Pipeline foes head to Columbia: Rock Hill SC Herald, 2/17/07

Opponents take fight against planned eminent domain seizure to state panel

By Monica Chen

Opponents to a 42-mile pipeline planned to run from York and Chester counties [in South Carolina] to Lancaster County have taken their fight to Columbia.

About 30 members of Patriots Against the Pipeline recently attended a hearing held by a committee assessing the state's eminent domain laws.

The committee - of which Sen. Greg Gregory, R-Lancaster, is a member - is expected make recommendations on possible changes next month.

Many of the residents who attended the hearing have been embroiled in lawsuits for months with Patriots Energy Group - a consortium of York, Chester and Lancaster Natural Gas Authorities that is planning the pipeline. The companies argue that because the pipeline is for the public good, they can use eminent domain powers to secure right-of-way for the construction.

General managers of the three natural gas authorities also attended the hearing in Columbia.

PEG officials have said the new pipeline will save the gas authorities $60 million over 30 years and will ensure available capacity to meet the area's growth.

But the residents say the proposed pipeline would unnecessarily intrude on their properties.

An existing line owned by Carolina Gas Transmission Corp., like PEG's proposed line, runs from an interstate gas pipeline west of York County to a station in Lancaster County.

Jim Olson, a former executive of Ford and Toyota now living in York County, spoke for the residents and bemoaned the lack of oversight of the natural gas authorities.

"They have banded together to form a large commercial entity, PEG, that will negotiate multi-year, multi-million-dollar purchase contracts over a multi-state area - subject to no regulation," Olson said, according to a copy of his statements.

Olson also called for required public hearings on PEG's plans.

"We believe future demand can be met by the existing pipeline company," Olson said, "making a new pipeline redundant and the damage it would cause unnecessary."

PEG officials embarked on a $32 million plan for a new transport line to connect to an interstate gas line in 2005. But they quickly encountered opposition from residents who bristled at offers for their land.

The lawsuits, filed by at least 11 landowners out of more than 100 along the pipeline's proposed route, have halted its plans. PEG has acquired some of the hundreds of acres needed for the project, but with the lawsuits pending, none of the pipes has been laid in the ground.

Tim Thornton, general manager of the Lancaster County Natural Gas Authority, said this week the new line would provide a measure of independence and cushion the area from pricing fluctuations.

At the hearing, Mike Enoch, general manager of the Chester County Natural Gas Authority, implored the legislators to preserve the status quo in eminent domain laws.

"Eminent domain exists because services such as electricity, natural gas, sewer and water are considered necessities," Enoch said in a prepared statement. "They are essential services upon which lives and livelihoods depend."

"The purpose of eminent domain is to prevent any property owner ... from denying an entire community adequate service," he added.

South Carolina law forbids a government from using its condemnation powers to seize property for private use unless it's used to eliminate blight. Utilities and special purpose districts also can seize property for the good of the public.

The study committee is one of two steps being taken to reform the state's eminent domain laws. The first was a constitutional amendment passed by voters in November that allows the legislature to enact laws that limit eminent domain powers.

The Eminent Domain Study Committee is expected to make recommendations by March 15.

Rock Hill SC Herald: http://www.heraldonline.com

Port condemnation case is a last act in eminent domain: Jacksonville FL Times-Union, 2/17/07

In May, a jury will decide how much the authority will have to pay for the land

By Joe Light

Tom Scholl answered the opposing attorney's questions tersely, his voice barely audible even in a silent courtroom.

"And Keystone Properties' only asset is its interest in the Smurfit property, correct?" asked Joel Settembrini, referring to 60 riverfront acres on Talleyrand Avenue by the name of its former owner, Jefferson Smurfit.

Scholl bristled.

"It's my property."

The trial in November wasn't well attended. Lawyers and witnesses easily outnumbered the public. But it was a hallmark in Florida property rights cases. It would be one of the last battles of its breed in eminent domain - a clash between a landowner defending his business and a deepwater port authority racing to acquire land before new laws would make it impossible.

It also was the climax in the decade-long story of a family business' struggle to succeed in Jacksonville, a tale punctuated by shrouded negotiations, bad blood, and a partnership between industry juggernauts to put a coal terminal in Jacksonville.

And the stakes were high. Scholl had recently bought the land, some of the last acres suitable for building a local port, for about $8 million. He planned to build his own coal terminal, before the Port Authority filed an action to take the property by eminent domain.

Scholl would lose that court battle. On Dec. 20, the judge in the case ruled in favor of the Port Authority.

In granting the order, the judge wrote that the Port Authority carried its burden in proving the necessity and public purpose of the land. She also noted that the new constitutional amendment and legislation altering eminent domain was not yet effective when the authority filed its action.

The authority opted for a "slow take." At a trial scheduled for May, a jury will decide how much the authority will have to pay for Scholl's land. At that time, port officials will decide whether to take the land.

While the condemnation was enough to leave a bitter taste, Scholl, the owner of Fort Myers-based energy company Keystone Coal, believed that the Port Authority's intention for the property was even more unsettling.

According to memorandums, e-mails, and a draft lease agreement, the authority's most likely tenant for his land was Drummond Coal, a Birmingham, Ala.-based competitor.

But port officials had their sights set on the swath of land on the St. Johns River long before Drummond entered the picture.

Obtaining the property
In 2002, the Port Authority wanted the site of the old paper mill for a completely different project - a car processing facility for Mercedes-Benz.

The authority attempted to buy the property twice, first from paper company Jefferson Smurfit, and then from Jax Maritime Partners, an investment company made up primarily of executives from Haskell, a local design-build firm. In both cases, the Port Authority lost the bidding war because the sellers wanted protection from environmental problems that the authority might discover. Attorneys said that the Port Authority couldn't legally provide that protection.

In the meantime, Mercedes-Benz executives wouldn't commit to the Jacksonville site, and Jax Maritime Partners sold about 60 acres to Keystone.

Port Authority officials, who had never used eminent domain before, moved forward with the condemnation.

Meanwhile, two industry giants saw an opening.

Acquisition troubles
Even as Port Authority officials remained confident that Mercedes-Benz would come, some executives at railroad company Norfolk Southern secretly hoped the deal would fall through.

With the land freed up, Norfolk Southern could lure a huge coal terminal to the city. The company would profit greatly from hauling the coal to power plants around the Southeast.

Before the Mercedes-Benz deal faltered, Norfolk Southern executives began discussions with Drummond Coal, a subsidiary of The Drummond Co., to build the terminal.

Compared to Keystone, The Drummond Co. was an energy juggernaut. The company had nearly $1.8 billion in sales in 2005, according to Hoover's Inc., almost 18 times what Keystone sold according to its annual report.

Norfolk Southern expected annual revenues of more than $150 million from the terminal, according to projections exchanged in e-mails between its executives.

In March 2005, Steve Evans, a Norfolk Southern assistant vice president, introduced Drummond and the coal option to the Port Authority. Although the company would eventually require cooperation with competing railroad operator CSX to make the deal work, Norfolk Southern officials insisted on secrecy at the beginning, since they didn't want CSX to interfere with the Drummond deal.

Port officials recognized the huge revenue stream a terminal could bring and entered negotiations with Drummond, first signing a non-binding memorandum of understanding and then moving on to draft a lease.

According to those documents, for the port, the deal would bring more than $11 million per year in rent and other fees, money that could be used to fund other projects. According to the Port Authority's annual report, the port generated about $33 million in operating revenue for all of 2005.

The three players also agreed to put up money to fund the construction.

Drummond's initial capital investment in the project would be about $100 million. Another $50 million would come from Norfolk Southern, and the Port Authority would contribute $25 million.

Although they could see more than a 36 percent revenue increase and believed they would benefit the public by feeding the Southeast's energy needs, port officials judged the terminal's contribution to local job growth and economic impact on the rest of the city to be less robust.

Roy Schleicher, senior director of marketing and trade development, wrote in a May 2005 memorandum to director of properties David Stubbs that the Drummond project would be a "cash cow" for the port and that "very little economic impact on the city would be realized."

Was it all a clever ruse?
When Keystone bought a hunk of the property from Jax Maritime Partners, Scholl threw a wrench in the trio's plans.

Scholl said he planned to build his own coal terminal, but Norfolk Southern executives grumbled amongst themselves in e-mails and debated whether or not Scholl was simply trying to elevate the price of the property before the port took it.

In an e-mail last year to other Norfolk Southern executives, Evans wrote that Keystone "could ruin our ability to develop the Jacksonville Coal Terminal." Jim Hamilton, another Norfolk Southern executive, wrote in an April e-mail that Scholl was "leveraging the property to get more money from Jaxport."

When Scholl seemed to start construction and erected a sign designating the land as a Keystone terminal, many Norfolk Southern officials became convinced that Scholl did intend to build a port, according to e-mails from the railroad company. Others still thought it was part of an elaborate ruse.

"It is interesting to note that, internally at NS, we are also divided as to Mr. Scholl's intentions," wrote Evans in a May 14, 2006 e-mail. "I still think that, if he is serious about proceeding to build a bulk terminal on this location, he has not addressed many key details, including rail service."

A key argument in favor of what Evans called the "Big Lie Theory" - If Scholl thought he could make money on his own terminal, where was the business plan?

