to developers.

Not always a popular tool
In Kansas City, Mo., the city has eminent-domain powers but doesn't often use them, said Joe Egan, executive director of the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority in Kansas City.

Instead, Kansas City's authority, which has been active for more than half a century, mostly offers tax abatements, which freeze the tax rates for 10 years on a deteriorating property that a developer wants to fix up but can't afford to without incentives.

Eminent domain is a politically problematic tool that not even developers who stand to benefit from it like to use, Egan said.

"It's not the tool of choice for most developers. It's just too much of a headache," he said. "I would think that would be a similar case as Wichita puts it together."

Wichita KS Eagle: http://www.kansas.com

Monroe County community files suit in eminent domain case: San Jose CA Mercury-News, 9/24/06

Associated Press

[Erie Township MI] and some residents have sued a railroad operator, seeking a court order to determine whether US Rail Corp. has the right to force the sale of land for a large rail yard.

Erie Township filed the lawsuit Friday in Monroe County Circuit Court asking the court to declare that US Rail and its representatives do not have the right to condemn the property and force a sale.

Toledo, Ohio-based US Rail wants to secure about 300 acres in the township for the rail facility and has indicated that residents who don't sell might have their land taken through eminent domain.

"What we're asking the judge to say is, 'if you don't have the right of eminent domain, stop threatening to use it,'" Gary Wilmoth, one of the major landowners in the targeted area, told The Monroe Evening News.

A person who answered the telephone Sunday at US Rail's offices said no one was available to comment on the case.

The company has said it reduced the amount of land needed for the project to avoid using eminent domain.

San Jose CA Mercury-News: http://www.mercurynews.com

Eminent Domain or Imminent Disaster? Los Angeles CA Times, 9/23/06

Don't be fooled by Prop. 90, an anti-environment stealth measure passed off as a 'protect your home' initiative

By Al Meyerhoff

It was in early 1990 when I and a few others crafted California's Proposition 128 — the environmental initiative later known as "Big Green."

Redwoods were in, so was recycling; pesticides were banned, as was new offshore oil drilling. It was heady stuff. Like now, the environment was "hot" — not from global warming but rather from the disasters of Bhopal, Chernobyl and the Exxon Valdez.

Opinion polls showed Big Green could not lose. Then the economy stagnated and Iraq invaded Kuwait. Big Green went down, part of the Big No in the November elections.

But over the years, environmentalists also have had their successes at the polls — most notably in 1972 with Proposition 20, which established the California Coastal Commission that is still safeguarding our magnificent coastline. And Proposition 65, passed in 1986, created tough new standards for about 300 toxic chemicals, reducing exposure to many of them in our air, water and consumer goods.

Now the environment is on the ballot again, in November.

Most of the attention and the money has focused on the pro-environment measure, Proposition 87, which would tax oil companies to finance a program to develop clean energy.

But it is an anti-environment "stealth" measure, Proposition 90, that, if passed, would have the greatest environmental impact on the average Californian. This measure would eviscerate many environmental, land use, zoning and planning laws — state and local — and change the face of the state.

Proposition 90 ostensibly would bar local governments from condemning private property to promote private uses. But this poorly drafted and radical measure is not the eminent domain reform it purports to be. It is actually a dagger pointed at California environmental protections (such as those established by the Coastal Commission). If enacted, any regulation (other than health and safety) said to have any impact on any property — real, personal or intellectual — could trigger claims for compensation to be paid by taxpayers.

For example, Californians could be "billed" for compensation related to such regulations as zoning standards preventing garbage dumps in residential neighborhoods; coastal permits prohibiting unrestricted development of beaches and marine reserves; or bans on offshore oil and gas drilling.

Proposition 90 is a sleeper, bankrolled mainly by libertarian Howie Rich and Americans for Limited Government as part of a nationwide attempt to turn back the clock on the role of government in our society.

A new and similar Oregon law has already resulted in $5.2 billion in claims, including one from a property owner claiming rights to construct a mine inside the Newberry Volcanic National Monument.

This measure is opposed across the board — by environmentalists, labor and the state Chamber of Commerce, by taxpayer associations and consumer groups, by scientists and public health agencies and the California Farm Bureau. But as the election gets closer, voters will be flooded with ads admonishing them to "Protect your home — Yes on 90."

Virtually no intelligent conversation can be had amid such noise.

Thus there will be no open and honest debate on the two very different visions raised by Proposition 90. Under one vision, we are all in this together, agreeing to use, enjoy and preserve California's magnificent natural resources as a public trust — a concept of the "commons" grounded in Roman law. We enter into this social contract because, as President Kennedy once told us, "in the final analysis … we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. We all are mortal."

Under the other vision, we are each in this alone, free to exploit resources for profit or personal use — or be paid by the California taxpayer not to do so.

Here's an idea. Instead of all those ads, let the environmentalists pick their spokesperson and the measure's supporters choose their champion. They can then go on radio talk shows, local TV news shows, public TV and radio and even just meet the public. Let each talk about the pros and cons of "too much" or "too little" government regulation. Let each examine what California would look like without laws to preserve the coast, protect the trees and safeguard the water supply.

Let them discuss what kind of future we want.

Los Angeles CA Times: http://www.latimes.com

Al Meyerhoff,an environmental attorney in Los Angeles, is past director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's public health program: alm@lcsr.com

Arlington Heights might seize property for SuperTarget: Chicago IL Daily Herald, 9/22/06

By Sheila Ahern

Four years ago, Arlington Heights village officials declared 35 acres at Arlington Heights and Golf roads blighted and in need of redevelopment.

A few years later, the board approved plans for a SuperTarget and acres of parking for the site.

Problem is, current property owners aren’t exactly packing up and calling moving vans.

In fact, they’re all still there.

Village officials could start condemnation and eminent domain proceedings in October to acquire property on about 20 acres at the northeast corner of Arlington Heights and Golf roads, according to village officials.

In December 2005, the village board approved a redevelopment agreement that included plans for a 174,000-square-foot SuperTarget store and up to 47,300 square feet of other retail shops for the site.

The development agreement gave Strategic Real Estate Services Corp. 45 days to buy land in the area, which features mostly businesses dominated by the International Plaza.

Without a single contract signed, that time period ran out Aug. 24, said Stephen Leonard, a principal with Strategic Real Estate Service.

“We had many conversations with property owners but we weren’t able to acquire any properties,” Leonard said. “We are now handing the ball back to the village.”

And the village has one bargaining tool Leonard does not — eminent domain, where the government seizes private property and pays the owner what’s determined to be fair market value.

“The next step would be for the village board to adopt an ordinance utilizing eminent domain,” said Bill Enright, deputy director of planning and community development.

It would be the first time the village used the power to acquire property for retail development. The issue could come before the village board in October, although board agendas aren’t finalized yet, Village Manager Bill Dixon said.

To make room for the SuperTarget, Leonard’s company tried unsuccessfully to buy properties such as the International Plaza, an abandoned gas station, the Arlin-Golf Plaza, the Kitakata Japanese Restaurant and three single-family homes, among others.

