Tenant sues to block eminent domain: Atlanticville, Long Branch NJ, 3/1/07

By Christine Varno

A Long Branch tenant is taking legal action in an attempt to save his home, and ultimately his neighborhood, from condemnation for a private redevelopment project.

Attorney Barbara J. Gonos, West Long Branch, filed a letter brief in Superior Court Feb. 20, to block the city's use of eminent domain to acquire the home of Melrose Terrace resident Bill Nordahl.

Nordahl, 69, a tenant for more than 40 years in the Marine Terrace, Ocean Terrace and Seaview Avenue neighborhood known as MTOTSA, said this week that although he is not a homeowner, he still has the right to remain in his home.

"My neighbors have a case to fight the takings, but I am not a property owner, so I was left out," said Nordahl Monday.

"I have been here for 40 years," he said. "It is my home and I just believe that tearing down this neighborhood to build condominiums is wrong.

"This is a nice neighborhood," he said.

Nordahl's arguments are expected to be heard before Judge Lawrence M. Lawson in Freehold tomorrow at 10 a.m.

Approximately 22 property owners in MTOTSA have retained William J. Ward of Florham Park, Peter H. Wegener of Lakewood, and Scott Bullock of the Institute for Justice (IJ) to appeal a June 22 Superior Court decision that permitted the condemnation of the neighborhood for a private redevelopment project.

Plans for the three-street MTOTSA neighborhood call for developer MM Beachfront North II - consisting of Matzel & Mumford, a division of K. Hovnanian, Middletown, and the Applied Cos., Hoboken - to raze the modest homes and construct luxury condominiums in their place.

Nordahl said he has remained involved with the MTOTSA mission to fight the takings of the homes, but as a renter, he was excluded from taking formal legal action.

That was until mid-February when the water company attempted to turn off Nordahl's water.

"My utilities were going to be turned off," Nordahl said. "I called my landlord and he told me he had agreed to a friendly condemnation."

A friendly condemnation allows the city to acquire property through eminent domain without objection by the homeowner, Nordahl explained.

"I heard my landlord might be selling, but no one told me anything," he said.

Property owners Mark and Kathleen Suave sold their Melrose Terrace home to the city last month. Nordahl has been a month-to-month rental residential tenant since the 1960s.

Nordahl said the developers told him that they would keep the utilities connected and advised him to look into relocation assistance from the city.

"I have been offered relocation benefits, but I did not take them," Nordahl said. "I am fighting this. This is my neighborhood."

Attorney Paul V. Fernicola, of Red Bank, will be representing the city in the case and could not be reached for comment.

Gonos explained Tuesday that Nordahl did not start this legal action, that in fact the city started it.

"On Friday, Feb. 9, Bill was served with papers by the city," Gonos said explaining that the papers were "an eminent domain condemnation action."

"If Mr. Nordahl did not have a proper right to take this action, then the city would have never named him as a defendant," Gonos said, adding, "But they had to name him as a defendant because he has a property interest."

Although Gonos said Nordahl has every right to sue the city, she did add that if the court finds that he doesn't have standing because he is a tenant, he still has a case.

"He has the standing to bring a counterclaim, where he asks the court to enforce the redevelopment plan of 1996," she said, explaining that the original plan includes Nordahl's home remaining intact.

Nordahl said he has two objectives for the suit: to remain in the apartment that has been his home for more than four decades; and to stop the redevelopment of his home and his neighborhood.

In the brief, Gonos asks the court to dismiss the condemnation complaint served on Nordahl's home. Additionally she seeks a plenary hearing to determine whether the city is acting in the best interests of the people it serves.

Gonos argues several points in the brief, including that the city's use of eminent domain to take some homes in the MTOTSA area and allow other properties to remain is "arbitrary and capricious."

According to the brief, the six-unit Seaview Park Condominium complex at 152 Ocean Ave. is in the MTOTSA neighborhood, but was excluded from the city's plans to seize properties through eminent domain.

The complex also lies in an area where residential uses are prohibited, according to the brief.

By ordinance, the city reserved all Ocean Avenue fronting tracts in the sector from Ocean Place Resort & Spa to Seven Presidents Park for public beachfront recreation uses, according to the brief.