Defending his plans
In the courtroom, Scholl's answers became even more succinct.

"All right. Now, your testimony is you're planning to develop the coal terminal or marine terminal of your dreams. Do you have a written business plan for this?" Settembrini asked.

"No. A total plan? I've got projections and this sort of thing, but no. I'm doing it up here."

Scholl pointed to his head.

"It's up here?"

"That's the way I work, yes, sir."

"And let the record reflect you're pointing to your temple."

Scholl didn't have a business plan written down and hadn't attempted to negotiate with Norfolk Southern, the only railroad that had tracks to transport the coal from the facility.

He also never approached port officials to let them know his plans, according to his court testimony.

Keystone attorney Andrew Brigham said that Scholl has invested more than $2 million to develop the property and even had plans to receive his first coal shipment before he lost the case. Scholl also owns coal concessions in South America and needs a port to receive the coal, he said.

But as the coal company's plans unfolded, Norfolk Southern executives held serious doubts about Keystone's financial capability to develop the port.

When Keystone tried to lease Norfolk Southern property adjacent to the former Smurfit site, Louis Cataland, a Norfolk Southern director of real estate, wrote that Norfolk Southern "does not believe Keystone will have sufficient financial ability to pay not just the rent, but also the continuing dredging costs."

According to Keystone's financial report, as of the end of 2005, Keystone Coal Company and its associated companies had about $31.6 million in liabilities and about $42.3 million in assets.

Its net income in 2005 was about $3 million, down from $4 million in 2004.

Brigham said that Scholl could get investment partners to help build his operation if he kept the land.

If Keystone did build a coal terminal, executives from Norfolk Southern, Drummond, and the Port Authority believed it would be far smaller than what they planned. Port Authority officials also believed that they were better suited to ensure the land was always used for port operations and would not be converted to another use if and when Keystone sold it off.

Moving forward
Port Authority officials now maintain that Drummond is just one of several possible tenants for the site.

E-mail exchanges between port officials and Seoul-based Hanjin Shipping indicate that the huge Asian carrier is interested in building a container terminal on the property, and port officials met with Hanjin representatives as late as December of last year.

"We're evaluating all options with them," said David Kaufman, the port's senior director of planning and property.

Both during and after the trial, Keystone attorneys suggested that the Port Authority solicited letters from other parties to help them during the trial.

Drummond director of real estate George Wilbanks didn't return more than a dozen messages left with his secretary over a month.

Steve Evans declined to comment. In a Sept. 19 deposition he testified that, last time he asked, port officials said they intended to move forward with the coal terminal. He also said Norfolk Southern had invested money to begin the preliminary engineering.

Hamilton, another Norfolk Southern executive, declined to comment, citing a confidentiality agreement, but said, "If there's a development project in play, it's always good for the communities we serve."

Jacksonville FL Times-Union: http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online

Copacabana up-in-arms over forced move: amNewYork, New York NY, 2/19/07

By Farnoosh Torabi

"The hottest spot north of Havana" is likely moving farther uptown.

Through eminent domain, the city is evicting The Copacabana from its current leased location on 550 W. 34th St. to make way for the No. 7 subway line extension. The 75-year-old hip-hop and salsa club must vacate by July 1. It's been at the 34th Street location since the early 1990s.

"I'm furious, to say the least," said Copacabana owner John Juliano, who's managed the club for more than 30 years.

The glitzy nightspot's handler is currently looking at two smaller sites in the Times Square area. But Juliano said he hasn't found a suitable replacement, saying few other areas match the privacy of the club's existing block, an isolated section of 11th Avenue.

"The club business creates lines and cars and traffic and noise, and when you don't have people around, nobody bothers you," he said. "The police don't bother you."

The owner is also upset about moving because he suspects The Copacabana - a historical, social and cultural destination in New York, with distinguished visitors from Frank Sinatra to the Clintons - will get replaced by upscale residential units.

"The Latin community is very upset," Juliano said. "The city just throws you out on the street, and they call it progress ... so some rich real estate mogul can put up a high-rise."

Some property-law attorneys argue that eminent domain law - the right for the government to seize private property for public projects - has been watered down. They also say individuals and business owners face a higher risk of eviction by the city.

"[Eminent domain] used to just happen for true public purpose reasons," said Michael Rikon, an attorney with Goldstein, Goldstein, Rikon & Gottlieb. "Now, [New York] has some huge condemnation proceedings, which are economically driven. Like in Brooklyn, there's a huge project for the Nets stadium and luxury housing."

Meanwhile, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has been lobbying against eminent domain restrictions, argues seizing private property is essential for "responsible redevelopment" in New York City. The mayor often cites the clean-up of Times Square as proof.

In the meantime, Juliano is proceeding with the city's wishes. But he's hired an experienced eminent domain attorney to make sure he gets a fair deal. New York law provides that the evictee must receive an advanced settlement, including a "fair market" value of the property and its trade fixtures. Trade fixtures include any fixtures, equipment or improvements made to the property.

"The whole idea of an advanced payment is to allow the commercial tenant some money to reestablish its business elsewhere," Rikon said.

amNewYork, New York NY: http://www.amny.com

The Keene City Council Votes In Favor of Eminent Domain: Keene NH Free Keene, 2/18/07

The Keene City Council has voted 9 to 6 in favor of of forcibly taking private property from a Keene resident for “the good of the community.” For years, the council and Keene residents have debated over whether or not a roundabout should be built at the Main, Winchester, and Marlboro street intersection, but until recently eminent domain was not on the table. Thomas Eaton, who owns the land in question, was considering selling the coveted piece of property to the city of Keene, but when the project skyrocketed over the projected budget to over $4 million, he withdrew the offer.

The city of Keene has no right to take private property from anyone for any reason. This country was founded on property rights, and no government, even for the good of the “community,” should be allowed to violate any rights. Rights by definition cannot be taken away, and if the city is permitted to take private property, then property rights must not exist.

Eaton is not alone in his fight to keep his property. Many Keene residents think Eaton should be allowed to keep his land. Although non-scientific, WKBK’s web poll shows 85% of respondents do not want eminent domain to be used in this case. The Keene City Council clearly is not listening to the opposition, as seems to be a recurring theme.

Although many people correctly remember being taught at a young age that taking something that belongs to someone else is wrong, the council members who voted in favor of eminent domain seem to have lost their moral compasses. They justify their deeds by saying it is not for them, but for the public good. Council member Nathaniel Stout justifies the wrong in taking Eaton’s property by seeing the good in gifting it to the public. He told the Keene Sentinel “Nobody likes eminent domain… but in this particular case, it’s not just taking. There’s give too.” With Stout’s reasoning, a bank robber should not be arrested for robbing a bank if he shares the bounty. While a nice story, it is not the job of the council members to act as modern day Robin Hoods.

The public needs to stand up against the council members who are pushing eminent domain through. There will be a public hearing on the issue on March 19 at 6 pm. If the public accepts the stealing of Eaton’s property, anyone’s, including the current coucil member’s property, could be next.

Keene NH Free Keene: http://freekeene.com

Senators to reveal eminent domain concepts: Wooster OH Daily Record, 2/18/07

By Mark Kovac

Two [Ohio] Republican [state] lawmakers will move next week on separate issues aimed at establishing statewide standards for the use of eminent domain and limiting public entities' ability to take possession of properties for private economic development projects.

Sen. Kevin Coughlin from Cuyahoga Falls will introduce a resolution to place the issue before voters, in the form of a constitutional amendment ensuring the state has authority to set rules for eminent domain in all political subdivisions. Sen. Tim Grendell from Chesterland, meanwhile, will introduce a bill to establish uniform standards that apply across the state.

Both are expected to be introduced Tuesday, according to Senate President Bill Harris, an Ashland Republican, who has endorsed the efforts.

Eminent domain refers to the process by which government entities take possession of private land, generally for public uses.

Coughlin's proposal would ban the use of eminent domain for economic development - that is, for a government entity to take land from one private property owner and transfer it to another for redevelopment. Additionally, it would empower the Legislature to set regulations for eminent domain, including in cities where home rule allows standards to be established locally.

"A person who lives in the city, their property rights are no less important than a person who lives in a township," Coughlin said, adding later, "I have no objection to taking land for public use. Clearly, (government taking land through eminent domain for private developers is) not public use. We need to have some protection against those kinds of takings."

Recent U.S. and Ohio Supreme Court decisions also have affected how eminent domain is used. One allowed local governments to take land in non-blighted areas and transfer it to private entities for redevelopment, while the other raised the standard government must meet in order to take land from a private property owner, according to information compiled by the Senate Republican Caucus. Grendell's bill would focus on objectively defining "blight" properties that are subject to continued building code violations, that are abandoned or that have unpaid taxes, for example.

"We're trying to get a definition of blight to really represent what most Ohioans believe is blighted," he said. "... I don't think private property rights should be taken on a subjective scale."

Grendell said the proposed legislation also would shift the burden more onto the government to demonstrate the need to take private property for public uses and would provide compensation for lost business, relocation and some other costs associated with the process, among other provisions.

"Everybody in Ohio should enjoy the same private property rights protection, regardless of where they live," he said.