There are more than 40 stores in the International Plaza alone.

“Target is still firmly behind their commitment to build at the site,” Leonard said. “This is just a very fluid, unpredictable process.”

Village officials declared the site blighted in 2002, despite the objections of property owners and merchants — particularly those in the International Plaza who said the area already was redeveloping.

Since then the owners of XSport Fitness, Arlin-Golf Plaza and most recently the 160,000-square-foot International Plaza, have filed lawsuits against the village. All three suits maintain the area is not blighted.

Village attorney Jack Siegel said he disagrees.

“The village’s position is that we meet seven of the 13 criteria of the TIF statute,” Siegel said. “The statute also says we only have to meet five.”

The tax increment financing district allows the village to use the extra property tax revenue generated by the improvements to pay for certain redevelopment costs.

Village officials will square off in court Oct. 3 with the owners of XSport Fitness but are still talking to the owners of the Arlin-Golf Plaza. The International Plaza lawsuit was just served to village officials last week, Siegel said.

A village report from February 2002 states the International Plaza “demonstrates characteristics of an outdated shopping center and has evidenced chronic vacancies, poor layout (the ‘U’ shape impairs interior tenant visibility), and no strong anchor tenants.”

According to the December 2005 agreement, the developer will front the money to develop the site, of which the village will reimburse up to $19 million using TIF district money over the district’s 23-year life span.

TIF districts are controversial because government agencies such as schools, park districts and libraries are restricted to collecting property taxes based on the original value of the land. They won’t be able to take advantage of the jump in property value until the TIF district expires.

Instead, that money is diverted to a special fund that pays for improvements there, such as landscaping or sewer upgrades.

Chicago IL Daily Herald: http://www.dailyherald.com

Eminent Domain: KNBC-TV4 Los Angeles CA, 9/22/06

Last year a U.S. Supreme Court ruling made it easier for local governments to use their eminent domain powers to seize private property for public purposes. Critics warned of widespread abuses. Now comes a case here in Los Angeles that some see as the warning come true. Kelly Mack has an exclusive report.

KELLY MACK: When the city needs a new highway or some other facility for the public good, the laws of eminent domain allow it to seize the necessary private property and pay off the owners. But what happens if the city wants to seize your property for a project you're already planning to build on the same piece of land? Does the law allow it?

STANLEY KRAMER: It's something that is really un-American.

KELLY MACK: Stanley Kramer is a businessman who grew up in South Central Los Angeles and established this business there, a scrap metal business that employs nearly a dozen local residents.

STANLEY KRAMER: This is something I built to leave to my son and to leave to my grandson.

KELLY MACK: His son, Doug, president of the company, has turned it into a profit center for the community - with the potential for something bigger. But a city agency known as the CRA - the Community Redevelopment Corporation - has gone to court to seize Kramer's property under the eminent domain laws. Their idea is to pay him off and relocate him with taxpayers' money, then hand over his property to another developer to build a Food 4 Less shopping center. There's just one problem:

STANLEY KRAMER: We have been ready, willing and able since 1999 to do the exact same project with no cost to the taxpayers.

KELLY MACK: That's right, Kramer says he's willing to build the same shopping center right here with his own money - and has even teamed up with a leading developer who owned adjacent land.

JOHN CARROLL (OPERATIONS DIRECTOR, CHARLES COMPANY): We do these types of projects in central and south central Los Angeles and have for the past 25 years.

KELLY MACK: They've also gotten approval for their project from the City Planning Department.

JOHN CARROLL: Which allows us to build what we wanted to build, what the CRA wanted us to build.

KELLY MACK: But meanwhile the CRA has tied Kramer and his partner up in legal proceedings to seize both their properties, at great public cost in lawyer's fees. Once the two are paid off and relocated, the total price tag could be …

ATTORNEY ALLISON BURNS: $20 million of the taxpayers' money.

KELLY MACK: Burns represents Kramer.

ALLISON BURNS: If Mr. Kramer had been allowed to proceed in 1999 when he first stated his interest in developing this property, this shopping center would be built. Instead, the CRA is spending millions upon millions of dollars to take the property away from him.

KELLY MACK: To add injury to insult, says Burns, the CRA is offering next to nothing for Kramer's property and his partner's, and has conducted key deliberations behind closed doors.

ALLISON BURNS: There's no way for anyone in the public to know what their rationale was for taking this property.

KELLY MACK: To develop Kramer's property, the CRA has chosen a nonprofit group called Concerned Citizens for South Central Los Angeles. Their spokesperson refused to comment. But legal papers show they're linked to a Florida contractor, who'll build their planned shopping center, and they've pledged a large future interest in the project to a local businessman, who'll in turn pay them a percentage.

DOUGLAS KRAMER (PRESIDENT, KRAMER METALS): Concerned Citizens is a self-serving, completely self-absorbed organization that's interested in making money for themselves.

KELLY MACK: The group has been in the news before, obtaining state and federal funds to build what was supposed to be a soccer field here in South Central LA. Eventually, because of questionable financing, says Kramer's lawyer, part of the money had to be returned.

ALLISON BURNS: This says that Concerned Citizens is not a developer in whom the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles should place its trust.

KELLY MACK: The CRA refused to be interviewed for this story. But in a long written statement, the Agency asserted the courts have rejected Kramer's position and insisted that he and his partner have failed to prove they can build the same project with no public subsidy. The Kramers say that's untrue.

DOUG KRAMER: We've offered to do it. We will do it.

KELLY MACK: But for now they won't get the chance. The CRA is in the final phases of seizing their property and their partner's - for what it says is the public good. Kelly Mack, Channel 4 News.

On the ballot in November will be a measure, Proposition 90, designed to prevent the seizure of private property in circumstances like those in this story.

KNBC-TV4 Los Angeles CA: http://www.nbc4.tv

Whitty says eminent domain could halt LNG bid : Fall River MA Herald News, 9/21/06

By Gregg M. Miliote

With the proposed liquefied natural gas import terminal moving forward into the permitting phase, [Fall River MA] City Council President William F. Whitty is calling for a new look at the potential for using eminent domain to stop the project in its tracks.

Whitty filed a resolution with his fellow city councilors Wednesday morning asking them to support a measure that would call on local, state, and federal officials to begin the process of taking the Weaver's Cove site by eminent domain.

"Let's face it," Whitty said. "(Hess LNG) has been successful during the regulatory review process. They have adjusted the project in response to efforts to stop the development and they are moving forward in spite of everyone's opposition."

Whitty's resolution specifically states Fall River should "assume the leadership role" in initiating the eminent domain process. He also calls on federal and state officials from Massachusetts and Rhode Island to include line items in their budgets for the purpose of purchasing the land for public use.

But Mayor Edward M. Lambert Jr. said he respectfully disagrees with Whitty's plan. He said even if the City Council throws its full support behind the resolution during its meeting next Tuesday, he will not go forward with plans for eminent domain at this time.

