Arcuri rallies support for power line fight: Binghamton NY Press & Sun-Bulletin, 2/20/07

By Jim Wright

U.S. Rep. Michael Arcuri, D-Utica, told about three dozen constituents from his 11-county 24th Congressional District he hopes upstate community activists, political leaders and their constituents will write the final chapter to a power line proposal that has beleaguered citizens and communities for too long.

Arcuri held a public meeting Monday at the Norwich Fire Station to update residents on legislation that he, Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey, D-Hurley, and John Hall, D-Dover Plains, introduced last week in the House of Representatives. The proposed bills would prevent New York Regional Interconnect from using federal eminent domain law to condemn private property along a proposed power line route that runs through portions of Oneida, Madison, Chenango, Broome and Delaware counties en route to Orange County.

"These power line route proposals are one of the most important issues facing our region, and the intent of our federal legislation is to assure New York Regional Interconnect doesn't run roughshod over the property owners with their poorly planned and ill-conceived proposal," Arcuri said.

The bill would repeal a section of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that authorizes the Department of Energy to designate national corridors and permit companies to use federal eminent domain powers. The second piece of legislation modifies a section that authorizes companies permitted to build or modify transmission lines to use federal eminent domain power and amends the section directing companies to follow state law.

Former Gov. George E. Pataki signed into law last fall an amendment to existing state law that restricts NYRI from using state eminent domain power to condemn private land.

Arcuri and Hinchey have yet to obtain Senate sponsors "It's very early yet. We still have a long way to go," Arcuri said.

"We will throw up as many roadblocks to the NYRI proposal as we can. We are prepared to fight this and any project that fails to address the concerns of upstate," said the South Utica resident, whose home is only 300 to 400 feet from the proposed route of the power line.

State Assemblyman Clifford W. Crouch, R-Guilford, has called for the state and federal governments to "gang together" and put forward a strong front in opposition to the proposal. Crouch expressed concern that the project would drive up power costs and result in some industries either closing or moving out of state.

Bradd Vickers of Preston, a state Farm Bureau official, pledged the support of the organization's 500 local members, cautioning that the proposed 200-mile route would pass through 65 miles of agricultural property that "would be devastated."

Arcuri's stand gained public support Monday from environmentalist Les Roberts of Cincinnatus, who at one point last year was seeking the Democratic nod for Congress. Roberts called on political leaders to make their stands known in writing to the Environmental Protection Agency and the state Public Service Commission.

Binghamton NY Press & Sun-Bulletin: http://www.pressconnects.com

Ban Eminent Domain Abuse: Wheeling WV Intelligencer, 2/20/07


When the Ohio Supreme Court in July issued a ruling that condemned widespread abuse of eminent domain proceedings, many Buckeye State residents probably thought the matter was closed. But leave it to bureaucrats and their attorneys to find a loophole in any court ruling. In some cities, loopholes are being sought to steer around the court’s ruling.

That is reason enough to support a movement to amend the state’s constitution in order to provide ironclad protection against abuse of eminent domain power. Several state legislators are proposing to ask voters to do just that.

The lawmakers hope to place a measure on the ballot in November to make it clear that local governments cannot use eminent domain power to obtain property for economic development projects.

In July, the state Supreme Court voted unanimously to curb severely the power of local governments to use eminent domain authority solely to obtain land for private economic development projects. But the proposed constitutional amendment, as we understand it, would, in effect, ban use of eminent domain in any situation involving private economic development projects. It’s a fine line — but one that you can count on being used as a loophole.

Ohioans also can count on municipal government officials opposing the proposed amendment. They would have preferred to have had no limits on how they could use eminent domain power; the amendment would have the effect of virtually prohibiting them from using it for anything but public works projects. We think most Ohioans will agree that eminent domain power should be restricted to such use.

Wheeling WV Intelligencer: http://www.theintelligencer.net

Measure would allow pipelines more power to seize land: Macon GA Telegraph, 2/19/07

By Greg Bluestein, Associated Press

Lawmakers are considering another push by utility companies to give them more power to build pipelines in Georgia.

A Senate measure would grant pipeline-building utilities more power to seize land as long as the property is touching an existing pipeline.

The plan's sponsor, Sen. Ross Tolleson, says it will "help deliver more energy supply to the state of Georgia." But critics say it will make it easier for utilities to take land without proving a need for the project.