Wooster OH Daily Record: http://www.the-daily-record.com

An eminent domain "victim's" perspective

In March 2005, Eminent Domain Watch reported on the taking of property by the City of Hampton VA to build a road to the Power Plant, a "retail hub subsidized by the city but built by a private developer." The property owner, Frank Ottofaro, fought the taking at the time, and has been contesting the payment ever since.

Below is an update provided by Mr Ottofaro to Eminent Domain Watch, in the hopes that his experience may provide some insight that will help others.

I have a videotape that was shot by me when the City Attorney himself, the City Zoning Administrator, and 4 Hampton Police Officers broke into our home to change the locks so we could no longer gain entry. The case hadn't even ran its full course in court, nor did the City Attorney notify us as to what he was going to do. The officials violated six "No Trespassing" signs, leading us to believe that they already knew what the Court was going to decide in the case. We notified the Virginia State Police to remove the City Attorney and Hampton Officers from our property. But we were told that they could not get involved unless ordered to do so by the Attorney General.

In the Hampton Court, the City Manager and City Engineer testified that they "had no definitive map yet", they "had no demolition contractor in place yet", they "had no road contractor selected yet", and that they "did not have any road construction schedule yet". A person would think that our house should not be allowed to be torn down yet. The Hampton Judge allowed it to happen anyway. Our house was bulldozed down within six days of the Court decision against us regarding the "Quick Take."

We asked for the normal 6 day interim for an Emergency Stay of Demolition to the Virginia Supreme Court. The Hampton Judge would not allow this either. We filed an Emergency Appeal with the Virginia Supreme Court and the city knew about this, but they tore down the house anyway. "No house, no issues" was Hampton's take.

To top off this whole mess, when we made it to the Hampton Circuit Court to discuss the fair market value and "just compensation" portion of our case, the Judge dismissed the Jury-Commissioners about 10 times during our 6 hour deliberation process. He also refused to let them hear the original and filed "Quick Take" amount of $164,000. Two weeks prior to going into this court, the City Attorner ordered a second new appraisal to counter their own first appraisal that was done when the actual "take" happened. The new city appraisal was $122,000. The Jury-Commissioners split the difference between our own appraisal and the city's new appraisal. We were screwed again.

Each of the other property owners received approximately 2.5-times their assessed vales - averaging about $365,000 apiece for their homes and properties; those properties averaged roughly 0.26 acres. We were the only family not to receive 2.5-times our assessed value, and our property consisted of two separate lots totaling 0.74 acres. To this day, we have still not been given a reason as to this difference. This is not "just compensation" under the law. We have received apologies from the majority of the new city council, and the Mayor himself. However apologies are not $250,000.

Cities like Hampton have regularly gotten involved in retail development projects that have failed. Hampton is plagued with this problem, with the best case so far being the Power Plant of Hampton Roads. Its original taxpayer cost was only supposed to have been 7 million dollars. It is now at 27 million dollars, and the thing still isn't finished yet.

The project was failing from the start, mainly due to the negative publicity on the Eminent Domain cases that were involved. So the Hampton City Manager (not the developer) decided to go after a major anchor store (Bass Pro Shops) to get them into this project by building them their store at the tune of 7.3 million dollars of Hampton taxpayer money. The return on the investment would be in the form of sales tax dollars, and a portion of each sale. With Bass Pro secured, others - like BJ's Wholesale Club and a multitude of restaurants - would presumably follow. However, the developer wasn't doing the job to lure these stores here, although he had secured a very nice contract to do so. The city taxpayers bailed him out once again. The developer in question is Mr. David Cordish of Baltimore MD. Mr Cordish has had a checkered past of legal problems building these "Power Plants" retail development projects. "Power Plant" is coined to mean "tax generators".

I have a city-produced videotape of a past council meetings in which one member admitted altering the original Power Plant road plans to "take people's land and homes who didn't want to sell them". One would think that this video would be the smoking gun against the City of Hampton. But the local newspapers and television stations didn't want to air any of it against the city.

Our advice to those going through this is to get a good property rights attorney, take the issue public if you can - and do it as loudly as possible, and have a lot of patience.


Eminent domain may be restored: Salt Lake City UT Tribune, 2/16/07

By Kristen Moulton

[Utah] HB365 Would reinstate a city's power of eminent domain - with certain protections for property owners.

Next step: Goes to House floor for consideration.

Utah cities would regain their right to condemn private property in order to remove urban blight under legislation given the nod by a House committee on Thursday.

The House Political Subdivisions Committee voted unanimously to approve HB365, proposed by Rep. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George, who described it as a measure to reconcile, with private-property rights, cities' responsibility to remove blight.

"This is a very delicate and important balancing act we're trying to perform," said Urquhart.

Two years ago, the Legislature stopped cities from using eminent domain for redevelopment projects.

At the time, Ogden's effort to replace homes and businesses in a blighted downtown neighborhood with a Wal-Mart was cited as an abuse by legislators who subsequently put a moratorium on such use of eminent domain.

Under an amendment to HB365 approved by the committee, Ogden would be able to pick up where it left off in trying to acquire homes and businesses in that area north of Union Station - as well as in the Ogden River Project area.

Mark Johnson, Ogden's management-services director, praised the measure.

"This really helps some of the key projects in the city, such as the river project, which is part of the downtown rebirth."

The second phase of the Ogden River Project - a plan to transform 60 acres north of the LDS Temple downtown with new homes, shops and restaurants - has been stymied by the moratorium, he said.

Lincoln Shurtz, of the Utah League of Cities and Towns, said the measure has several safeguards to ensure property rights are protected.

For one thing, property owners would have to petition the city or town to condemn their property, and that would require support of 75 percent of the owners with 50 percent of the value in the project area.

It would require a two-thirds vote of a city redevelopment agency board to condemn property. Previously, a simple majority was sufficient.

Also, a city would have to pay not only fair-market value, but replace the property if the fair-market value is not enough for a homeowner or business to start fresh.

However, Steven Huntsman, a North Ogden City Council member who opposes eminent domain for curing blight, criticized the bill later Thursday.

"The minute they bring eminent domain into it, it allows the government to sell your property to the highest bidder."

Salt Lake City UT Tribune: http://www.sltrib.com

Rivals speak at eminent domain event: Asbury Park NJ Press, 2/16/07

By Carol Gorga Williams

Long Branch [NJ] City Attorney James G. Aaron and Peter H. Wegener, the lawyer for property owners in the Marine Terrace, Ocean Terrace, Seaview Avenue area fighting the city's right to take their home by eminent domain, agree — on one thing, at least.

Aaron and Wegener, among the featured speakers during a statewide conference on redevelopment, discussed eminent domain and the lawsuit that has made them adversaries. Numerous property owners have appealed state Superior Court Judge Lawrence M. Lawson's June 22 decision that upheld the city's right to take homes for the second phase of the Beachfront North project.

Sponsors of the seminar, the Urban Land Institute, North Jersey District Council, and Langan Engineering & Environmental Services who coordinated "Urban Core III" at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, acknowledged the government's power of eminent domain has become a "lightning rod" for controversy.

Nowhere does that seem more true than in Long Branch, which has received national attention for its plans to use eminent domain in the MTOTSA neighborhood.

Aaron and Wegener faced off Thursday for a session called "Eminent Domain: A Live Legal Debate."

After describing the redevelopment process in Long Branch, which began in 1995, Aaron said neither legislation sponsored by Sen. Ronald L. Rice, D-Essex, or that of Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-Gloucester, will cure what ails eminent domain.

Burzichelli's measure, approved by the Assembly in June, would limit what property can be taken, place more burdens on towns seeking redevelopment and give greater compensation to those who lose property. The Senate has yet to move Rice's version out of committee, said lawyer and event moderator John J. Reilly, a partner in the Westfield firm of Farer Fersko who specializes in condemnation law.

Aaron said what the bill needs is protection from people challenging an approved redevelopment plan more than 10 years after it was adopted, as is the case in Long Branch. Towns and developers need a sense of finality to the process, he said.

To that end, he proposed a measure in which a municipality would be forced to defend its plan in court when it was adopted, and a judge would rule immediately on whether a community can support its redevelopment designation. Every property owner in the zone would be made a party to the court action.

"I think there is some merit to what he is talking about," Wegener said after the session. Wegener, too, would impose protections, this time for property owners who find their properties designated for redevelopment — and unable to sell them to anyone but the chosen developer.

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

Eminent-domain issue presses Riverside agency: Riverside CA Press-Enterprise, 2/16/07

By Dan Lee

The Riverside City Council is expected to consider a new law Tuesday that would limit when the city redevelopment agency can acquire owner-occupied single-family homes through eminent domain.

The law would also require the agency to pay fair market value compensation for condemning and taking any property from landowners.

Assistant City Manager Michael Beck said a new state law requires the redevelopment agency to establish an eminent-domain policy by July 1. The proposed law establishes that policy, he said.

It also reflects the terms of a legal settlement last year that limited the use of eminent domain in the La Sierra-Arlanza redevelopment project area and standardizes it for the city's six remaining redevelopment areas, Beck said.

An owner-occupied single-family residence would be exempt from eminent domain except:
  • When the home is encumbered by a lien stemming from a code violation,
  • When the home is unoccupied and boarded up for more than a year,
  • When the home has become a public nuisance.

The other six redevelopment project areas are the Downtown/Airport area, the University Corridor/Sycamore Canyon area, Hunter Park/Northside, Magnolia Center, Casa Blanca and Arlington.