"This is clearly not the time to propose writing a 50 or 70 million dollar check to Hess LNG. Let's beat them without giving them any money," Lambert argued. "It's not very wise to start up a losing strategy, when we already have several winning strategies in place."

Lambert pointed to the numerous legal challenges the city has undertaken and the successful attempt to keep the Old Brightman Street Bridge standing as some of the "winning strategies" being utilized to defeat the project.

However, Whitty asserted the time to move on eminent domain is now, and said he is confident the city has the right to seize the land.

"If any project meets the criteria for eminent domain, this is it," Whitty said.

Whitty said his resolution is being filed at this time because Hess LNG has been successful in receiving clearance to move forward with the project recently from both state and federal agencies.

He said his resolution could help to stop the project, "end the fear in the community" and convert the property to public use, such as a waterfront park or a commuter rail station.

"Take the land. Stop the project. End the fear," Whitty exclaimed. "Eminent domain has been talked about before, and I feel it is time to act on it."

The idea of taking the land by eminent domain was first discussed publicly by former mayoral candidate F. George Jacome during his bid last year to unseat Lambert.

Jacome renewed his call for the use of eminent domain this January, saying the best defense is a great offense.

By seizing the land, Jacome said the city will become the aggressor.

"If we have the land, it will be the first time in the history of this issue in Fall River that we will be on the offensive," Jacome told The Herald News in January. "It's going to be us versus them, and we are going to have to play hardball.

"The only thing that is going to stop this project dead in the water is to seize this land. We have to take it and take it now."

Like Whitty, Jacome envisioned converting the North Main Street property into a transportation hub for the region with a commuter rail stop, a bus terminal and a water taxi service.

But critics of the use of eminent domain in this case have said the city may actually be weakening its opposition to the project if it seizes the land.

Eminent domain attorneys like Boston-based attorney John S. Leonard have stated the courts will not look favorably upon a move made by the city after Hess LNG already began developing the land for the LNG import terminal.

Leonard told The Herald News that such a seizure at this point would be a "bad faith" move and would likely put the city back "on the defensive for trying to establish that their motives are not for trying to stop the LNG facility."

Lambert echoed those sentiments, saying a move by the city to seize the land is "probably not allowed under Massachusetts law."

"Proposing this now is just like giving up," Lambert said. "I am not going to change our strategy mid-stream."

Fall River MA Herald News: http://www.zwire.com


City begins eminent domain proceedings: Folsom CA Telegraph, 9/19/06

Council trying to keep Dam Bridge on track

By Raheem Hosseini

To keep the Folsom Bridge project on track, last week the Folsom City Council certified environmental documents and voted to begin eminent domain proceedings on two private parcels.

It was the latter decision that captured the most attention, however. Representatives of one of the property owners suggested litigation may lie in the city's future.

Attorney Steven P. Belzer, representing Anthony and Mary Sue Cardoso, trustees of the Capital Investment Trust and owners of more than eight acres of vacant property at East Natoma Street and Folsom Dam Road, questioned the city appraisal process that determined the value of his clients' land.

"They're not trying to stop this project or slow it down. They just want to be treated fairly," Belzer told council members. "Your offer does not constitute fair treatment."

Public works director Rich Lorenz said earlier that negotiations with property owners, including the Demmon Family, owners of a 200-unit multi-family apartment complex on Folsom-Auburn Road, had not resulted in a final agreement, necessitating the start of eminent domain proceedings.

"We are at a point where we have not reached a final agreement with either property owner," said Lorenz, adding the city had received a counter offer from the Demmon family that day.

Purchase offers to both parties went out in June.

Lorenz told the Telegraph on Monday that future negotiations with the property owners could still occur.

"Some property owners want to let the process work itself out in the courts," he said. "We would prefer to work with the property owners to reach an agreed upon arrangement."

Belzer indicated during the Sept. 12 meeting which direction his clients may be leaning.

"I don't know what I'd do if I were sitting in your seat," he told council members. "I may adopt it and let the court deal with it."

Whichever way it goes, Lorenz said the project remains on the fast track for completion by 2008.

"We can go either way and keep the project on schedule, but we would prefer to work with the property owners," he said.

The city needs to acquire 5.86 acres of the Cardoso property to realign the intersection of East Natoma Street and Folsom Dam Road, and 9,564 square feet of land traversing the northeast portion of the Demmon property.

The latter will facilitate the construction of a new sound wall. A city staff report says the right of way acquisition at the Demmon property will not directly impact any of the existing apartment structures.

The city is also set to acquire 14 acres of state land located mostly on the grounds of Folsom Prison, following Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's signing of a bill authorizing the state Department of General Services sale.

The bridge project became a priority for the city and the region in 2003, when the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation closed Folsom Dam Road citing national security reasons.

According to the city, the closure has resulted in increased congestion, business disruption and closures, increased traffic accidents and stressed the existing emergency services infrastructure.

Even with plans to reopen the road for "restricted access" as part of the project to raise Folsom Dam 7.5 feet and improve flood storage capacity behind the dam, a permanent bridge is still seen as a necessity.

Folsom CA Telegraph: http://folsomtelegraph.com

Don’t Condemn Me: Knoxville TN Metro Pulse, 9/21/06

Officials discuss the likelihood of exercising eminent domain along the South Knox waterfront

By Mike Gibson

City Councilman Joe Hultquist doesn’t foresee problems with specific property owners in the South Knoxville waterfront redevelopment zone, but he does believe the city would be remiss if it didn’t remain open to the possibility of acquiring property via eminent domain.

“You have to look at that possibility when you have a redevelopment area,” Hultquist says. “You cannot not address it.”

The Knoxville South Waterfront Vision Plan adopted by City Council in April lays out a 20-year redevelopment strategy for the three-mile stretch of riverside property from Scottish Pike to Island Home near downtown. Its first phase calls for waterfront consultants to identify 12 priority public implementation projects as well as 12 priority private redevelopment sites.

But though city officials stress they are anxious to use persuasion and incentives to accomplish those projects, the fact remains that a number of different property owners with different interests will be affected by any plan the consultants submit. At some point, some landowners may prove unwilling to cooperate.

Knoxville Chief Operating Officer Dave Hill doesn’t believe the issue will come to a head, at least not any time soon. He says more than 12 sites for public projects have already been identified. Of the property owners contacted thus far, every one of them has indicated a willingness to work with the city, Hill says.

“We want to convince people that it’s much better to have a voluntary relationship than for us to exercise condemnation activity,” Hill says. “It’s about using the power of persuasion.”

Hill notes that the city has already negotiated to purchase 10 feet of right-of-way along Blount Avenue to facilitate a planned public riverwalk development; in another instance, city officials have expressed an interest in helping the Rinker Materials company on Blount with a possible relocation.

And at this stage of the plan, Hill says the city has enough options that it needn’t wrangle with individual property owners who might have other ideas. “We have a 20-year time horizon,” he says. “If someone isn’t prepared to redevelop now, it’s really not a big deal. We’ll just go to places where we have willing landowners.”