"Why the city exempted the homes on this lot from the eminent domain taking of all other homes in the neighborhood, especially in light of its nonconforming use, is inexplicable in terms of the city's plans and corresponding goals, and is, therefore, arbitrary at best," Gonos states in the brief.

Gonos also argues that Nordahl was never given the opportunity to object to a redevelopment plan that would demolish his neighborhood.

The city adopted a redevelopment plan in 1996 that designated Nordahl's neighborhood as Beachfront North Phase II, and called for "infill" of the lots in the zone, according to the brief.

In 2005, the city's redevelopment plan called for the neighborhood to be replaced by three luxury condominium buildings.

"I did not get notified of the [1996] plan," Nordahl said. "And I never got notified of the changes. [The city] did not send anything to the renters, so I did not have a chance to object."

Gonos said in the brief, "The city bases its authority to demolish Mr. Nordahl's neighborhood and replace it with three luxury condominium buildings, on its 1996 redevelopment plan.

"Yet, nothing in the plan indicates the neighborhood would be demolished, and everything in the plan indicates the homes therein will remain in tact," she said.

Nordahl said in an interview that if the city is going to pursue redevelopment plans, the courts should enforce the 1996 redevelopment, which would allow for his neighborhood to remain intact.

Gonos also argues in the brief that the neighborhood is not blighted and the razing of the properties in MTOTSA to make way for luxury condominiums serves no public purpose.

Additionally, Gonos claims that the redevelopment plan places a burden on the lack of affordable and low-income housing, both locally and statewide, according to the brief.

Nordahl said a couple of years back, when he learned his home was slated to be seized, he decided to fight the taking.

"I knocked on doors of all my neighbors," Nordahl said, "and we established a core group and a bigger group. We came up with the name MTOTSA.

"Since then it has been a group effort," he said.

Atlanticville, Long Branch NJ: http://atlanticville.gmnews.com

Eminent domain power expanded: Daily Herald, Provo UT, 3/1/07

By Jeff DeMoss

With time running out in the 2007 general session, the Utah Legislature restored and expanded the power of cities and counties to condemn, buy and clear private property for economic revitalization purposes.

The city of Ogden, which is trying to acquire additional land for the Ogden River Project, was among those eagerly awaiting the passage of House Bill 365.

The bill gained unanimous approval from the Senate on a 26-0 vote Wednesday after passing the House on a 64-3 vote last week.

Unlike a previous law that was repealed in 2005, where a single property owner could hold up an entire project, HB 365 requires an 80 percent majority of residential owners or 75 percent of commercial owners in a project area to give approval in petition form before redevelopment authorities can exercise eminent domain.

A project could also be cleared with approvals representing the equivalent of 70 percent of total residential property value or 60 percent of commercial value in the area.

Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, replaced the original bill with one that increased the requirements for majority owner approval.

"What ends up happening a lot of times is the minority ends up trumping the majority," Jenkins said. "You end up in a situation where one person can make it so the rest can't get rid of their property. This sets a very, very high standard for the majority."

Sen. Greg Bell, R-Fruit Heights, said citizens can defer the money they receive from property sold under eminent domain on their tax returns.

"The tax benefit alone is worth it," Bell said.

Two years ago, the Legislature approved Senate Bill 184, which eliminated the ability of local governments to use eminent domain to acquire property in blighted areas for redevelopment.

The bill effectively killed a plan for the construction of a 206,000-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter on Wall Avenue between 21st and 22nd streets in Ogden.

In addition to the property owner petition process, House Bill 365 contains other safeguards against potential eminent domain abuse. For example, a two-thirds vote from an RDA board would be required before property could be condemned. Previously, only a simple majority vote was needed.

"We've tried to take an incremental step and see if there's a way to have a balance," said Senate Majority Leader Curtis Bramble, R-Provo. "Should this be abused, I'm sure we'll be back here tightening it up."

HB 365, Eminent Domain Authority of Community Development and Renewal Agencies, Rep. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George. This bill would allow community development and renewal agencies to acquire property by eminent domain in an urban renewal project area under certain circumstances.