The proposed law has no connection with the proposed improvements in the Riverside Renaissance plan, Beck said.

Riverside CA Press-Enterprise: http://www.pe.com

Eminent domain lawyers - verdict is unusual but not unprecedented: Telluride CO Daily Planet, 2/16/07

Jurors often sympathize with landowners over governments

By Reilly Capps

When a Delta County jury gave the San Miguel Valley Corporation exactly what it asked for, it handed down the kind of one-sided verdict juries rarely choose.

“It's rather unusual,” said Ken Skogg, a Denver lawyer who specializes in eminent domain cases. “Generally in condemnation actions, the numbers usually come in as a kind of King Solomon result. There's usually a split-the-baby approach.

“Rarely is the verdict spot-on for one side or the other.”

Jurors usually take into account arguments from both sides and weigh them against each other, Skogg said. The facts often swing the jury in one direction or another, finding more for the landowner or more for the government.

So in order for them to completely agree with one side - as they apparently did with the San Miguel Valley Corporation - they have to be swayed by something more than facts.

“Usually it requires some sort of emotional reaction on the part of the commission or jury,” said Skogg, who works for the firm of Lowe, Fell and Skogg. “It suggests to me that the jurors were either very moved and motivated to find the landowner's evidence persuasive and credible, or they were in some way repulsed by the evidence that was presented by the condemning authority.”

The Town of Telluride can appeal the decision to the Colorado Court of Appeals, and from there it could be referred to the Colorado Supreme Court.

In an appeal, the town would not simply dispute the $50 million number, Skogg said. They would have to appeal some decision made by the court. They could, for example, appeal the introduction or exclusion of some piece of evidence, or the inclusion of a juror into the jury panel.

The jurors in this case appeared to sympathize heavily with the landowner. At least one juror told the Planet that they wanted to give the landowner more than SMVC asked for, possibly as much as $65 million.

That's an usual move, Skogg said.

“It's not unprecedented, but it's also fairly rare,” said Skogg. “Once in a while you'll have a juror or two jurors that have such feelings, but they're sometimes reigned in by the other jurors.”

Finding so heavily in favor of the landowner may be rare. But sympathizing with the landowner instead of the government is not unusual.

“I think it's hard to generalize, but I think very often that juries tend to sympathize with individual citizens over governments,” said Paul Boudreaux, a specialist in eminent domain law and associate professor at Stetson University College of Law in Tampa Bay, Fla. “They often end up doing well.”

The individual citizen in this case is Neal Blue, CEO of General Atomics. While a wealthy man like Blue may not be as sympathetic as a small, family farmer, jurors have a tendency to view all governments as overbearing and greedy.

“The phrase the lawyers often use is that jurors often view the government as having ‘deep pockets,'” said Boudreaux. “And so government claims about money are often less sympathetic to jurors.”

How deep are Telluride's pockets? That will be revealed in the next days or months, as Telluride taps private funding pay the at-least $16 million gap between the money it has and the money it needs.

Boudreaux said it is not uncommon for the “deep pockets” assumption of jurors to be wrong. Verdicts sometimes come in at a price higher than the government can afford.

In those cases, the governments give up, pay off the lawyers, and walk away.

“Governments can simply, quietly, essentially revoke their process of eminent domain,” Boudreaux said.

Lawyers arguing for landowners in eminent domain cases are often aware of the bias jurors have in favor of landowners.

“I think the lawyers certainly are aware of that,” Boudreaux said, “and they factor that into their arguments.”

Lawyers for the San Miguel Valley Corporation almost certainly would have known that a bias existed in favor of landowners, especially in a place like Delta.

In rural, farm and ranch communities such as Delta, people are often skeptical of the government and pro-private property rights.

Some celebrated the verdict as a slap on the wrist of the government's overreaching hand.

Debbie Schum is the Western Slope Outreach director for the Colorado Libertarian party. She's a strong opponent of the government's right to take away land.

While she wishes governments weren't even allowed to take condemnation cases to court, she was pleased by the verdict.

“In some ways [the verdict] is a victory, in that [the land] didn't just get taken away for a nominal fee, but some real value has been attached for the property owners,” Schum said. “That's a step closer to our society acknowledging the value of property ownership.”

She said she was not surprised that a Delta jury sided heavily with the landowner.

“There is a bigger value on property ownership here in Delta County,” said Schum. “We're still very agricultural here, there's still a big libertarian streak here in Delta County.”

Delta County hates government regulations to the point that it doesn't have zoning or building codes, Schum said.

“We don't just not have building codes because nobody got around to it or people don't care,” said Schum. “The citizens do not want building codes. We would prefer to see growth happen the way it's going to happen.”

Delta is now considering an eminent domain action to create a reservoir. But Schum said a great many Delta residents are opposed to it on principle.

“It's not going to happen,” she said. “The people won't let it.”

Telluride CO Daily Planet: http://www.telluridegateway.com

Ohio Senate wants to restrict use of eminent domain: Cleveland OH Plain Dealer, 2/17/07

By Reginald Fields

Limiting local governments' use of eminent domain will be the Ohio Senate's priority when the upper chamber of the General Assembly convenes next week.

The GOP-led Senate plans to introduce a bill on Tuesday that would carefully define and establish a statewide standard for using eminent domain, while separately calling for a constitutional amendment that would assure state rules on this subject override local laws.

In a nutshell, the two measures will set the stage for yet another angry battle between local and state governments.

"There is a need to bring consistency and fairness to the process by which government can take land from private property owners," said Senate President Bill Harris, an Ashland Republican, who added he hopes both measures can draw bipartisan support.

Local governments, meanwhile, have argued that their home rule rights established in the Ohio Constitution allow them to set their own standards for eminent domain, whether for infrastructure projects or private and economic development.

An effort by state lawmakers to restrict eminent domain was not unexpected. A 25-member task force appointed to study the issue wrapped up late last year, promising to bring a constitutional amendment to the November 2007 ballot.

In particular, the split task force recommended that Ohio come up with a uniform definition for blight, which would become a standard for government to seize land.

The task force was organized in the wake of two significant eminent domain court decisions.

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowed non-blighted land in Connecticut to be taken and handed over to a private developer. An Ohio Supreme Court ruling later established a higher eminent domain threshold - just not high enough for some.

Sen. Timothy Grendell, a Chester Township Republican, will introduce a bill that defines blight, with some exceptions for agricultural land, according to the Senate Republican Caucus.

The bill also would allow for public input and possible attorney fees in property disputes with local governments.

Sen. Kevin Coughlin, a Cuyahoga Falls Republican who will introduce the constitutional amendment, said eminent domain should be used only to benefit the public as a whole and not private developers.

"Our laws should reflect that and leave no wiggle room for government to abuse its power," he said.

Cleveland OH Plain Dealer: http://www.cleveland.com/news/plaindealer

Osgood Road residents battling eminent domain: Fremont CA Argus, 2/16/07

By Chris De Benedetti

The stretch of Osgood Road between Washington Boulevard and Auto Mall Parkway [in Fremont] has a problem with consistency, given its scattered mixture of uses and its physical layout.

The major traffic artery in south Fremont goes from two lanes to four lanes and back again, and the road is dotted with a melange of businesses and older homes, some of which have been around longer than the city itself.

But some property owners facing the threat of a forcible acquisition of their land under the city's eminent domain powers say Fremont officials themselves have been inconsistent.

Homeowners charge that city-hired appraisers have not made fair land appraisals that match current Fremont property values.

"I don't have a problem with the project — the street needs to be widened," said Tammy Robertson, who has lived in her home for 42 years. "What I have a problem with is the methods used in developing the value of those properties on Osgood Road and the total disregard for the property owners and residents."

Robertson may lose part of her land, property she feels is worth more than twice what the city offered her. Some residents also complain that city staff members "have been unreasonable and unfair" while conducting negotiations and disseminating information with property owners.

"They said everyone (on Osgood) is being offered the same amount of money, but they're not," said Jerry Foster, owner of Foster's Quality First, an Osgood Road business.

Added Jan Sparks, Foster's office manager: "Getting complete information from (city) staff has been extremely difficult, and each representation made by them seems to fall apart when we question it."

Sparks and Robertson also separately objected to the fact that the city-hired appraiser compared land outside of Fremont, including vacant land in Hayward, to the land along Osgood Road when trying determine its just value.

Randy Sabado, the city of Fremont's real property manager, has been leading the city's negotiations with Osgood Road property owners.

Sabado said he could not discuss details of the negotiations. But he defended the city's work, saying that city staff members have followed standard methods, in terms of appraisals and land-acquisition processes.

"Appraisers have to look at properties that have been sold recently," City Attorney Harvey Levine said. "One reason for looking outside of Fremont for vacant land sales of comparable size is that they are not very common in Fremont."

Out of 25 property owners, Fremont officials have made offers to 17. All but three of those 17 have agreed to settle with the city, Levine said.

"We'll be making offers in the next couple of weeks to the remaining property owners," Sabado added.

Osgood Road is a major artery that borders several neighborhoods in south Fremont.

The $6.2 million street-widening project would give it a uniform four lanes between Washington Boulevard and Auto Mall Parkway. The project also would give it a two-way left-turn lane, bicycle lanes and sidewalks.