The plan comes on the heels of a failed bid in 2006 that would have paved the way for Atlanta Gas Light to bill customers for construction of a new $300 million pipeline. The measure was quickly approved by the House, but scuttled in the Senate during the session's final hours.

Tolleson's said his effort is aimed at helping another utility company, Colonial Pipeline, build a pipeline to Powder Springs in west Georgia.

"It just allows them to bring the pipeline on in where they need to get a little more footage to get the pipeline in," said Tolleson, a Republican from Perry. "There's no eminent domain changes at all."

Critics say the legislation would allow Colonial Pipeline and other pipeline companies unrestricted power to condemn property as long as the new construction is near an existing pipeline. Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy, a Florida-based nonprofit, is urging lawmakers to leave the current law alone.

"The existing statutory and regulatory policy protects the public from the unlimited access of eminent domain while providing pipeline companies a fair and predictable process to approve pipeline construction," said Rose Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the group. "The proposed changes, we see, have a potential for some adverse impacts."

Macon GA Telegraph: http://www.macon.com

Trust lacking in fight over Long Branch development: Asbury Park NJ Press, 2/19/07

By Carol Gorga Williams

Eminent domain opponent Denise Hoagland on Tuesday walked up to the podium and issued a challenge to Mayor Adam Schneider: Prove you are really interested in negotiating a settlement in the Marine Terrace, Ocean Terrace and Seaview Avenue case.

Hoagland, of MTOTSA, a local anti-eminent domain group, was critical of Schneider's statement that he still is interested in settling the controversial case, which is now before the state appellate division after the city prevailed at the trial level.

So Schneider did. City Attorney James G. Aaron produced three letters the lawyer had written to Peter H. Wegener, a Lakewood attorney who, along with the Institute for Justice, an Arlington, Va., law firm, is representing the majority of MTOTSA property owners who are fighting eminent domain. The city has settled with half the 38 property owners.

Aaron's letters are dated Oct. 8, and Nov. 28, on which Aaron wrote two letters.

In one, Aaron wrote, "the city is anxious to return to the negotiating table, and timing is critical."

Timing is an issue for the MTOTSA side as well. Lawyers representing the property owners met with the city on Oct. 11 to discuss a settlement but on Oct. 24, the city filed a motion seeking to block the institute, which is representing the property owners for free and whose lawyers are specialists in eminent domain, from representing MTOTSA. That motion failed, and Hoagland said "that's a nice play-nice tactic. It's not a fair game."

Schneider acknowledged it was "the one thing I would undo. It wasn't the right move.

"I'm willing to discuss settling this case," Schneider said. "I've been willing since this became controversial to settle the case. I think it will be a very difficult negotiation . . . judging from the names we are called at council meetings. There have got to be intermediaries. You can't sit there and call me a liar when we've been very consistent about saying what we're going to do."

Both sides agreed
After the Oct. 8 meeting, both sides agreed not to discuss the specifics publicly and would only stipulate the issues they focused on had nothing to do with money. But Schneider isn't sure what the attorneys are telling their clients.

"We were prepared to redesign the plan to help them save their homes," Schneider said. "We were prepared to discuss extremely generous financial terms. We were prepared to pick up homes and move them closer to the ocean. But we've gotten no response, and now we're being told we made no attempt to negotiate, which is clearly not true."

When Schneider on Tuesday attempted to explain this, Hoagland said he was speaking "fabricated crap." She expanded her explanation later in the week.

"He talks like it is a negotiation to settle a problem," she said. "It is a negotiation to get where he wants, whereby people are selling their home for private benefits."

When told of Schneider's position that he would redesign the plan to allow some residents to stay in their home — this also includes a proposal to eliminate the public pavilion the developer proposed in favor of relocating MTOTSA homes — Hoagland said the city needs public spaces desperately.

"Where is that on paper?" she said of Schneider's offers. She said she remains unconvinced of the city's sincerity.

"Basically the question is what are they bringing to the table? The only thing I believe they are bringing to the table is "who can we whittle out of here; who is weak?' "

Nowhere in the letters does Aaron seek a list of MTOTSA owners willing to sell, although both Wegener and Hoagland say that it what the city really is seeking.