But Hultquist says there may be a need to use eminent domain at some point in the future. In such cases, the waterfront plan could leave city officials hamstrung, in that the rules it sets for acquiring property in the redevelopment zone are more restrictive than those set by state law. One difference, for example, is that the redevelopment zone only allows for condemnation of properties that are in an extreme state of dilapidation—moreso than would be required ordinarily.

“There are people out there who can draw these issues out for years,” he says. “I think we’re hearing now that people don’t want to see that.”

Hultquist says the worries over misuse of eminent domain stem from the mayoral administration of Victor Ashe and its waterfront redevelopment efforts in 1992. “It was a textbook case of how not to do it,” he says. “Things were done behind closed doors. There was a lack of communication. When this plan came around, people wanted to make sure this was not more of the same.

“But I think it’s becoming clear this is a very different process. We’ve been very forthright all along.”

The South Waterfront Oversight Committee will meet Thursday, Sept. 21 at 5 p.m. in the small assembly room of the City County Building.

Knoxville TN Metro Pulse: http://www.metropulse.com

Eminent domain divides Long Branch: Long Branch NJ Atlanticville, 9/21/06

Biddle declines to state her position on eminent domain

By Christine Varno

The deep divisions among residents wrought by the city's [of Long Branch NJ] pursuit of redevelopment were evident in the flared tempers and clashing political views that surfaced at last week's council meeting.

Council chambers were crowded Sept. 12 with residents from different areas of the city, some opposing and others supporting the City Council's use of eminent domain to take private homes for private redevelopment projects.

And some residents turned to the council for answers, pressing the newly appointed councilwoman to weigh in on the issue.

Councilwoman Jackeline Biddle declined to state where she stood on eminent domain at the meeting, answering, "I do not choose to use this venue for any political views," when asked about eminent domain.

Biddle was appointed in August to fill former Councilman John "Fazz" Zambrano's vacated seat until the November election, at which time Biddle has said she will seek election to serve the term which expires in June 2010.

"If an issue came up between now and November, I would be prepared to make that decision," Biddle said. "I have not had the opportunity to address it."

Resident Jimmy Keelen, Belmont Avenue, said, "Your view, Ms. Biddle, is called sitting on the fence."

Another city resident, who has been fighting for the past three years to save his home in the Beachfront North Phase II redevelopment zone from being taken, said it is Biddle's duty to let her constituents know her view on eminent domain.

"[Eminent domain] is the biggest issue in this city ever," William Giordano, an MTOTSA (Marine and Ocean terraces and Seaview Avenue) resident, said at the meeting.

"You are in public office now. You are a public official. You need to have an opinion on this," Giordano said.

"The other people who are running [in the November municipal election] already expressed their opinion. It is time for you to do that."

Another resident in the Beachfront South redevelopment zone agreed.

"As a City Council member, you are also a member of the redevelopment agency," Diana Multaire, North Bath Avenue, said to Biddle.

"We are not talking about political views, we are talking about your role on the redevelopment agency," she said. "I am disappointed that you do not have a point of view on eminent domain."

Biddle responded, "I think not having a point of view and not sharing it are two different things," adding that when an issue involving eminent domain appears on the council agenda, she will make her opinion public.

Beachfront South resident Harold Bobrow on the other hand was not hesitant to share his opinion on eminent domain and said, "[City officials] are economically segregating this city.

"What you are doing with eminent domain abuse is both morally and ethically corrupt."

But a number of residents at the council meeting said that they are more than satisfied with the changes in Long Branch.

"I regret the abuse of this public portion," Joy Bastelli, North Fifth Avenue, said. "These meetings have become a circus," she said and added, "Thank you [council] for representing my well-being as a resident of the city."

Cecile Mazza, Cedar Avenue, also said she supports the redevelopment effort spearheaded by Mayor Adam Schneider and the current administration.

"[I am here] to express my appreciation for this City Council," she said. "The oceanfront, which is the jewel of Long Branch, looks magnificent."

She continued, "People all over town are maintaining and fixing up their homes. Developers are moving forward. We are back on the map again."

"[The council] up here has a duty to do what's best for the majority," Mazza said. "Congratulations to this administration for a job well done."

Mazza also referred to the MTOTSA neighborhood as an area once located near crack houses and added that the homes only became desirable because of the oceanfront redevelopment.

Denise Hoagland, who owns a home on Ocean Terrace, objected, saying, "{Mazza] has never been in my neighborhood. We are a community where we share meals together. This woman knows nothing of my neighborhood."

Keelen, whose home and business on Belmont Avenue are located in one of the city's redevelopment zones, added that Mazza and several other city residents supporting redevelopment are "not losing [your] homes or your business."

"And my business and my home are well maintained," Keelen said.

He added that eminent domain could be used in anyone's neighborhood next.

Councilman David Brown responded, "[The council] does not have the right to take anyone's home if it is not in a redevelopment zone.

"This council does not disapprove, discourage or disrespect the citizens. We are not being disrespectful," Brown said.

Hoagland said, "Mr. Brown, you are stealing our homes. Show me the money. Show me where the City of Long Branch is benefiting. Show me, where is the respect there?"

Beachfront South resident Anton DeLuca told the council, "I am 17 years old and I am going through losing my home.

"This is my first meeting here. Have any of you ever read the Constitution of the United States? You think taking my house so other people can live there when you build condos is a public use?

"Mr. Schneider, what would you do if you were me? Would you fight?" DeLuca asked.

Schneider said the city's use of eminent domain fits within the guidelines of the state constitution.

"I would have gotten involved earlier," the mayor said.

Long Branch NJ Atlanticville: http://atlanticville.gmnews.com

OSU trying to use eminent domain to acquire property: KTEN-TV10 Dennison TX, 9/20/06

Oklahoma State University (OSU) is trying to use eminent domain to obtain the final piece of property it wants for its planned athletic village.

OSU's governing body, the Oklahoma A & M Board of Regents, filed suit on August 16thn Payne County District Court, seeking to obtain the Stillwater property now owned by a real estate company known as McCloskey Brothers.

The company filed a counterclaim on September 5th, saying the board did not make a good-faith effort to buy the property and that the property wouldn't be for public use, as is necessary for property obtained through eminent domain, but for a privately owned hotel and conference center.

McCloskey Brothers also claims the board is in violation of the state constitution because a majority of its members are not farmers. A hearing in the case is scheduled for October 5th

Randall Elliott, an attorney for the board, says a potential jury trial to decide the fate of the land, and perhaps its price, could be a year away.

KTEN-TV10 Dennison TX: http://www.kten.com

Jury Awards Landowner $100,000 In Eminent Domain Case: Springdale AR Morning News, 9/19/06

City offered couple $23,900

By Bob Caudle

A Washington County jury deliberated less than 30 minutes before awarding a Springdale couple $100,000 for land taken by city officials to extend Har-Ber Avenue to Arkansas 112.

The city offered the couple $23,900.