It also would help absorb the increase in traffic on Osgood Road, which is traveled by more than 24,000 automobiles per day, City Engineer Norm Hughes said.

During rush hour, it really backs up, Hughes said.

Preliminary construction may start as early as July, when PG&E poles will be relocated. Construction to widen the street may begin by September, Hughes said.

The City Council on Tuesday followed city staff members' recommendation and approved using eminent domain powers to acquire property for the project.

It will affect people but it will not displace anyone, Councilmember Anu Natarajan said. "It's a hard decision, but one that (it) looks like we have to make," Natarajan said before Tuesday's meeting.

If there is a silver lining, Councilmember Bill Harrison contended, it is that the project should make Osgood Road safer, which may help improve all the landowners' property values.

"This is not us against the city," Sparks said while addressing the City Council. "It should be teamwork so we can move toward a long-term process to make Fremont successful."

Robertson also addressed council members Tuesday.

"I just wish the residents (in Fremont) could get a quarter of the respect given to developers," she said. "I may not pay a lot of taxes, but it does not mean that my rights are any less than that of anybody else."

Fremont CA Argus: http://www.insidebayarea.com/argus

City to use eminent domain for hospital: Springfield OH News-Sun, 2/16/07

City and Calcars, 202 W. North St., cannot agree on a sale price for Calcars' property. The city has offered $224,000.

By Samantha Sommer

The city of Springfield [OH] took the first step toward the first true eminent domain case involving the planned Community Mercy downtown hospital.

City commissioners approved Tuesday an ordinance declaring an intent to use eminent domain to acquire the Calcars property, 202 W. North St.

The next step is to pass an ordinance authorizing the city's lawyers to file the case in court.

The case probably will be filed in Clark County Common Pleas Court in 30 days, Deputy Law Director Andrew Burkholder said.

"It's really a disagreement over price," he said.

The city offered the owner, John Calcott of Aspen, Colo., $224,000 for the property.

Burkholder couldn't disclose what Calcott wanted but said the difference is substantial. Calcott couldn't be reached for comment Thursday.

The city is buying property in 45 acres downtown near Buck Creek to make way for a new hospital. It has purchased more than half the property in the entire area and 80 percent in phase one.

So far the city had used its eminent domain powers only to clear title problems for homeowners willing to sell.

An agreement still could be reached with Calcott, said Shannon Meadows, executive assistant to the city manager.

"I was hoping to avoid any actual court proceedings on any of the acquisitions," she said. "I still hope for that."

In other business, commissioners agreed to extend for six months a building moratorium on the Southwest Downtown Urban Renewal Area, including the hospital site.

The moratorium, first passed in 2004, allows for demolitions and repairs, but not new buildings or additions. The extension was necessary because of the proposed surgical hospital and where it would go, said Tim Gothard, director of engineering and planning.

Springfield OH News-Sun: http://www.springfieldnewssun.com

Aztec Seeks Change Of Judge, APS Seeks Less Land In Eminent Domain Case: Holbrook AZ AzJournal, 2/16/07

By Tammy Gray-Searles

While Aztec Land and Cattle Company is asking for a change of judge, Arizona Public Service Co. (APS) is seeking to change its initial petition to change the amount of land it is seeking in the eminent domain case filed against Aztec.

APS filed the lawsuit after the parties could not agree on a lease price for the land on which water wells for the Cholla Power Plant are located. APS has leased the property from Aztec since 1974, but the 35-year lease agreement expires in August 2007.

On Jan. 17, Aztec wrote a letter to Navajo County Superior Court Judge Tom Wing asking him to voluntarily remove himself from the case.

Among other things, the letter stated, “In essence, APS has argued to you on several occasions that if you do not rule in their favor APS will turn the lights out in Navajo County after Aug. 31, 2007. This means that APS has threatened to turn the lights out at your home, your grocery store and even the courthouse.”

It went on to say, “Unfortunately, because of APS’s threats, any judge who lives in Navajo County cannot give a fair and impartial trial to Aztec on account of bias, prejudice or interest of the judge.”

On Jan. 23, Wing placed a formal document in the case noting that he declined to remove himself from the case.

On Jan. 29, APS sent a letter to Judge Wing arguing that Aztec’s letter mischaracterized APS’s statements regarding a shut-down at the Cholla Power Plant, and that there is no reason for a change of judge. APS also argued that Aztec’s actions were intended to delay the trial until after the current lease agreement between the two parties expires on Aug. 31.

The APS letter states, “Aztec’s allegation is untrue and intentionally misleading because as Aztec knows, APS has never threatened to affirmatively ‘turn out the lights.’ To the contrary, APS has consistently pursued prompt resolution of this case so that power to its customers is not interrupted, while fairly advising the court that Aztec’s efforts to delay this case could potentially affect the Cholla Power Plant’s operations and therefore ‘the lights’ in Navajo County.”

On Feb. 1, Aztec filed a formal motion for change of judge and asked for a hearing. Presiding Judge Dale Nielson agreed to hear arguments on the matter, and set a hearing for 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 22.

In the meantime, on Feb. 14, APS filed a request to amend its original complaint. The amendment seeks to reduce the amount of land that APS wishes to condemn in the action. In the amendment, APS asks for seven acres surrounding the wells, and 80 acres for water and power line easements.

APS Media Relations representative Steven Gotfried explained that after additional research, APS determined that it could have use of the water wells, and still allow Aztec access to the water supply, by reducing the number of acres sought from approximately 7,000 to around 87.

“This solution, if approved by the court, is fair to both parties; a compromise that gives Aztec what it maintains it wants while allowing us to continue operating the Cholla Power Plant in the same manner we have done effectively for the past 34 years,” Gotfried remarked.

Aztec officials have not yet had an opportunity to reply to the motion to amend the complaint.

A jury trial in the case is still scheduled for July 10. A motion to dismiss the case, filed by Aztec, has not yet been considered by the judge.

Holbrook AZ AzJournal: http://www.azjournal.com

Report Released - Eminent Domain & African Americans: The Free Liberal, 2/14/07

“Eminent domain has become what the founding fathers sought to prevent: a tool that takes from the poor and the politically weak to give to the rich and politically powerful,” concludes Dr. Mindy Fullilove in her new report released today titled, “Eminent Domain & African Americans: What is the Price of the Commons?” The report is available here.

Eminent Domain & African Americans is the first in a new series of independently authored reports published by the Institute for Justice, Perspectives on Eminent Domain Abuse, which will examine the different aspects of eminent domain abuse from the vantage point of noted national experts. The release of this inaugural report is particularly timely this month, as millions around the nation learn about African American history.

In this study, Dr. Fullilove, a research psychiatrist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and a professor of clinical psychiatry and public health at Columbia University, examines the effects of eminent domain abuse on the African American community. Focusing specifically on the Federal Housing Act (FHA) of 1949, Dr. Fullilove finds that “[b]etween 1949 and 1973 … 2,532 projects were carried out in 992 cities that displaced one million people, two-thirds of them African American,” making blacks “five times more likely to be displaced than they should have been given their numbers in the population.”

Although urban renewal under the FHA was discontinued in 1973, Dr. Fullilove reported “the tools of urban renewal had been honed through 20 years of projects. Politicians and developers found that they could repackage eminent domain and government subsidies in many new ways, facilitating the taking of land for ‘higher uses.’”

Dr. Fullilove shares the story of David Jenkins - who lost his Philadelphia home to urban renewal in the 1950s - to illustrate the devastating impacts of forced displacement. “Within these neighborhoods there existed social, political, cultural, and economic networks that functioned for both individual and common good,” explains Dr. Fullilove. “These networks were the ‘commons’ of the residents, a system of complex relationships, shared activities, and common goals” - the loss of which cannot be replaced or remedied.

“What the government takes from people is not a home, with a small ‘h’, but Home in the largest sense of the word: a place in the world, a community, neighbors and services, a social and cultural milieu, an economic anchor that provides security during the ups and downs of life, a commons that sustains the group by offering shared goods and services,” continues Dr. Fullilove.

“Dr. Fullilove’s pioneering research reinforces the need for state and federal legislative reforms of eminent domain laws,” said Steven Anderson, director of the Castle Coalition, which helps homeowners nationwide fight eminent domain abuse. The Castle Coalition is a grassroots organization coordinated by the Institute for Justice, which litigated the Kelo eminent domain case before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005. Anderson said, “Property owners nationwide - particularly minorities, as evidenced by this paper-will remain vulnerable to seizures by tax-hungry governments for land-hungry developers until the use of eminent domain is reined in and limited to only true public uses.”

A recent example of eminent domain targeting African American communities can be found in Riviera Beach, Fla. Despite the state’s new restrictions on eminent domain, city officials are pursuing a plan to remove thousands of mostly low-income, African American residents from their waterfront homes and businesses to make way for a luxury housing and yachting complex. The Institute for Justice is representing property owners there who want to protect their rights and save what rightfully belongs to them.

In addition to her clinical and teaching duties, Dr. Fullilove is the author of Root Shock: How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America, and What We Can Do About It, which takes a powerful look at the effects of urban renewal on African Americans. She coined the term “root shock” to describe the devastating effects of forced displacement.

