Belmar votes to limit use of eminent domain: Asbury Park NJ Press, 3/3/07

Redevelopment won't target homes

By Erik Larsen

In a 3-to-1 vote, the [Belmar NJ] Borough Council this week adopted an ordinance that prevents the town from using eminent domain to acquire any owner-occupied home for redevelopment.

"We have seen how eminent domain has been abused in other Shore towns, and now the residents of Belmar know that it could never happen here," said Councilman Matthew J. Doherty, a Democrat, who had proposed the ordinance after taking office on Jan. 1. "This ordinance grants protection to homeowners that has the strength of law."

Councilman Barry Zimmerman, a fellow Democrat, cast the lone dissenting vote. Councilman William Merkler, a Republican who had expressed concerns about the ordinance when it was introduced, was not at Wednesday's meeting.

"(Zimmerman's) concern was that he did not want to see one person hold up redevelopment that would benefit the entire town," Doherty said.

Merkler, the only Republican on the dais, had previously questioned the reason for such an ordinance. In the past, borough officials have said there is just one home in the path of the redevelopment plan, and that home had been exempted from the proposal. However, more recently, Mayor Kenneth E. Pringle has said there are actually four or five homes that are potentially in the path of redevelopment.

Doherty said he will propose the ordinance to other local governments that are seeking a way to prevent abuse of eminent domain in their towns.

Doherty has said he hoped to calm fears in town that the council had a redevelopment agenda broader than current plans to rebuild much of the commercial downtown from Shark River to 10th Avenue along Main Street.

The ordinance does not extend to commercial properties because it would eliminate certain tax-exempt opportunities due commercial property owners who sell their lands or businesses in areas legally declared blighted, as in the case of Belmar's redevelopment zone, Doherty has said.

Asbury Park NJ Press: http://www.app.com