Mike Baker, who lives on Har-Ber Avenue between Jones Road and Arkansas 112, had originally asked city officials for $446,400.

But Washington County Circuit Judge Mark Lindsay, in pretrial motions, granted the city's motions to exclude evidence that changed Baker's strategy.

Lindsay ruled Baker could not introduce into evidence his plans to construct another warehouse on his property before the road split his property. Baker was trying to recover the costs for loss of the warehouse.

Likewise, Lindsay upheld the city's motion to exclude conversations Baker had with Mayor Jerre Van Hoose and Patsy Christie, planning and community development director, regarding the warehouse construction.

In his ruling, Lindsay said a landowner is entitled to show the highest and best use for his land, but Baker was attempting to show an additional warehouse was the "only" use for the land.

"The building wasn't there," Lindsay said. "It's speculation to say it would have been built there."

After the pretrial motions eliminated portions of Baker's case, Baker and his attorney, Jim Evans, then asked for between $135,000 and $150,000 from the 12-woman jury, still maintaining the property had been appraised by the city as residential rather than commercial property.

Baker runs a business from a warehouse on the property called Art Prints Inc. that he started as an eBay venture. The warehouse was built in 2001. The city made the offer for the road in 2003.

Both sides presented "expert" witnesses - appraisers explaining how they arrived at their costs on the land by using comparable land sales.

Baker's appraiser came up with the $150,000 figure. Baker, presenting sales from property comparable to his, came up with the $135,000 price.

But it was construction of a median on the road that drew the most attention from the jury.

Original plans showed a four-lane road going by the Baker's house, with no median. But the city built a concrete, tree- and grass-lined median along the swath of the road past Baker's house.

The road splits Baker's property into a 3.64-acre piece with a house and warehouse and a leaves the Bakers with a 0.89-acre triangle on the other side of Har-Ber Avenue.

To access his small piece of property, Baker has to exit his driveway driving west, turn around and drive east, pull up to a gate in the fence the city built around the property and back into it because the angle will not allow a turn onto the land in a vehicle headed east.

The median incensed Mark Risk, Baker's appraiser from Real Estate Consultants, who teaches real estate classes at the University of Arkansas.

"I can't believe a median was put in that road," Risk told jurors. "Medians are bad for business. You can't get to that piece of property. That median is very detrimental to his property."

Tom Reed of Reed and Associates, said that, when he appraised the land, he looked at prices that property surrounding it had sold for, saying he could find no commercial property nearby.

Land adjacent to the Baker property on the north and south sides sold for $36,000 and $37,000 per acre, Reed told the jury.

"There is no reason for changing it (the Baker appraisal)," Reed said. "Even though it was split, the cost remains at $38,000 per acre (the city's offer)."

Despite the judgment, Baker said the pretrial motions gutted much of his original case.

"I feel, honestly, a little let down," Baker said after the jurors returned with the judgment. "We didn't get to present the whole story to the jury. However, other eminent domain people can see they have a chance. They don't have to take being bullied by the city."

Deputy City Attorney Ernest Cate, who tried to convince the jury the city was offering $23,900 for 0.42 acres, the amount of land covered by the road, said after the judgment that he felt the median played a large role in the jury's decision.

"Let's put it this way, it didn't help," Cate said. "I think they looked at that and found the remaining piece of land was hurt by the median. But that's why juries get to decide these things."

Springdale AR Morning News: http://www.nwaonline.net

Standing up to eminent domain: Whittier CA Daily News, 9/20/06

The recent Supreme Court ruling that allowed local governments to take private property for the greater good of the community, i.e. revenue producing commercial projects, sent shockwaves across the nation. California, however, has always been the people's place, and folks in Arcadia have proved that redevelopment muscle doesn't always push out longtime businesses - not if you push back.

There, people rallied behind the treasured Rod's Grill to keep it in its current location on Huntington Drive rather than raze it to make way for an expanded Rusnak Mercedes-Benz dealership.

It took speaking out at public meetings and waging a letter-writing campaign, not only to public officials but to this newspaper, and generally generating publicity about the impending demise of this classic coffee shop and the fact that owner, Manny Romero, didn't want to sell. Members at the Elks Lodge across the street followed suit, refusing to sell.

But time, as the song goes, also was on the side of protesters. They delayed the proceedings just long enough for property values to outstrip the city's means to purchase the two remaining lots of what was originally a deal that included Arcadia Self-Storage and the Church in Arcadia.

Sure, the city could have used eminent domain to take Rod's Grill and the Elks Lodge, but officials rightly backed away from that opportunity, having been taught a lesson by voters when the council considered using eminent domain last year. Council candidates who ran against eminent domain easily won election.

So commendations are offered all around. First, folks have to speak up for what they believe in. Secondly, it's rare when a deal can't be worked out among all parties. So, Arcadia finds itself, by happenstance perhaps, in the role of model for accommodating both needed development and existing businesses and property owners.

Whittier CA Daily News: http://www.whittierdailynews.com

Senate Eminent Domain Bill Introduced: Wisconsin Ag Connection, 9/20/06

New legislation introduced in the [US] Senate last week would address the 2005 Kelo vs. City of New London decision at the federal level.

The bill, S. 3873, the Private Property Rights Protection Act of 2006, was introduced by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.). It would prohibit federal agencies from using eminent domain for private economic development purposes and also prohibits states that receive federal development funds from doing so as well. The bill is identical to H.R. 4128, which the House passed in November by a vote of 376-38.

The Senate is working on a tight schedule, with a recess for midterm elections scheduled to begin Oct. 6. Farm Bureau sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) requesting that he schedule a vote on the bill before the break for midterm elections.

More than 25 states have passed legislation to address various aspects of the Kelo decision, which 95 percent of Americans oppose, according to public opinion research.

Wisconsin Ag Connection: http://www.wisconsinagconnection.com


Other states debate eminent domain: Jackson Hole WY Star Tribune, 9/19/06

By Jeff Narnard, Associated Press

None of the owners of six blocks of downtown [Medford OR] property slated for redevelopment as Middleford Commons wants to stand in the way of the $169 million project.

But they also want a good price for their property and face the trouble of finding a new place to do business.

Enter Measure 39 on the Oregon ballot this fall, which promises to make urban renewal projects tougher for cities in a number of ways.

If passed by voters - and no organized opposition has emerged yet - it would bar public entities like the Medford Urban Renewal Agency from using eminent domain to force the sale of private property that will end up in the hands of private entities such as the developers planning the Middleford Commons project.

It also would give new bargaining power to the people who choose to sell.

"If the property is needed for development and then condemnation is not available to the agency, I would assume they would have to weigh the cost of purchasing the property as opposed to how badly they wanted to develop the property the way they had it planned," said Don Denman, an attorney representing an estate that owns part of the area slated for Middleford Commons.

Under eminent domain, a public agency can condemn property for public purposes, forcing an unwilling property owner to sell to the government at a fair price, as determined by a judge.