The Free Liberal: http://www.freeliberal.com

Cathedral City using eminent domain to revamp downtown: Palm Springs CA Desert Sun, 2/14/07

By RaNeeka J. Claxton

El Gallito and the Red Tomato fought a public battle last summer with advertising pleas and signature campaigns to hold on tooth-and-nail against Cathedral City's downtown redevelopment wrecking ball.

But behind the landmark restaurants that now get to stay, other story lines are playing out in the city's quest to revamp downtown through eminent domain.

Welcome to First Street, a modest neighborhood of small colorful buildings, where sugar cane grows in yards and close-knit neighbors cook tacos on a grill, laughing and joking in Spanish.

Most in the neighborhood say they expect to eventually be uprooted.

Others are less resigned, and say their properties are worth more than what the city is offering.

Redevelopment Director Janet Davison and City Council members said they can't comment about individual cases under negotiation.

But the latest redevelopment plans, expected to come out at tonight's City Council meeting, include residences and businesses on 23 acres just east of the Civic Center.

Wessman Development and California Development Enterprises Inc. have teamed up to form Cathedral City Town Center Venture for the project.

The plan is to build a mixed-use neighborhood with town homes, an eight-story building, a pharmacy, market, bank, fitness center, bookstore, restaurants, boutiques and a hotel at Palm Canyon Drive and Allen Avenue, said Candace Casey, senior vice president of California Development Enterprises Inc.

Though still in the concept stages, Casey said potential tenants are CVS or Walgreens, and a specialty foods market.

"We are looking for Cathedral City to be an economic development hub," said Cathedral City Mayor Kathy DeRosa.

The expected revenue is not yet known, DeRosa said. The project won't break ground for another three years.

Leonard Gilroy with the Reason Foundation, a Los Angeles nonprofit dedicated to individual liberty and limited government, criticizes the use of eminent domain.

Cities are "displacing existing homes and small-business owners to try to pursue utopian redevelopment schemes that often don't pan out," he said. And they're "sending a message that modest neighborhoods, vibrant business and families that have been there for decades matter less than economic development."

Cathedral City has used eminent domain - the government's right to take private property for public use - since the mid-1990s to make way for high-profile projects that have attracted shoppers and tourists. That lists includes the Town Square, Fountain of Life, Desert IMAX and Mary Pickford theaters and the Pickfair Promenade, said City Manager Don Bradley.

The area used to be a mobile home park.

This latest project "will be to benefit the community as a whole," Bradley said.

'Labor of love'
In the heart of downtown Cathedral City, there's a big Central American family.
Some are from Mexico and Honduras; others are from Guatemala and El Salvador.

They make up the social fabric of a nine-unit, low-income apartment complex painted in green, blue, pink and yellow. Many have called this place home since its doors opened 15 years ago.

But the little community will go away when Cathedral City and complex owner Margery St. Anthony reach an agreement to buy out the property for redevelopment.

"They tell me they are going to win no matter what because this is progress, and I understand that," St. Anthony said. "I love Cathedral City, so I want to see it beautiful. But some of it has to go. It's had its time."

The complex is occupied by five families. St. Anthony hand-decorated the building with mosaic tiles, turquoise pebbles, blue picket fences and painted designs.

Some families grow sugarcane and beans in the front of their apartments, and resident Salvador Coreas, 63, maintains many bright petunias in the yard with his landscaping expertise.

A stray, brown-and-white dog has made his home there, too, as the community pet.

"This has been a labor of love for me," said St. Anthony, 65, of Cathedral City. "I hate to see them go."

St. Anthony wouldn't reveal the amount the city has offered, but said she feels it's worth more.

Whatever money she gets will be used as her retirement, and the tenants will be well cared for, she said.

The residents, who all want to look for a place nearby, will get relocation help.

Coreas lives in a two-bedroom apartment with his wife and two adult children.

"I feel very bad," he said in Spanish. Coreas has lived in the complex since it opened. "I have plenty of friends here. I'm accustomed to living here."

But "if they give me a house, it'd be a dream," Coreas said.

'I don't think I deserve this'
Across the street, Pomposa "Maria" Garcia has made her living for the past 14 years inside a tiny building that reads "DRESSMAKER."

There, Garcia runs her business, Creative Cottons & Alterations.

The back door leads to her home - a few steps away - that she's owned for the same amount of time. Her sister rents the other half of the house.

"It's good this way," Garcia said. "I'm happy."

Garcia is upset with what the city offered her, saying it's not enough for her to start over since the housing market went through the roof.

"I feel abused because I am a poor person," a frustrated Garcia said. "I am the only income in the family."

The Cathedral City Redevelopment Agency sent Garcia a letter Sept. 18 offering to buy the two properties for $450,000 - the fair market value determined by a city-hired appraiser.

According to December and January loan statements Garcia shared with The Desert Sun, she owes about $406,000 for both properties.

"If they give me $450,000, what am I going to have to go out?" Garcia said.

She'd have about $44,000 to get a new home and business in today's challenging real estate market, she said.

Garcia appealed Jan. 16, asking for $900,000.

Davison wrote back that the amount was far in excess of fair market value.

If Pomposa Garcia feels that $450,000 isn't the fair market value of her home and business property, "she certainly can hire an appraiser," said the city attorney Duff Murphy.

Garcia also doesn't qualify for residential relocation assistance like others in the area because she didn't move into her home in time. She had been renting it out previously.

Garcia said she wants to hire an attorney, but can't afford it.

"I don't think I deserve this," she said.

Palm Springs CA Desert Sun: http://www.thedesertsun.com

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

Nevada lawmakers propose limiting eminent domain powers: Las Vegas NV Sun, 2/13/07

By Amanda Fehd, Associated Press

Nevada lawmakers launched a bipartisan effort on Tuesday to limit government eminent domain powers in a move that could head off a ballot proposal with more limitations.

The Senate and Assembly introduced similar bills, AB102 and SB85, prohibiting the taking of private property for economic development. The measures follow voter approval in November of a ballot question with stricter controls on government.

Question 2, a proposed constitutional amendment that got 63 percent of the vote, applies to all uses of eminent domain, not just economic development, and was criticized as being too expensive for government because it required compensation for the land be based on its "highest and best use."

The ballot question must win voter approval again in 2008, but support for the plan could fade if lawmakers act this session on their own measures - which they see as a better way to handle the issue than through a constitutional amendment.

Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, is the lead sponsor of AB102 and Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, is the lead sponsor of SB85. Dozens of other lawmakers from both parties signed onto the proposals.

Horne said it would take another four years to solve any problems stemming from a constitutional change, such as Question 2.

"If we have unintended consequences from that change, we cannot easily correct it," said Horne, who had pushed for eminent domain changes during the 2005 session. His earlier measure required redevelopment agencies to first attempt negotiating in good faith with property owners and provide a written purchase offer before resorting to eminent domain.

Horne and Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said the latest legislation isn't an effort to derail the ballot question, but rather a response to a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision.

The high court ruled that a Connecticut city could seize homes - in what it deemed a blighted area - and turn the land over to a private developer as part of a redevelopment project that included condos, a hotel and commercial space.

Buckley said redevelopment can still happen, but governments need to work with property owners.

"It is in everyone's best interest to ensure revitalization happens. But government can't use its heavy hand of condemnation to say, 'You'll do it this way and no other way,'" Buckley said.

Assemblyman John Carpenter, R-Elko, one of several Assembly Republicans who signed onto AB102, said property rights should be protected. He noted the state Transportation Department once took land from him for road expansion and he didn't think he was adequately compensated.

"We don't want people to get a windfall but on the other hand if they've had this property for years and years, and maybe lived there or had a business, I think us as taxpayers ought to compensate them appropriately," Carpenter said.

The Fifth Amendment allows government to take private property through eminent domain if the land is for "public use" and if the owner is provided just compensation. The 2005 high court ruling clarifies that expanding the tax base may be interpreted as "public use." States may still make their own laws about taking property.

Las Vegas NV Sun: http://www.lasvegassun.com

In eminent domain case, fight ensues over brief: Asbury Park NJ Press, 2/14/07

By Carol Gorga Williams

[New Jersey] State Public Advocate Ronald K. Chen is fighting the city's efforts to have his friend-of-the-court brief disallowed in the case of oceanfront property owners opposing the city's right to take their parcels by eminent domain.

The city filed a motion last month to block the advocate's brief, filed Jan. 11, in defense of some property owners in the Marine Terrace, Ocean Terrace and Seaview Avenue area.

Assistant City Attorney Lawrence H. Shapiro maintained that Chen did not follow proper court rules and that Chen raised issues in his brief that were not before Superior Court Judge Lawrence M. Lawson, sitting in Freehold, when Lawson in June upheld the city's right to condemn the homes and replace them with luxury condominiums in phase 2 of the Beachfront North project.

Lawson said the property owners were not entitled to an evidentiary hearing, and made his decision based on oral arguments, briefs and exhibits. Chen thinks the property owners deserve that hearing.

In a prepared statement, Chen said he is issuing the brief in support of 38 property owners, but city officials say half of them have agreed to sell.

Chen's brief was filed Tuesday.

Chen maintains that the issue of whether the property owners received proper notice of the pending condemnation was an issue before Lawson, an allegation the city denies.

The city also said Chen's appendix, which he says contains documents, scholarly reports and matters of public record, should be stricken but fails to specify why, according to Chen.

City Attorney James G. Aaron said the city is not worried about Chen's motion.