Daily Herald, Provo UT: http://www.heraldextra.com

Prop. A is eminent domain in disguise: North County Times, Escondido CA, 2/28/07


By John Chamberlain

As a resident of Solana Beach since 1979, I am compelled to offer my view of the pending Proposition A scheduled for a vote of the residents of Solana Beach on March 6. Proposition A is tantamount to the city of Solana Beach exercising (or, at least, attempting to exercise) its power of eminent domain over its residential property owners. Yet, while Prop. A proposes a partial taking of private property for public use, it does so without any notion or mention of the constitutionally required "just compensation."

In eminent domain proceedings, "just compensation" is typically calculated based on the fair market value of such portion of the property taken by the government for public use. It is worth noting that "public use" is interpreted very broadly by court systems - and typically, only a "public benefit" is needed to establish a "public use" standard. In this case, as both the text of Ordinance 357 and as Councilman David Roberts describe, the "public benefit" is maintaining the so-called "community character" and preventing the "mansionization" of Solana Beach.

But to achieve this objective, Solana Beach is purporting to partially take private landowners' existing entitlements by restricting such property owners' right to fully develop their property as land use laws and regulations currently allow. This restriction serves to significantly and adversely impact the value of residents' property - potentially into the hundreds of thousands of dollars per home, if not more.

As a result, Solana Beach is required, by law, to justly compensate property owners for this diminution in property value as required under the California Constitution. Failure to provide this constitutionally required compensation undermines the basic civil liberties afforded to property owners.

In reality, it is the "just compensation" component of eminent domain that imposes and drives market discipline on politicians and other government regulators as they attempt, in whole or in part, to enforce these takings against the owners of private property. I expect my view is shared by many homeowners of Solana Beach. Should this proposition be approved, I can only imagine it will be met with numerous lawsuits to challenge its constitutionality. I hope that before this community divides itself (again), its citizens will use their common sense and vote against this initiative.

Property ownership is a fundamental right of every American and is typically the most significant investment a citizen makes in his or her life. Allowing a local government and/or its current politicians to unduly limit this right without just compensation is not only unfair, it's unconstitutional. Politicians come and go; a lot of us are here to stay.

North County Times, Escondido CA: http://www.nctimes.com

Solana Beach resident John W. Chamberlain is chief executive officer of American Assets Inc., a San Diego-based real estate company specializing in development and management of retail, office and multifamily real estate throughout the United States.

Lawmakers halt eminent domain action: Today's Sunbeam, Salem NJ, 3/1/07

By Trish Graber

A [New Jersey state] Senate measure to amend the state's eminent domain laws making the process more transparent and ensuring better compensation for property owners was derailed after state lawmakers wrangled over which version of the legislation to push forward.

Sen. Ron Rice, D-Essex, expected to move a bill out of a Senate committee which would require that municipalities post redevelopment plans, including all properties included in the plan, on the municipal Web site. The bill would narrow the definition of blight, give affected property owners first consideration to live in any new project constructed in the redevelopment area, and require that at least 80 percent of the area meet criteria for redevelopment.

If it had cleared the committee, the bill could have headed to the Senate floor for a vote. However, a similar bill, sponsored by Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-Paulsboro, had already passed the lower house in June by a vote of 55-18-11, and was delayed in the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee which Rice chairs.

If signed into law, either piece of legislation would have state-wide implications on a matter that has impacted elections on a local level across the state.

Rice said his legislation pulled sections from each of 13 eminent domain bills introduced after the Supreme Court's 2005 Kelo v. City of New London, Conn., decision which allowed local government to use eminent domain for a private project. Previously, eminent domain procedures were restricted to public projects, like schools or highways.

Sen. Stephen Sweeney, D-3 of West Deptford, who sponsored Burzichelli's bill in the upper house, said the assemblyman worked extensively on the legislation, meeting with stakeholders from across the state.

"John Burzichelli worked extra hard on the bill, from the League of Municipalities to the Public Advocate," he said. "We just don't want to have John's work cast aside. We're willing to work with Sen. Rice."

After a closed-door meeting with Sweeney and Sen. Fred Madden, D-4 of Washington Township, who serves on the committee, Rice announced that he would take testimony but hold the legislation in order to sort out concerns with his colleagues.

Rice said he was willing to merge his measure with the already existing proposal.

"We're going to move this bill one way or the other," he said. "Or (the eminent domain process) is going to remain status quo."

Rice's bill would also establish a Land Use Court, which would hear land-related disputes within 90 days of a challenge. Decisions could be appealed to the Appellate Division.