Wegener has not explained why he never answered the city's letters, saying he will not negotiate in the newspaper.

"I don't think that is going to accomplish anything," he said. "All that is, is something that politicians think is important to try to puff up their image. The fact of the matter is, if they are looking at who we are going to sell out, the answer is we are not going to sell out anybody."

Confused by response
Schneider said he is confused by the MTOTSA response that the city is looking for a list of people who will sell. Rather, he said, the request for "information" came from Wegener who said Oct. 11 that he needed to go back to his clients to find out such things as who would be willing to relocate within the MTOTSA enclave.

Institute for Justice Senior Attorney Scott G. Bullock, who also attended the Oct. 8 negotiating session, said the best thing the city could do to demonstrate good faith is dismiss the eminent domain complaints against the property owners.

Bullock referred to a redevelopment plan MTOTSA had put together, which was abandoned after the city sent MTOTSA a letter asking for additional information that MTOTSA maintains it had no ability to answer.

"We were very clear the property owners want to keep their homes," Bullock said. "Their position is they are not planners, they are not developers," Bullock said. "If the city has something in mind whereby the eminent domain actions are dropped and the homes are saved — reconfiguring the development to make that more feasible — . . . I'm happy to listen to what they have to say and present it to the property owners."

More than just land
Councilman Brian A. Unger, who campaigned with MTOTSA's support, said the possibility of relocation includes another lot — a one-acre parcel on the oceanfront just north of the beach club. But he said the opposition might be about more than just the land.

"The ones (who) are the leaders of the group are in it for principle at this point," he said. "It is difficult to negotiate with the city when this is a political and moral principle, and I think it is going to be difficult to move off this baseline."

Still, Unger asked Aaron to prepare two maps, one which would show what the relocated neighborhood would look like near the beach club, and one in which the residences were clustered on Ocean and Marine terraces. He said something visual might help convince the residents to give negotiation a second chance.

"I ask the city and the developers to exercise additional compassion and to understand emotions and to try to understand one reason the residents have been reluctant to negotiate is there is a lot of emotional history here and it has become a great political and moral issue and most of these folks are willing to stick it out on principle rather than for their own personal gain and I'm not particularly sanguine there will be a settlement until we hear from the higher courts."

Move past anger
Unger said both sides should "move past the anger." Meanwhile, Schneider is proposing any future negotiations be done in the presence of the press, to prevent the inevitable spin.

"They use the press to their advantage to garner sympathy but I don't think they've been very honest about this," Schneider said. "We're willing to put everything on the table to resolve this. If they really want to negotiate, fine. If they want the court to decide it, fine."

Asbury Park NJ Press: www.app.com

Land grab gives Army bully image: Land grab gives Army bully image: Denver CO Post, 2/18/07, 2/18/07

By David Harsanyi

When the United States Army informs you it's looking to expand - believe it.

Last week, the Pentagon gave Fort Carson a pass from a 16-year-old moratorium prohibiting major land acquisitions.

According to a news release, Fort Carson "intends to initiate efforts to potentially acquire up to 418,577 acres for the expansion of the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site" to get the job done.

That's the size of ... well, it's freaking huge - a tripling of the present size of the Fort Carson training site.

New military technology and modern warfare mean the Army needs more land. But Coloradans must ask themselves: at what price?

Of the many prospective problems that come to mind - both environmental and economic - the most disquieting to the average citizen should be the way government obtains land in these situations: They take it.

It's a governmentwide addiction called eminent-domain abuse.

Right now, for instance, half of Fort Carson's land consists of acreage that was originally seized through condemnation of property and eminent domain.

It's hard to believe that the new massive expansion can be patched together in alternative ways. Especially because many locals have no intention of selling their land.

Lon Robertson, a local rancher and president of the Piñon Canyon Expansion Opposition Coalition, is doing what he can to stop the expansion.

Robertson claims that the Army's plan has already damaged local property values as sales of ranches have fallen through and locals have stopped taking care of their property.

"There are a lot of people that, even if they wanted to sell - and we're not saying they shouldn't have the right - are not selling in a fair market," he argues. "The only buyer now is the Army. Values have decreased because when people know that the Army is going to buy, they also know no one else will."

The Army has done its public relations best to put a smiley face on the situation. It maintains that it will first try to acquire land from willing sellers and investigate leasing land.