"The city is prepared to meet the allegations as enumerated in the brief and appendix as submitted by Chen if it is allowed by the appellate court, and the city will . . . respond in the manner that is appropriate in the city's briefs when they are filed and based upon the limits as imposed, if any, by the appellate division," Aaron said.

The city's response is due April 9.

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

C.P. hopes to build bike path without eminent domain: NWI Times, Munster IN, 2/13/07

Acquisition for 1.65-mile leg of bike path begins

By Bill Dolan

City [of Crown Point IN] officials said they hope to avoid using eminent domain when acquiring land this year for a future bicycle path.

Parks Director Julie Johnson said Monday the city is sending property owners notices that appraisers will begin estimating purchase offers for a 1.65-mile leg of the bike path known as the Penn-Erie Greenway.

"We will be putting the trail through, but using eminent domain is not our goal. We want to work with landowners," Johnson said.

That trail will follow an abandoned railroad south from the Erie Lackawanna trailhead at 93rd Avenue and Chase Street and curve behind Liberty Park subdivision to meet Summit Street west of Main Street.

Johnson said the railroad right of way, which was abandoned many years ago, has become part of the adjacent landowners' property and will have to be acquired by the city.

Eminent domain is the public taking of private property for fundamental government uses, including parks and recreation. The city last filed a condemnation complaint in 2005 to acquire property for a stormwater retention pond north of Summit Street between North Main Street and Merrillville Road.

Liberty Park subdivision residents have publicly expressed opposition to the bike trail.

The city and county parks also will begin land acquisition this year on another leg of the paved bike path, called the Veteran's Memorial Parkway Trail.

It will begin at 113th Avenue and U.S. 231 and proceed on the north side of U.S. 231, east to the intersection of Broadway and U.S. 231.

County Parks Director Robert Nickovich said last summer the proposed Veterans Memorial Parkway Trail would continue east of city limits, following the old Pennsy line.

NWI Times, Munster IN: http://nwitimes.com

Smithfield Leaders Consider Eminent Domain for Historic Property: WAVY-TV10, Portsmouth NH, 2/13/07

By Cheryl Tan

For centuries, Windsor Castle has stood the test of time. Built in the 1700's, it was once home to the founder of the town of Smithfield, Arthur Smith. For the last several hundred years, it has been a peaceful place to be.

Downtown business owner Jim Abicht said, "There's a peacefulness out here. It's a comfortable place to live, people care about one another."

That's why there's sympathy for the woman who currently owns the home.

Anne Betts Hooper is ready to sell the property that's been in her family for four generations.

"If we can't buy it, whether we think eminent domain would be the way to go, I'm not convinced, yet. We're certainly going to look at it," said Town Councilmember Harry Deshiell.

Deshiell said Smithfield is ready to buy the land, with new money from an angel investor, who wants the land to be turned into a park.

Right now, Newport News developer, Lewis McMurran, holds an option to buy.

Deshiell said, "There is no other land in Smithfield. We have no parks, no playgrounds with kids that are publicly owned, we have no public swimming pools, we have nothing. This would be an ideal site for a public park."

Town leaders say negotiations are underway with the buyer, but, they say, eminent domain is still on the table.

"It certainly is a possibility," said Deshiell.

"It's certainly an ugly way of doing things. You would hope that through negotiation and financial manoevering, a deal could be met that would satisfy the owner of the property as well as the town's wants," Abicht said.

McMurran said he plans to buy the land and live in Windsor Castle. He tells 10 on Your Side he is interested in working with town leaders on future plans for the land.

WAVY-TV10, Portsmouth NH: http://www.wavy.com

D.M. targets 3 properties under new acquisition rules : Des Moines IA Register, 2/13/07

Council moves ahead on housing plan via eminent domain

By Jason Clayworth

A burned shell of a house, boarded up and vacant, sits across the street from the office building where Tammy Harris works.

Next to the house is a vacant lot, and next to that is an empty gas station. City officials believe harmful contaminants have leaked into the soil at that site.

Those kinds of properties bring a community down, Harris says of the area near 22nd Street and Forest Avenue in Des Moines.

On Monday, the City Council launched a process to force owners of three such properties to sell them to the city. If the plan is successful, up to 18 row houses could be built on the land.

"I think the city of Des Moines slacks on some neighborhoods, this being one of them," said Harris, chief executive officer of Elpis Ministries, a nonprofit group at 2301 Forest Ave. that helps low-income families. "There are a lot of buildings in this neighborhood that need to be rehabilitated or torn down."

The right of a government body to acquire such properties, known as eminent domain, is controversial - so much so that state lawmakers last year toughened cities' ability to exercise it.

City officials must now prove that at least 75 percent of the three tracts is a slum or blighted, a public process that requires a council vote.

Monday's unanimous council approval marked the first time that Des Moines officials have moved ahead with eminent domain under the new restrictions. Officials from the Iowa League of Cities said they didn't know of any other Iowa city that had done so.

In 2005, Des Moines, with the support of neighborhood leaders and residents, named an area around Forest Avenue that included parts of the King-Irving, Mondamin Presidential, Carpenter and Drake neighborhoods as an urban renewal zone. Establishing the area allows the city to more easily exercise eminent domain and tap into federal grant allocations to improve the area.

On Monday, the council moved forward in its efforts to buy the three properties: the vacant gas station at 2201 Forest Ave., the fire-damaged house at 1405 23rd St. and a house at 1408 22nd St.

City officials are also considering exercising eminent domain to acquire a house at 1420 22nd St. for a second phase of the row house project. That part of the plan is several years away.

Ed Bodensteiner, who owns the house at 1408 22nd St., asked council members Monday to give him a fair price for the property.

"We should not have to lower our standard of living for this project," said Bodensteiner, who added that he hadn't been home in the past month to receive the city's notices expressing interest in buying the property.

Robyn Stokstad, who owns the gas station, also urged the council for a fair price for that property.

The city's attempts to buy the properties have been unsuccessful.

In all, four parcels are needed for the first phase of the row house development. Owners of one parcel at 2217 Forest Ave. voluntarily sold a vacant lot assessed at $46,500 to the city last year for $80,000.

The fire-damaged house at 1405 23rd St. is assessed at $51,800, according to county records; an independent appraisal done for the city last year valued it at $500. The vacant gas station is assessed at $16,700, below the city's appraisal of $43,000. The house at 1408 22nd St. has not been independently appraised but is assessed by the county at $47,600.

Des Moines has designated $600,000 for the acquisition and environmental cleanup of the area, plus relocation and demolition costs.

Councilman Tom Vlassis represents that area of the city and helped residents, business owners and neighborhood leaders launch the improvement plan about five years ago.

"It's just a start," Vlassis said of Monday's action. "So many more things have to be done in that area."

Bill LaHay, vice president of the Drake Neighborhood Association, has expressed concerns about the use of eminent domain but said the city has acted responsibly in this case. "I think people are comfortable and recognize eminent domain as a tool for cities like Des Moines to revitalize areas that have been neglected," he said.

Acquiring property through eminent domain can take years. Vlassis hopes the acquisition in this case will take less than a year and that residents will see the completion of the new houses in about two years.

Des Moines IA Register: http://desmoinesregister.com

Oklahoma lawmakers revive eminent domain legislation: KSWO-TV7, Lawton OK, 2/13/07

Legislation that proposes new guidelines for the use of eminent domain in Oklahoma [was] approved by a state House subcommittee today.

That action revives the debate over the government practice that led to an initiative petition and state Supreme Court ruling last year.

The House Civil Justice Subcommittee passed a measure by Republican Representative John Wright of Broken Arrow.

The measure provides new guidelines for how to establish fair market value when the state expropriates private property without the owner's consent, either for its own use or on behalf of a third party.

A spokesman for a statewide business and industry group says it is opposed to the measure.

Wright's measure states that in eminent domain cases, the minimum amount due the owner is determined by the assessed value of the property from the prior year's tax assessment by the county where the property is located.

KSWO-TV7, Lawton OK: http://www.kswo.com

EMINENT DOMAIN PAINS - Route 18 work creating hardship for residents: Quincy MA Patriot Ledger, 2/13/07

By Jack Encarnacao

All along Route 18 [in Weymouth MA], pink- and orange-tipped wooden stakes mark the land that residents and business owners are losing to a project that will widen the entire stretch of road to four lanes over the next two years.

In some cases, the road widening has forced longstanding businesses to shrink or move. Some Main Street residents will end up with much less land between their front steps and the Route 18 traffic.

‘‘It’s going to be a pain in the neck, there’s no two ways about it,’’ said Alice Brennan, who has lived on Main Street near the Route 3 ramps for 40 years. She lost a 10-foot deep strip of land along the road, including some hedges and trees.

‘‘The 10 feet doesn’t look too bad, but they’re almost in the living room,’’ she said.

The construction has created hardship for residents and businesses along Route 18. The road, untouched by major construction for decades, shrinks from three lanes to one in a matter of 100 yards.

At the intersection of Middle and West streets, the Getty gas station has closed. Preferred Automotive is losing its entire parking lot, and the wrecking ball is headed for a brick office building that has long housed a barber shop, a telescope repair shop and a printing business.

