Petition battles eminent domain: Bridgeton NJ News, 2/14/07

By Jaime Marine

Watchdog group Millville First's petition looking to ban the use of eminent domain for private purposes within the city is ready to go before city commission.

President Emil Van Hook said an announcement would be made to members of the group during their Tuesday night meeting that the petition will be submitted to city commissioners no later than the next commission meeting on Feb. 20.

He said the petition, which will be given to the city clerk, asks for one of two things - either commissioners pass an ordinance banning eminent domain for the benefit of a private developer or private development or have the matter go before the public in the form of a ballot question.

"For several weeks, we have had enough signatures to turn in the petition," Van Hook said, adding the only reason they waited to submit it to commissioners was because they were trying to best decide how to handle the issue of a special election, should city commission decide not to pass the ordinance.

"It would require a special election, which is a costly item," he said. "(Millville First) is not looking to cost taxpayers additional funds."

If it would get to the level of a special election, Van Hook said the local government watchdog group would be willing to work out a mutual agreement with the city to put it on as a ballot question during the November election.

"We don't know if that has occurred before," he said, adding they are open to talking to commission to see if it would be possible. "Our intention is not to cost taxpayers money."

Still, if that didn't work, a special election would have to be held.

The group is still tallying their total signatures, but Van Hook said they have over the required amount of 941, plus or minus a few.

"We have well over 1,000 and I expect four more pages (each containing 12 signatures) to come in," he said, adding they wanted to have extra in the event any signatures were discarded.

The group needs the signatures of at least 15 percent of the city residents who voted in the last general election.

"There is a difference between this and eminent domain for hospitals, schools or highways," Van Hook said.

Millville First member Paul Porreca previously described this petition as a chance for the city commission to respond positively to the people.

The city is expected to respond to this petition through Solicitor Rich McCarthy once it ipresented to them.

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