But they have never taken eminent domain or condemnation off the table.

"My father once told me he fought for a lot of things during World War II, but this was not one of them," Robertson recalls. "This is our land and our heritage. And that's the case with the majority of people around here. We have families around here going back four and five generations. This is their land and their ranches. It's a way of life, and it's important that it continue."

So what are our legislators doing about this situation in Washington?

Robertson says that he was hopeful Sens. Wayne Allard and Ken Salazar would take the lead in protecting their land. He's been disappointed.

Allard is a lame duck.

Salazar, in his characteristic equivocation, claimed that he was "concerned" that if the expansion goes forward, "we need to protect private property and the economic health of the region."

Robertson tells me that it's been too easy for a senator to be "concerned" about eminent domain and not take concrete steps to stop it.

"What they should be saying is that eminent domain shouldn't be considered at all," he states. "It's their responsibility to pull in the reins of government."

The locals, he points out, have been particularly grateful for the work of Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave and state Rep. Wes McKinley.

It should be noted that no one knows exactly what the Army plans to do.

That's why Piñon Canyon Expansion Opposition Coalition filed papers in U.S. District Court demanding that the Army respond to its Freedom of Information Act requests.

Our representatives in Washington must guarantee that these people are treated fairly. Because, as Robertson says:

"Ultimately, it's un-American."

Denver CO Post: http://www.denverpost.com

OU takes long-term approach to property acquisitions: Norman OK Transcript, 2/19/07

OU real estate purchases and sales total millions during past 12 years

By Althea Peterson

Several years ago, a board game called "Sooneropoly" arrived at University of Oklahoma fan stores and bookstores alike, touting area campus attractions, businesses and streets around Norman.

Like the famous board game Monopoly, "Sooneropoly" players bought and sold properties, but it had a regional twist from the original, including cards such as "ST. PATRICK'S DAY! All tokens advance to O'Connell's."

The irony would be if such a board game came to life.

The University of Oklahoma purchased approximately 70 real properties during the past 12 years for more than $18 million, while selling less than 20 - three of which were in Bartlesville and Dewey, Okla., for $2,640,079.24.

Information on all properties purchased and sold was acquired by The Transcript with an Open Records Request earlier this year. Some of these purchases were block purchases, such as a $4.48 million purchase of top properties - six on Jenkins Avenue, three on Lindsey Street, and one on Lincoln Avenue properties, which was made in January 2007. Coincidentally like the board game, one of the properties purchased by OU was the land where the restaurant O'Connell's leases. That purchase was approved by regents in September 2006.

In the past, OU President David Boren has referred to property purchases around the Norman campus as "strategic." Boren said these purchases not only help OU, but also the area.

"Most of the properties which the University acquires not only benefit the University but also the Norman community," Boren said. "For example, the neighborhood around our property on Boyd St., which was once known as Newman Hall and later a halfway house called Connections, was of great benefit to the safety and security of the surrounding neighborhood and its residents."

In an interview with The Transcript, Cleveland County assessor Denise Heavner noted that some of the properties OU purchased during the last 12 years were not developed. For example, 115 Brooks St. was a vacant lot when the county last assessed the property. Once properties are purchased by OU, they are tax exempt.

"We have always attempted to develop our properties in a way which enhances the aesthetic beauty of Norman as well as the university," Boren said. "The university and the city have worked extremely cooperatively together, including swapping properties on occasion which are needed for services such as fire protection. Whenever possible, we grant the city and county easements across the university's property at no cost."

At Oklahoma State University, regents approved the use of eminent domain in July 2006 to acquire properties necessary to build an athletic village. In a July 2006 release, David Schmidly, OSU System CEO and president, said the OSU Foundation did a "remarkable job" negotiating the purchases of properties and trying to avoid eminent domain.

"We have said all along that we want to avoid eminent domain, and that remains the case," Schmidly said in July. "We continue to actively negotiate. We remain optimistic we can reach agreements on the final property. If we do not, it will not be from a lack of sincere effort by the Foundation and the university."

Boren said OU has never used eminent domain to acquire properties as long as he has been president.