‘‘I probably lost about 30 percent out of my regular clientele,’’ said Ken Mather, whose Main Street Barber Shop was one of the three businesses in the 526 Main Street office building. ‘‘You can't just get up and move five miles away in my business because you have your clientele. It was very nerve-wracking.’’

Mather has moved his business to nearby Columbian Square, where new customers are starting to discover him. His shop is now called South Weymouth Barber Shop.

Other businesses are facing more daunting challenges.

Dean Carlton, owner of Preferred Automotive, said his business is shrinking considerably after thriving on Route 18 for 17 years. He said the state will take some 70,000 square feet of his land by eminent domain, including his parking lot.

Carlton has hired someone to look for a new space for him to relocate. Due to lack of parking space, he will have to close his auto repair section and limit his business to oil changes and used car sales.

‘‘I did think of relocating out of this state or just closing,’’ Carlton said. ‘‘But after 17 years of developing relationships with customers, it’s kind of hard to turn your back on them. That's why I'm hopefully opening really close by. We'll be suffering.’’

The $21.2 million Route 18 project was an inevitability for a road that will be an access point to a redeveloped South Weymouth Naval Air Station and the growing suburbs south of Weymouth, Mayor David Madden said.

‘‘The reality is we have the traffic and it’s not going away,’’ Madden said. ‘‘This is a real commuter road, a connector road to anybody south of us. We need a way to funnel that traffic. In the long run, we as a community weren't going to be able to function without improvements to Route 18.’’

Joseph Clancy, who owns Century House Realty on Main Street and is losing almost 4,000 square feet of property, said Weymouth residents should benefit more from the project than they are.

‘‘People may get to Halifax five minutes earlier, but it’s not a benefit to the people who live here,’’ Clancy said. ‘‘The citizens who have been here for years are taking the brunt of it.’’

Madden said some of the state’s land takings were unfortunate, and some took residents by surprise.

‘‘I think there were some land clearings that people weren’t quite prepared for,’’ he said. ‘‘People had decorated trees for Christmas and the next thing you know the tree is down.’’

The state has paid about $2.1 million for Route 18 property taken by eminent domain.

The state calculates reimbursements based on what state-paid appraisers determine to be fair market value. Some residents and business owners say the money they’ve gotten is not enough.

Howard Maglathlin said moving his telescope repair shop business, Viking Instruments, from Route 18 to a smaller spot near his Kingston home ended up costing about $100,000. The state paid him about $40,000.

‘‘That didn't cover my time,’’ Maglathlin said of the reimbursement. ‘‘Since like May ... I’ve literally only taken off a couple of days. We have hundreds of thousands of parts that have to be moved, reorganized and put back into place. We’re still not caught up.’’

Property owners must hire an attorney and file a lawsuit against the state, a costly process, to appeal their reimbursement amount. State Highway Department spokesman Erik Abell said eminent domain takings are difficult, but the system is fair.

‘‘The bottom line is the state is looking to offer a fair price for the property,’’ Abell said.

Residents who live just off of Route 18 are also losing land. Columbian Street resident Matt Poulin estimates he’ll lose about 200 square feet of his front lawn because his street is being widened where it intersects with Route 18. He said the $3,100 he’s been offered by the state is a pittance for the loss in property value he expects.

‘‘(The state) seems to think that they’re doing me a favor (with the reimbursement),’’ he said. ‘‘I keep telling them, no, I'm doing you a favor. You’re getting my property, something I can never reclaim. Everything’s going to be definitely different.’’

Route 18 land takings
  • Ken Mather had to close his Main Street Barber Shop;
    State reimbursement: $15,000
  • Joseph Clancy lost 3,800 square feet of his property at 457 Main St.;
    State reimbursement: $30,000
  • Howard Maglathlin had to move his Viking Instruments telescope repair shop near his home in Kingston, which he estimated cost $100,000;
    State reimbursement: About $40,000
  • Dean Carlton has to close the repair portion of his Preferred Automotive automobile shop because the state has taken his parking lot by eminent domain;
    Reimbursement: $100,000

Quincy MA Patriot Ledger: http://ledger.southofboston.com

Panel doesn't tinker with domain bill: Casper WY Star-Tribune, 2/13/07

By Joan Barron

Representatives of [Wyoming] industry testified Monday that a section of a bill reforming the state's eminent domain laws would mean more condemnation proceedings against landowners.

Chuck Greenhawt of Cheyenne, representing Questar, said the language in the section on fair market value in House Bill 124 would also put unprecedented restrictions on the courts.

Greenhawt said Questar, which is primarily a natural gas company, has not filed an eminent domain action in Wyoming in 20 years.

“We pride ourselves for being able to work with landowners,” he said.

The existing law, he added,. is working pretty well.

But amendments submitted by a coalition that includes primarily industry to remove the fair market value section from the bill were not considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday morning.

Instead, the bill was approved 5-0 and goes to the floor of the Senate for debate in the same form as it passed the House.

Sen. Tony Ross, R-Cheyenne, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said representatives of the Wyoming Landowners Association said Friday that although the bill does not contain everything they want, they are willing to live with it.

“I think that's a major concession for them,” Ross said later Monday. “I knew that if we took up the coalition's amendments, we would have amendments from the landowners."

“We didn't want to move too far from the House bill and risk losing the bill," he added.

The bill passed the House on a 56-4 vote.

Its main purpose is to deal with is to deal with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said a community can condemn private property and then lease it to a private developer.

Ross said the bill takes care of that decision. It also requires companies to give landowners advance notice of their plans for easements and to engage in good-faith negotiations.

Casper WY Star-Tribune: http://www.jacksonholestartrib.com

Eminent Domain Battles Stew in D.C., Va.: Washington DC Express, 2/13/07

By Michael Grass

IN DEVELOPMENT AND PROPERTY RIGHTS CIRCLES, the 2005 Supreme Court ruling in Kelo v. New London, was a watershed legal moment. In it, the court upheld the way eminent domain can be used, allowing governments to seize private property for private economic development. And among property rights activists, the case was a call to action to push eminent domain reform on the state level.

In a crowded metropolitan region where construction cranes can seem to outnumber trees in some areas, the battle over private property and greater economic development is of particular interest. Big redevelopment projects in the District — like the Washington Nationals' new stadium and entertainment district in Near Southeast and plans to transform the shabby but busy Skyland shopping center in Ward 8, ... have been cited as examples of government overstepping its bounds to seize land to benefit commercial development. But as then-D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams told The [Washington] Post's Dana Hedgpeth in 2005: "If we want smart growth, we need this tool."

And the Supreme Court granted local governments that tool, stirring up much ire among libertarians and others who are against broader uses of such seizures.

Today in Richmond, state lawmakers are scheduled to consider three pieces of legislation that would tighten the definition of eminent domain, stripping local governments of the right to take private land for commercial development purposes.

The legislation is being pushed by the Institute for Justice, a libertarian public interest law firm that represented Susette Kelo in her landmark case against the city of New London, Conn. And if passed, the legislation would close a hole in the state constitution that allows the General Assembly to define what "public use" means, limiting the use of eminent domain use to transportation infrastructure, schools and other public facilities and excluding governments from seizing private property for private commercial development. The legislation, which has a companion bill that would enact the eminent domain changes immediately rather than waiting for a full constitutional amendment to be passed, is sponsored by Del. Robert Bell, R-Charlottesville.

There is a related state Senate bill that would place similar eminent domain limitations on the commonwealth's Housing Authorities Law.

Locally, the Institute for Justice cites the complicated 2002 sale of the Gates of Arlington (aka Buckingham Village) in Ballston as a prime example of a local government abusing its eminent domain powers. In 2002, the owners of the 465-unit rental community off Glebe Road and George Mason Drive announced their intent to sell the valuable property to Clark Construction for a massive redevelopment project. The county, with the preservation of low-income housing in mind, threatened to condemn the property if the owners didn't sell to the non-profit Arlington Housing Corp., which in the end assumed control of the historic multi-ethnic garden-style housing complex.

Since then, Arlington County has moved forward with a new redevelopment plan for the community. As reported by The Post's Maria Glod, last summer, a preliminary agreement was hashed out between the county and Paradigm Development Co. that would designate one section of the complex to be renovated and remain affordable housing while two other sections of the community would be demolished and replaced with apartments and townhouses in the $700,000 range.

Most recently, a March 1 deadline for a memorandum of understanding between Arlington County and Paradigm Development Co. for the area's redevelopment has been pushed back.

In the District, the next big eminent domain battle may involve the Capital City Market off Florida Avenue in Northeast...

Last year, then-Ward 5 Council member Vincent Orange pushed his plan through the D.C. Council to allow the use of eminent domain to redevelop the wholesalers market. The plan would turn the market into a giant mixed-used "New Town," complete with luxury condos, a hotel, YMCA and new retail while preserving part of the odorous, aging market for food-centric purposes.

Activists charge that Orange's plan, which was given preliminary approval in December during the D.C. Council's lame-duck session, would essentially force individual market vendors to unwillingly sell their property to another more powerful market businessman, Sang Oh Choi, who gave generous donations to Orange's failed mayoral campaign last year. Although the D.C. Council gave an initial OK to Orange's New Town proposal, if and when New Town is back on the D.C. Council's agenda, it is likely to face greater opposition this time around, according to a D.C. Council source.

Washington DC Express: http://www.readexpress.com/read_freeride