In the wake of a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the right of a city to use eminent domain to take private property for economic development, 30 state legislatures have enacted statutes or constitutional amendments to restrict eminent domain, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. All that went to a public vote have passed by overwhelming majorities.

Five more states, including Oregon, are considering voter initiatives this fall. A sixth, Montana, had an eminent domain initiative on its ballot, but a state judge this month ordered it stricken, concluding that methods used to gather signatures were fraudulent and deceptive.

Four of the states with ballot initiatives - Arizona, California, Idaho and Nevada - combine limits on eminent domain with variations on Oregon's Measure 37, enacted in 2004, which demands governments pay property owners if land use restrictions limit their development rights. Only Oregon's Measure 39 is limited to restrictions on eminent domain.

"To the degree that state legislation measures the mood of the country, there is concern that private property rights need additional protections from government actions," said Larry Morandi, director of state policy research for the conference. "The bills being passed on eminent domain as well as the ballot measures vary significantly. There isn't a model developed that says you can't use eminent domain for economic development purposes."

Dave Hunnicutt of Oregonians in Action, the property rights group that authored both Measure 39 and Measure 37, said they just believe that a person shouldn't have their home or business condemned so it can be turned over to a developer. The measure would not apply to projects like a natural gas pipeline or a public park.

"It's a natural outgrowth of Measure 37 and another example of the threat to private property rights," he said. "For most people property means their home and their business, and it's more than just dollars. It's where their families are raised. It's where they sweated and toiled. It's where they have memories."

Linda Dupray has owned Superior Stamp and Sign in downtown Medford for 33 years, and her mother had it before her. But she is not so attached to it that she wouldn't sell to make way for Middleford Commons, which would transform her rubber stamp and sign factory, a bus station and some used car lots into a string of park blocks flanked by retail, office and residential buildings and a hotel.

"I'm just too small to fight the big boys," said Dupray, who got a taste of redevelopment when the streets were torn up, limiting access to her business. "But in the same vein there's nothing wrong with restructuring the downtown area so it's more beneficial to the public. I just wish they would pick on somebody else. I don't want to move. It's a pain. It's been very stressful."

Despite the national groundswell of support for restrictions on eminent domain since the Supreme Court ruling, it is used rarely for urban renewal projects in Oregon, and has never been used by the Medford Urban Renewal Agency, said Dan Thorndike, the agency's attorney.

"That's an expensive way to get property," said Thorndike. "We try to avoid that."

Even in Portland, Oregon's largest city, which has done several major urban renewal projects, eminent domain has only been used 19 times out of 513 property acquisitions since 1980, said Amy Miller Dowell, a development manager for the Portland Development Commission. Four of those were for a public purpose, such as a park, which would be allowed by Measure 39. The other 15 ended up in private ownership, which would be prohibited by Measure 39.

"Without the power to condemn, there's a potential that some of these projects wouldn't have happened," she said.

Salem developer Chuck Sides figures Measure 39 is just a way for Oregonians in Action to stay in business, but will still be overwhelmingly passed by voters, because it sounds like the fair thing to do. Though condemnations are rare, he fears that Measure 39 would will make projects like Keizer Station - a retail and commercial development he co-owns in the Salem suburb of Keizer that was done without any eminent domain condemnations - a thing of the past.

"Cities are not going to sit still with blight," he said. "They'll come up a formula that puts it into streets, parks or low-income housing."

In Dupray's case, Measure 39 might not even apply, because her property is ultimately slated for one of the city-owned parks running down the middle of Middleford Commons, said Thorndike. But it's not clear whether a judge would agree, because it might go through private ownership first.

There are a number of unclear areas in the ballot measure, Thorndike said. For example, he said it's not clear to him whether owners whose property is protected by Measure 39 from eminent domain would qualify for the usual grace period for paying capital gains taxes if they decided to sell the property.

"That's the magic of ballot measures," Thorndike said. "There's always a lot of, 'I don't knows.'"

Jackson Hole WY Star Tribune: http://www.jacksonholestartrib.com

Critics cause Norwich council to delay eminent domain vote: Norwich CT Bulletin, 9/19/06

By Liz Mugavero

A proposed ordinance to restrict the use of eminent domain on residential property attracted much criticism from the public at a [Norwich CT] City Council meeting Monday that resulted in a proposed amendment and postponed vote.

"Eminent domain is necessary, but should also be used as little as possible and purely for public purpose," resident Pearce Browning said. "I am opposed to condemning land for use by a private business unless it's a matter of public safety. People shouldn't be thrown out of their houses so some company can make money."

Redevelopment Agency Chairman Tom Marien urged the council to reject the ordinance because it could apply to residences whose owners didn't live in them.

Prospect Street resident David Crabb called it an "incomplete proposal," saying small businesses would remain at risk. "More is needed here," he said.

Alderman John Crooks, who proposed the ordinance, proposed an amendment to reflect the concerns voiced by the public.

He suggested a clarification that would define the property eligible for a stricter review to include any house or building with up to six units, at least one of which is owner occupied and used as the owner's private residence.

The property in question would qualify for a super majority vote and review by the Administrative, Planning and Economic Development Committee before the city could take it by eminent domain.

The Council voted 5-2 in favor of the amendment. A public hearing is set for Oct. 16 on the amended ordinance.

Norwich CT Bulletin: http://www.norwichbulletin.com

Eminent domain debate heats up: Billings MT Gazette, 9/19/06

Associated Press

Representatives of utilities, municipalities and oil and gas companies clashed Monday with ranchers and homeowners over proposed changes to Wyoming's eminent domain laws.

The Legislature's Joint Agriculture, Public Lands and Water Resources Interim Committee held an all-day hearing on draft legislation that would bring sweeping changes to the law that governs the seizure of private property for public projects, such as highways, pipelines and power lines.

About 100 people attended the hearing, which had to be moved from a small hearing room at the Capitol to a larger space at the Herschler Building, right behind the Capitol.

Proponents of the legislation say landowners need more leverage and equality in negotiating compensation with large companies that employ high-priced attorneys. Opponents of the bill argue that the current state law provides adequate protections to landowners and compensation is in most cases more than the value of the land.

With ambitious plans to build new power plants and transmission lines across the state and new railroad tracks into northeast Wyoming, the stakes are high for both private property owners and developers over any changes to the law.

Opponents of changing the law say the eminent domain law is rarely used in Wyoming because the process already is too costly and time consuming, while supporters of the bill counter that the provision isn't used much because property owners have little chance of being successful under the current law.

Len Mize, director of business relations for Kender-Morgan Inc., which is building a pipeline from some of Wyoming's biggest natural gas fields across the Midwest to Ohio, said the proposed changes in the law weren't necessary because current law already protects landowners.

"If there are bad actors out there, let's deal with that judiciously rather than revamp the whole system," he said.

The issue was raised when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that municipalities could seize homes so a private developer could put up condominiums, a hotel and office buildings.

Judy Rankin, who has lived for 23 years on 6 acres of land west of Cheyenne, said right now there are no rights of way extending through her property. But that is little consolation, she said, when the law allows eminent domain to be used for private purposes.