"One of the reasons we purchase property when it becomes available is to avoid whenever possible the use of eminent domain," he said. "As we have seen in other communities, using eminent domain to force people to sell properties, especially personal homes, can be very painful for those involved. It is always best to use the willing buyer, willing seller approach. We try to think ahead, sometimes several years into the future, to identify the university's needs. The number of properties obtained by OU over the past 12 years is relatively small, especially when compared to other universities of our size including the state's other publicly supported comprehensive university."

The purchase of county properties by OU causes tax revenue to be lost, Heavner said. While records for some properties have been lost because of the transition from the old county offices to the new county office building, available records show that taxes collected annually on properties purchased by OU during the last four years totals more than $70,000.

Have the county entities that rely on property taxes been in a crunch because of lost tax revenue? Not really, Heavner said.

"It's because Cleveland County is growing so quickly," she said. "In a smaller county, it might matter more... of course, the county would be smaller without the university."

Because of properties lack of development, Heavner noted that properties are taxed on "fair cash value," as opposed to potential value. The sale prices have, in some cases, allowed OU to make a $513,100 profit off property sales in the last 12 years - from properties also acquired during the same time frame. However, Boren said the amounts paid by OU, which must be approved by regents first, rely more on potential value.

"County appraisals for properties for tax purposes are generally quite different than appraisals for market value. The regents are always provided with these appraisals before they take official action."

Behind all the numbers, Boren said OU tries to work in a way that mutually benefits the area - from real property development, to the rest of the economy.

"We have also used a significant amount of property for additional off-street parking and the creation of parks which serve both the university and the city," Boren said.

"The University is also a major force in bringing jobs to Norman and spinning off new businesses from University research, all of which increase the tax base of the city and county."

Norman OK Transcript: http://www.normantranscript.com

Proposal would restrict eminent domain powers in Nevada: Las Vegas NV Sun, 2/19/07

By Amanda Fehd, Associated Press

A bipartisan group of Nevada lawmakers is proposing a constitutional amendment to limit eminent domain powers - the latest development in a multi-pronged response to a 2006 ballot initiative with stronger language.

Freshman Assemblyman James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, is the main sponsor of AJR2, introduced Monday, which would amend the Nevada Constitution to prohibit government taking of private property for any private use.

Last week, 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 governments.

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

The proposed amendment is a reaction to a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that economic development can be considered a public use. The high court also said states could make their own legislation not to allow seizing of property for private purposes.

Ohrenschall said his proposal, like Question 2, would result in a constitutional change, in contrast to AB102 and SB85 which would result in state laws that could be changed by future legislatures.

"Constitutions are much more difficult to amend," he added.

But Ohrenschall also said his proposal, unlike Question 2, isn't "the shotgun effect. It doesn't completely tie the hands of government if there is blight or a desire for open space."

Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, said he's backing AJR2 even though he'd prefer that eminent domain issues be treated through laws because any unintended consequences are easier to fix.

"If that's the remedy we choose, I want to make sure we put the best language in the constitution," he said, adding that AJR2 would result in changes that would supersede terms of Question 2.

Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, who also backs AJR2, said any move by the Legislature will likely reflect a recent agreement between Clark County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury and eminent domain attorney Kermitt Waters of Las Vegas.

Waters co-authored Question 2, also known as the People's Initiative to Stop the Taking of Our Land, or PISTOL. The agreement clarifies details proposed in the ballot question, which must clear another public vote in 2008 to win final approval.

Buckley said lawmakers will likely go for a constitutional amendment because that was the approach of the ballot question. But, she cautioned, "You should always tread carefully when you are talking about amending the constitution."

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


N.J. Senate Eminent Domain Reform: New Jersey Eminent Domain Blog, 2/24/07

By Bill Ward

Senator Ronald Rice (D-Essex), Chair of the New Jersey Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee will introduce the latest version of S-1975 on Monday February 26. Senator Rice's bill differs significantly from the New Jersey Assembly's eminent domain reform bill ("Burzichelli Bill") which passed in June 2006 by a wide margin.

The most significant change is that this bill proposes a Land Use Court which would be staffed by judges appointed by the Governor. All cases involving eminent domain, zoning, and planning issues would be referred to the Land Use Court. Presently, zoning and related issues are considered in prerogative writ suits which are heard without a jury by the assignment judge in the county where the action is filed.

