Eminent domain on docket: Bridgeton NJ News, 3/6/07

By Jaime Marine

[Millville NJ] City commissioners are expected to vote on a resolution tonight which gives them further direction on a petition submitted by local watchdog group Millville First.

The petition, which asks commissioners to pass an ordinance banning eminent domain for the benefit of a private developer or private development, was submitted on Feb. 20 during the commission meeting.

It also asked for a special election, should commissioners not pass the ordinance, but Millville First members say they now accept the fact that can't happen. No action was taken on the petition by commissioners during the February meeting.

"The city attorney, along with the redevelopment attorneys for the city, have advised that the proposed ordinance is not subject to initiative pursuant to NJSA 40A:12A-28 of the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law," the resolution states.

Therefore, the resolution is proposing the city clerk be relieved of the responsibility to verify the signatures on the petitions, and the governing body accept there are sufficient signatures to satisfy the requirement.

It reiterates, "The redevelopment process is not subject to ordinance through voter initiative."

These proposals go along with Solicitor Rich McCarthy's statements on Feb. 20, where he said, "Any petitions which seek to adopt an ordinance or resolution, through initiative or referendum, to restrict or eliminate (eminent domain) in a designated redevelopment area are in direct contravention of state law.

"If presented with petitions of this type, (the clerk's office) may receive and file them, but (they) are under no legal obligation to take further action."

Millville First President Emil Van Hook has said any city commission should recognize a petition signed by over 1,100 voters.

"They have by ordinance banned condemnation at the request of the motorsports park and in addition they passed a resolution stating they would not condemn a single-family owner occupied home," he previously said.

"There is no question, whatsoever, that if they had any desire to abide by the wishes of the signers of the petition they have the power to do so."

Van Hook previously said the group is not ruling out legal action, but said they are hoping to avoid it.

Also during tonight's meeting, Vice Mayor Joe Derella is scheduled to talk about eminent domain issues. The agenda did not give specifics on his report.

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