"It is our sanctuary from a hectic world. After finding out about eminent domain, I didn't feel safe anymore in my own home," she said. "I thought anyone could come and take it away from us for their own purpose."

The draft legislation before Wyoming lawmakers would make it illegal to take property for the benefit of a private developer or for "economic development, industrial development, an increase to the tax base, and increase to tax revenues, an increase in employment, an increase in general economic health."

But the proposal goes even further and seeks to add new restrictions and conditions for using eminent domain for traditional public projects.

It would increase compensation to private property owners whose land is taken, require that projects be built through any available public lands first before crossing private land, allow jury trials in determining factors such as whether the project is needed and provide for annual payments with cost living increases each year for private land.

"Give us an equal say in what happens to our land," Beverly Goodman, of Buford, told the committee.

But developers counter the current law is fair and necessary in obtaining rights of way and easements to deliver Wyoming's energy resources to consumers in the state and across the nation. The proposed law would increase costs and riskiness in billion-dollar projects to the point that utilities will have to increase rates or go elsewhere for power.

"This bill promises to hurt customers," said Bob Tarantola, a representative of Rocky Mountain Power.

Billings MT Gazette: http://www.billingsgazette.net

Eminent domain hot in Millville: Bridgeton NJ News, 9/19/06

By Jaime Marine

Local government watchdog group Millville First expressed concerns about the city's plans for the first Revenue Allocation District [RAD] in the state and possible uses of eminent domain related to this plan during a press conference Monday.

The briefing was held a day before the city was expected to hold a public hearing and final vote on the issue. This meeting will take place tonight at 7 p.m. in city hall.

"The document is flawed and won't hold up to careful analysis," member Paul Porreca said, adding he would like to see it reworked.

The purpose of the RAD is to use part of the revenues earned in the target area toward taxes and the other portion toward projects for that district.

The Center City RAD area includes the downtown and commercial areas, including routes 55 and 47, as well as the area extending to the former Ball-Foster Glass Plant, Third Ward and riverfront.

In a press release, Millville First states, "The city plans to use the millions of dollars diverted (from) the general fund to pay for what they refer to as improvements."

It goes on to say documents obtained by the group indicate that a portion of the plan includes the acquisition and demolition of over $3 million worth of privately owned property.

"This will be obtained through the use of eminent domain," the release states. "Millville First, while supportive of economic development, does not believe in the taking of private property for the use of private development."

Member Emil Van Hook and Porreca both said this is a major concern and said they plan to initiate a petition drive to urge city commission to ban the use of eminent domain for anything but "genuine public projects."

Van Hook and Porreca intend to present a draft of their petition to Millville First during their October meeting for feedback and then distribution.

Porreca added the group hopes to get at least 2,000 signatures on the petition, which would then be given to the city clerk in hopes the commissioners would pass the ordinance banning eminent domain for the benefit of a private developer or private development.

If the ordinance were not adopted, Van Hook and Porreca said it could then go to the public in the form of a ballot question.

"It gives the city commission the opportunity to respond positively to the people," Porreca said.

The group needs at least 15 percent of voters who voted in the last general election, meaning the need at least 1,730 signatures.

Planning Director Kim Warker said the plan states there are properties the city wants to acquire, but said that does not mean eminent domain has to be used.

"Acquiring property doesn't mean eminent domain," she said. "(Eminent domain) is primarily criticized when it is used to take land held in poor areas and pushes poor people out to build upscale development. We are doing the complete opposite."

Warker said the focus of the plan is not eminent domain, which is a tool available to the city, and it should not be made to look that way.

Commissioner Joe Derella said eminent domain is in the state constitution and there are special guidelines that have to be met in order to utilize it.

"Currently in the City of Millville, eminent domain was used on one property by the new retail area and that was a billboard," he said, adding in some instances it is needed.

"The city has made a commitment in the past and will continue with that commitment to avoid eminent domain whenever possible."

Additionally, Millville First also cited issues with the 15-year time frame, which they said "places this and future commissions in a straitjacket."

"Taxes generated by Target and the new shopping center cannot be used for anything else like tax relief," the group said through a statement. "The RAD raises no additional money. Any unforeseen expenses in other parts of the city will have to be paid for without the use of those funds."

Derella said the city sees the RAD as an opportunity to help parts of the community in need.

"No other commission has found a way to help support, with long-term amounts of money, those neighborhoods," he said.

Millville First inquired about a plan for an airport RAD, but Warker said those plans have been abandoned.

"It has been through a lot of adjustments and modifications," she said of the RAD plan, adding the state has been made aware of all the changes. "There was an airport RAD and a Center City RAD, but it was changed to make it a lot less complicated."

Warker added the focus has always been on redevelopment in Center City and since they had an anchor project - Union Lake Crossing - and believed in development along the river, they decided to focus on that area.

Derella said Goodman Properties' shopping center will generate $22.9 million in the next 15 years in new tax revenue.

He added about $11.3 million of that will be dedicated to the central neighborhood through the RAD and about $11.5 million will go to the city, county and schools.

"We are making a long-term commitment to the neighborhoods to show our (dedication) to them," Derella said.

Bridgeton NJ News: http://www.nj.com/news/bridgeton

Does Branson's "blight" increase the chance of eminent domain being used to take your property? Branson MO Courier, 5/4/06

By Gary Groman

Prior to the passage of the new eminent domain legislation by the Missouri Legislature recently, could the City of Branson take your home or business through the use of eminent domain, and give to another private individual or entity because it would generate more revenue and jobs for the city than it receives from your property? The answer was "Yes."

After the passage of the new eminent domain legislation by the Missouri Legislature recently, can the City of Branson take your home or business through the use of eminent domain, and give to another private individual or entity because it will generate more revenue and jobs for the city than it receives from your property? The answer is "Yes."

Recent media coverage of the new eminent domain laws passed by the Missouri legislature on May 5 trumpets the comforting thought that the homes and businesses of Missourians cannot be condemned using eminent domain for economic development. The changes were in response to a recent U.S. Supreme Court case.

In that case, long term residents had their homes taken by their city through the use of eminent domain and given to private developers for economic development because the new development would generate more revenue and jobs for the city than the taxes on the homes did. The Supreme Court said the use of eminent domain for that purpose was permitted by the U.S. Constitution but that it was up to the individual states as to how, if at all, that permitted use was implemented. The state of Connecticut, where the property in question was located, had a state law that permitted the taking of private property for economic development so the court ruled in favor of the city and the residents lost their homes.

In an effort to insure that the same thing could not happen in Missouri, various actions were instituted at the state level with the net result of that action being the passage of the recent legislation. The legislative mandate states, "No condemning authority shall acquire private property through the process of eminent domain for solely economic development purposes" and, at first blush, all seems well.

But wait, "Not so quick kemo sabe," why is the word "solely" used if the legislative intent is to truly prevent government entities from taking the property of residents and business owners through the use of eminent domain for economic development purposes? In that context, why not use a more restrictive word such as "primarily" rather than "solely?"