Eminent domain cases are venued in the Superior Court and valuation is a two-step process. The first is the hearing before condemnation commissioners, a panel which typically consists of two lawyers and a realtor appointed by the assignment judge. If either side is dissatisfied by the award of commissioners, an appeal can be made within 20 days. The final step in the valuation of the property is a Superior Court jury trial de novo. It is not clear, in the present version of S-1975, whether property owners in eminent domain case would continue to have the benefit of a jury trial. This is of paramount importance to property owners, as the jury as seen as the last hope of the owner to get a fair price for the property taken. The municipalities, developers, and other condemning authorities would love to do away with jury trials, as it would lessen their exposure considerably in the litigation. This bill, if adopted, must state clearly and unequivocably, that the right to a jury trial is protected.

[Here are] the new sections of the bill proposing the Land Use Court.

  1. a. A Land Use Court is hereby established as a court of limited jurisdiction pursuant to Article VI, Section 1, paragraph 1 of the New Jersey Constitution for the purpose of deciding land related matters in an expedited manner that are transferred to it from the Superior Court in accordance with the Rules of the Supreme Court.
    b. It shall be the goal of the Land Use Court to hear matters within 90 days of the transferal of a matter to the Land Use Court, unless otherwise agreed by the parties to the controversy.
  2. The Land Use Court shall be a court of record and shall have a seal.
  3. The Land Use Court shall have jurisdiction in matters transferred to it for expedited proceedings according to the Rules of the Supreme Court with respect to:
    a. any matter concerning the declaration of an area in need of redevelopment or a condemnation area under P.L.1992, c.79 (C.40A:12A-1 et seq.);
    b. any matter concerning eminent domain under P.L.1971, c.361 (C.20:3-1 et seq.);
    c. any matter concerning appeals from decisions of the Department of Environmental Protection or any other agency that issues environmental permits;
    d. any land use decision of a county or municipal government, authority or other instrumentality thereof or a department of State government or agency or instrumentality thereof including, but not limited to, any land use approval which is required as a prerequisite for the issuance of a construction permit pursuant to section 12 of P.L.1975, c.217 (C.52:27D-130), any dispute regarding the adoption or implementation of a county or municipal master plan or development regulation or the State Development and Redevelopment Plan, and such other land use disputes as provided by the Rules of the Supreme Court; and
    e. actions cognizable in the Superior Court which raise issues as to which judicial expertise in matters involving eminent domain and land use is desirable, which are not within the jurisdiction of the Chancery division of the Superior Court, and which have been transferred to the Land Use Court pursuant to the Rules of the Supreme Court;
    f. matters involving fair housing disputes pursuant to the "Fair Housing Act," P.L.1985, c.222 (C.52:27D-301 et al);
    g. any other matters as may be provided by statute; and
    h. the exercise of any powers that may be necessary to effectuate its decisions, judgments and orders.
  4. a. The Land Use Court, in all causes within its jurisdiction, and subject to law, may grant legal and equitable relief so that all matters in controversy between the parties may be completely determined.
    b. The right to trial by jury shall exist in the Land Use Court.
    c. Judgments of the Land Use Court may be appealed to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court pursuant to Rules of the Supreme Court.
  5. a. The Rules of the Supreme Court may provide that filing fees associated with a proceeding be transferred to the Land Use Court along with the transfer of the matter to the Land Use Court.
    b. Additional fees and the reduction or waiver of fees for particular classes of cases shall be established by the Rules of the Supreme Court.
    c. No proceeding shall be heard by the Land Use Court unless the fees are paid or waived.
    d. All fees shall be payable to the clerk of the Land Use Courtfor the use of the State, and shall not be refundable except as specifically provided by the Rules of the Supreme Court.
    e. Practice and procedure in the Land Use Court shall be as provided by the Rules of the Supreme Court.
    f. Decisions of the Land Use Court shall be published in the manner directed by the Supreme Court.
  6. a. The Land Use Court shall maintain permanent locations in Trenton and Newark and may hold sessions at other locations throughout the State.
    b. The State shall provide courtrooms, chambers and offices for the Land Use Court at the required permanent locations in Trenton and Newark and shall arrange for courtrooms, chambers and offices or other appropriate facilities at other locations throughout the State.
  7. a. The Governor shall nominate and appoint, with the advice and consent of the Senate, the judges of the Land Use Court.
    b. All appointments to such judgeships shall be made in such manner that the appointees shall be, as nearly as possible, in equal numbers, members of different political parties so as to constitute the Land Use Court bipartisan in character. The words "political parties" mean such political parties as shall have cast the largest and next to the largest number of votes, respectively, for members of the General Assembly at the last preceding general election held for the election of all the members of the General Assembly prior to the making of any such appointments.
  8. a. The Land Use Court shall consist of not less than one or more than 12 judges, each of whom shall exercise the powers of the court, subject to the Rules of the Supreme Court. The number of judges shall be determined by the Chief Justice based on the foreseeable workload of the court. The Chief Justice annually shall review the workload of the court and determine the adequate judicial staffing level.
    b. The judges of the Land Use Court shall have been admitted to the practice of law in the State for at least 10 years prior to appointment and shall be chosen for their special qualifications, knowledge, and experience in matters of land use. The judges so appointed may be retired judges from the Superior Court.
  9. a. The judges of the Land Use Court shall hold their offices for initial terms of seven years and until their successors are appointed and qualified, and upon reappointment shall hold their offices during good behavior; provided, however,that the initial term and subsequent terms may be reduced by the Chief Justice for reasons of economy and efficiency, or other good cause.
    b. The judges of the Land Use Court may retire upon attaining the age of 70 years, upon the same terms and conditions as judges of the Superior Court, and shall have the same pension rights and other benefits as judges of the Superior Court.
  10. a. Each judge of the Land Use Court shall receive annual compensation and other benefits equal to those of a judge of the Superior Court and which shall not be diminished during the term of appointment.
    b. The judges of the Land Use Court shall not engage in the ractice of law or other gainful pursuit or shall they hold other office or position of profit under this State, any other State or the United States.
  11. a. The judges of the Land Use Court shall be subject to impeachment, and upon impeachment shall not exercise judicial office until acquitted. The judges of the Land Use Court shall also be subject to removal from office by the Supreme Court for the causes and in the manner as is provided by law for the removal of judges of the Superior Court.
    b. Whenever the Supreme Court certifies to the Governor that a judge of the Land Use Court appears to be substantially unable to perform the duties of office, the Governor shall appoint a commission of three persons to inquire into the circumstances. Upon the recommendation of the commission, the Governor may retire the judge from office, on pension, as may be provided by law.
  12. The Chief Justice shall assign one of the judges of the Land Use Court to be the presiding judge of the Land Use Court. The presiding judge shall, subject to the supervision of the Chief Justice and the Administrative Director of the Courts, be responsible for the administration of the Land Use Court.
  13. The presiding judge shall submit a report to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court annually. The report shall be published as part of the Annual Report of the Administrative Director of the Courts. The report shall contain information and statistics for the previous fiscal year concerning the operation of the Land Use Court. The report may also contain recommendations by the presiding judge regarding the clarification or revision of legislation, rules, and regulations relating to eminent domain, land use, or the practice and procedure in the Land Use Court.
  14. The Chief Justice may assign judges of the Land Use Court to the Superior Court or to any other court as the need appears, and any judge so assigned shall exercise all of the powers of a judge of that court. A judge of the Land Use Court who is terminated for reasons of economy and efficiency, or for other good cause, shall not be entitled to be reassigned in accordance with this section.
  15. The Supreme Court shall appoint to serve at its pleasure a Clerk and a Deputy Clerk of the Land Use Court, neither of whom shall be subject to the provisions of Title 11A, Civil Service, of the New Jersey Statutes.

New Jersey Eminent Domain Blog: http://www.njeminentdomain.com

Store owner worrying about move: Philadelphia PA Inquirer, 2/22/07

Buck’s Hardware: What will we be paid to vacate for the Convention Center expansion?

By Tom Belden

After 66 years at 13th and Cherry Streets, the owner of Buck's Hardware Inc. was not surprised to get a condemnation notice to make way for a $700 million expansion of the nearby Convention Center.

Unlike other property owners in the vicinity, John Buck Jr. wasn't going to just pack up his memories and move away. He wanted to stay in business in the neighborhood, so he bought a new location a block and a half away.