The difference is dramatic. Using "solely" as the criteria if there is any other purpose involved, the use of eminent domain for the purposes of economic development would be legal regardless of the degree of the other use. On the other hand if a more restrictive word such as "primarily" had been used and the evidence showed that the primary purpose of the eminent domain was for economic development its use would not be authorized.

Why didn't the legislature use a more restrictive term? Could it be because they wanted to permit the most flexibility for land to be taken by cities using the power of eminent domain for economic development while appearing to restrict its use? Unfortunately, the bad news gets even worse.

The legislation specifically defines the term "economic development" as the "use of a specific piece of property or properties which would provide an increase in the tax base, tax revenues, employment, and general economic health." If only it stopped there but it does not; it goes on to exclude from the definition, among other things, "the elimination of blighted, substandard, or unsanitary conditions."

Interestingly enough, the new legislation does not contain a definition of "blighted." Instead, in a move reminiscent of the old bean under the shell trick, the legislation states that the blight determination in eminent domain cases will be determined "with regard to whether the property meets the relevant statutory definition of blight."

The City of Branson has already proven itself to be the master of "statutory blight" which, according to recent ads recently published in local newspapers by the Mayor and Branson Board of Aldermen, consists of, among other things, "criteria which do not necessarily meet or follow the standard dictionary definition of blight." In terms of the City of Branson using its eminent domain authority to take private property for economic development purposes, what is the net result of combining the City of Branson's, seemingly, insatiable need for more revenues to pay for more and more government by giving taxpayer funds to developers to compete against their existing businesses and their propensity to use statutory blight? Repeat after me, "Our Father who art in heaven?."

Branson MO Courier: http://www.bransoncourier.com

Lawmakers hear debate on eminent domain law: Billings MT Gazette, 9/18/06

Associated Press

Developers of power lines, streets, oil and gas and other projects were scheduled to testify at a Monday morning committee meeting, where they hoped to limit proposed changes to Wyoming's eminent domain laws proposed by landowners advocating for more protections and compensation.

The Legislature's Joint Agriculture, Public Lands and Water Resources Interim Committee planned to hear from landowners, oil and gas developers and others on changes in the law that governs the seizure of private property for public projects, such as highways.

The issue was raised when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that municipalities could seize homes so a private developer could put up condominiums, a hotel and office buildings.

The draft legislation before Wyoming lawmakers would clarify current law to make it illegal to take property for the benefit of a private developers or for "economic development, industrial development, an increase to the tax base, and increase to tax revenues, an increase in employment, an increase in general economic health." But the proposal goes even further and seeks to add new restrictions and conditions for using eminent domain for traditional public projects.

Landowners contend the law now leaves them at a disadvantage when facing developers of oil and gas, power lines and pipelines wielding the threat of eminent domain. But developers counter the current law is fair and necessary in obtaining rights of way and easements to deliver Wyoming's energy resources to consumers in the state and across the nation.

With ambitious plans to build new power plants and transmission lines across the state and new railroad tracks into northeast Wyoming, the stakes are high for both landowners and developers over any changes to the law.

Billings MT Gazette: http://www.billingsgazette.net

Ballot Measure Could Change Eminent Domain Rules: KOIN-TV6 Portland OR, 9/17/06

A measure on the Oregon ballot this fall could make urban renewal projects tougher for cities in a number of ways.

If passed by voters, Measure 39 would bar public entities from using eminent domain to force the sale of private property that will end up in the hands of private developers.

It also would give new bargaining power to the people who choose to sell.

Under eminent domain, a public agency can condemn property for public purposes, forcing an unwilling property owner to sell to the government at a price by a judge.

The measures comes after a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the right of a city to use eminent domain to take private property for economic development. Since then, 30 state legislatures have enacted statutes or constitutional amendments to restrict eminent domain.

All that went to a public vote have passed by overwhelming majorities.

KOIN-TV6 Portland OR: http://www.koin.com

Coalition decries eminent domain plan: California Bay Area Daily Review, 9/17/06

Local leaders warn that passage of Prop. 90 would create 'chaos' for residents, city governments

By Matt O'Brien

The passage of [California] Proposition 90 this November would be "chaos" and a "debacle" for East Bay cities, a coalition of worried local leaders agreed at a summit held last week.

The panic was palpable as business advocates, civic administrators and lawyers gathered Thursday at Hayward City Hall. They were deliberating on what to do about a proposition designed to curtail the government's power to make certain laws and take private land.

"Let's not live in 'Alice in Wonderland,'" said Oakland City Attorney John Russo, expressing frustration that the measure has been presented by its proponents as a mythic battle to protect private property from abusive government agencies.

He and other city officials took little solace from Kristine Hart, executive director of the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association, an avid Proposition 90 supporter who acknowledged the measure has some glitches but said the courts would work through them.

"It's not perfect, but it restores to the public the rights they thought they had under the Constitution," Hart said.

The measure, if enacted, would make two major changes in current state law.

It would require local governments, when they make new laws, to pay back property owners who suffer "substantial" economic losses as a result of those new laws.

It would also limit the government's authority to take ownership of private property through the process known as eminent domain.

Dan Muller, a Walnut Creek condemnation lawyer, said he shares concern about the state's eminent domain process, but believes the other provisions in Proposition 90 are unrelated and go far beyond trying to solve that problem.

"It creates potential chaos. It's just not good for probably anybody," Muller said.

Muller said the measure could make cities dangerously liable for many ordinary laws, from zoning changes to housing or consumer protections, if property owners can make a case the ordinance devalues their property in some way.

"No matter how you try to say that cities will likely be able to navigate this proposition if it passes, there will be an outstanding amount of litigation and an outstanding amount of cost," Muller said. "It could be disastrous."

Although most city leaders say they are far more worried about that regulatory provision than they are about a change in eminent domain law, it is eminent domain that continues to galvanize the public.

On Thursday the group met just a block from Atherton Street, the setting several years ago of one of Hayward's fiercest property rights disputes.

The city's Redevelopment Agency, using its eminent domain powers, acquired a downtown auto shop against the owner's wishes because it was sitting on land where city leaders wanted to build high-density condominiums close to the BART station.

"We don't use it that often," said City Manager Jesus Armas. "That was used to assemble a parcel and create what is now a pretty attractive housing complex."

Usually, the city merely threatens to use its eminent domain powers. The last time the Hayward City Council did so, it was against a downtown property owner whose brick building is now the only one left in the city that has not been brought up to modern seismic codes. City officials argued that the building is a public safety hazard, and the owner has since begun work to fix it up.

Local leaders found little consensus on the current eminent domain process after the Thursday summit, yet all but Hart were adamantly opposed to Proposition 90.

Ed Del Beccaro of real estate firm Colliers International hoped the proposition would fail, but gain enough support to force the state Legislature to work out a better solution.

"I hope it gets 49.9 percent," he said. "There is a chord. There is an abuse out there."

California Bay Area Daily Review: http://www.insidebayarea.com