But Buck is jittery these days, worried that the city Redevelopment Authority is moving so slowly on buying his property that it could mean serious financial hardship if the sale of his current location does not close soon. The agency said Buck shouldered some of the blame for the pace because he was the only property owner who had challenged the purchase process.

"We agree the Convention Center needs to be bigger, but we're getting trampled in the process," Buck said last week, standing amid some of the 11,000 nuts, bolts, and other hardware items that he wants to pack up and move to the new location, at 218 N. 13th St.

Some of Buck's concern is shared by officials at the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority, who say that the massive construction project to enlarge the building is on a tight timetable to be completed by the end of 2009. The first large group to use the expanded center, the National Science Teachers Association, is scheduled to bring 18,000 people here in March 2010.

But Redevelopment Authority officials say their part of the state-funded project - spending $180 million to acquire the land and demolish the buildings on it - is on schedule.

The city agency is managing the acquisition and demolition at the insistence of Gov. Rendell, who controls the release of money approved by the legislature to pay for it, because it has experience condemning abandoned real estate in the city. The expansion is the largest single capital-improvement project ever funded by the state.

"Right now, we're pretty much on schedule with our services for the commonwealth," Nick Dema, the agency's deputy director, said last week.

The Redevelopment Authority has completed sales agreements with owners of 15 of the 17 parcels in the path of expansion, which stretches from 13th Street to Broad Street, between Arch and Race Streets, Dema said. The main portion of the building now spans the area between 11th, 13th, Arch and Race.

Preparing the land for expansion needs to stay on schedule, starting this spring with selecting a demolition contractor, because construction is expected to take at least 28 months. That work needs to start by late summer to be completed by December 2009, Convention Center officials said.

Enlarging the center will give it almost twice as much exhibit and meeting space, which the region's convention promoters and political leaders say is necessary for Philadelphia to compete with other large East Coast cities.

Given what has been completed in the land-acquisition process, "we are already kind of pushing the limit" to finish on time, said Albert Mezzaroba, chief executive officer of the Convention Center Authority.

Besides Buck, the only landowner who has not reached a sales agreement or settled with the Redevelopment Authority is Myron Berman, owner of a late-19th-century office building at 121 N. Broad St. Berman has contended for more than three years that his building could be incorporated into the structure of the planned, two-block-long facade along Broad, but Convention Center officials have rejected his idea.

John Buck's dispute with the Redevelopment Authority is over the value of his property, how much it will cost for him to move, and when he will be paid for both.

Buck's property has been appraised at $845,000, but the former printing company building he has purchased for his new location, a block and a half away on 13th between Race and Vine Streets, cost $1.175 million, he said. He borrowed an additional $106,000 for a down payment on the new building and was expecting settlement by early January, he said.

Redevelopment officials said last week that they were waiting for completion of an environmental assessment of Buck's building, which could affect the sale price if there is a need for remediation of any contaminants found.

The agency contends that Buck has slowed the property transfer by challenging the settlement process. Buck is scheduled to meet with authority officials today to discuss the situation. Buck said yesterday that he was hoping to learn how much money he can expect to get for moving the stock in the store, as well as fixtures like antique oak display cabinets for which the store is known.

"We can't seem to find out what the relocation compensation would be," he said. "We want to know what the whole package is, not just the real estate end of it."

Redevelopment Authority spokesman Frank Keel said the agency did not pay relocation expenses until after a property owner had moved because it was difficult to accurately determine what the compensation should be until the move had been completed.

Redevelopment officials said the $845,000 offered for the building represents its fair-market value. Any property owners who disagree with an offer can appeal to the city's Board of View, a panel appointed by the Board of Revision of Taxes. If the property owner still is not satisfied, the appeal can be taken to the Court of Common Pleas.

Convention Center officials, who have no role in the property-acquisition process, still have an interest in what happens to Buck's Hardware because of its popularity with many of the exhibitors at trade shows and conventions. Each time an exhibitor needs a few more nails or a screwdriver to finish putting a booth together, Buck's is only a few steps away.

The hardware store, which has been run by four generations of Buck family members, is the only business now in the path of expansion that plans to stay in the area around the center.

"The Convention Center is the most important project this region has done in the last 10 years," Mezzaroba said. "But we can't let our neighborhood businesses suffer."

Philadelphia PA Inquirer: http://www.philly.com