The state's Public Advocate, who testified at Monday's hearing, endorsed Burzichelli's bill.

Public Advocate Ronald Chen said he takes issue with language that allows "a lack of utilization" of an area, and other broad criteria, to deem a specific property blighted in Rice's the first step in condemning land that can be taken through eminent domain.

"The blight criteria still fall short of imposing the kind of objective limitations that provide meaningful protections," he said.

Today's Sunbeam, Salem NJ: http://www.nj.com/news/sunbeam

Charlotte won't use eminent domain in airport issue: Battle Creek MI Enquirer, 2/28/07

By Rachel Greco

[Charlotte MI] City officials won't use eminent domain if they relocate the Fitch H. Beach Airport, according to a nonbinding resolution council members passed Monday night.

"I hope this resolution gives you assurance that we respect you," Mayor Deb Shaughnessy told a packed room of residents.

Several hours before the vote, about 100 people protested outside the Charlotte City Hall on Lawrence Avenue.

Waving signs and chanting, "Don't take our land," and "No airport in the country," they gathered to oppose to the city expanding or relocating the airport.

Last month, city officials said they were considering proposals to expand the airport's 3,500-foot runway to 5,000 feet or relocate the airport to accommodate corporate jets. Officials are currently awaiting a feasibility study in April before their decision.

Consultants have identified possible relocation sites for the airport in Eaton, Walton and Carmel townships.

The airport was not on the council's meeting agenda.

Council Member Dee Smith proposed and voted for the resolution "not because of pressure."

"I'm putting it forward because it's the right thing to do," she said.

The resolution passed 4 to 3. The measure only applied to using eminent domain if the airport is relocated, not if it is expanded at its current site.

Most protesters were from Eaton Township. Spiritual Episcopal Church in Eaton Rapids coordinated the event.

The Rev. Elle Desgrange said her church is on one of the proposed relocation sites.

"That's our business," she said. "That's our livelihood."

Protestor Janette Burzan lives on a centennial farm in Eaton Township.

"We will be affected because the farmers that rent our property stand to lose their property," Burzan said. "This affects our neighbors, our friends."

Eaton Township Trustee Ron Hunt said an airport is "not like a building, that's for sure. It changes the entire environment around it."

Battle Creek MI Enquirer: http://www.battlecreekenquirer.com

Fairfield limits eminent domain: Connecticut Post, Bridgeport CT, 2/27/07

By Andrew brophy

The town [of Fairfield CT] no longer can take a resident's property to benefit a private developer.

Russell Jennings, of Winnepoge Drive, thinks that's a good thing.

Jennings said a private developer who wants to buy a resident's house should pay what the homeowner wants — not what the town or developer thinks is a fair price.

"If it's so valuable to a developer, it's incumbent upon him to come up with a price that's agreeable to the homeowner," he said.

But Ken Camarro, of Carroll Road, said the town shouldn't give up its eminent domain power to benefit a private development.

Some neighborhoods that have single-family homes near commercial buildings might be better off with denser housing developments, Camarro said. "We may want to bring a different character to the neighborhood," he said.

The Representative Town Meeting on Monday night overwhelmingly sided with Jennings' point of view.

The RTM voted 35-9, with one abstention, to approve the law, which takes effect March 12.

The ordinance forbids the town from seizing land that has four or fewer houses for economic development purposes if the development to be built will be owned by a private or nongovernment entity.

The ordinance was enacted in reaction to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said towns and cities could force people to sell their homes to make way for a private development if the development brought in more tax revenue.

The debate among RTM members and the public in Osborn Hill School's gymnasium was brief but lively.

Mitchell Fuchs, D-8, said the town law would not be necessary because he trusts future RTMs to use the town's eminent domain power wisely.

"We have never passed an ordinance solely for the purpose of controlling this body. I for one believe in the people in this room," Fuchs said. "I trust, whether it be this town body today, 10 years from now, 30 years from now, that this body would do the right thing."

But Faith Dillon, R-9, said a future RTM might be tempted to seize someone's property if a large corporation wanted to come to town because that corporation would pay a lot of taxes. Dillon voted in favor of the ordinance.

James Millington, R-1, urged the RTM to send a "a clear message" by approving the law.

"Send a message to developers, if they're looking to exploit eminent domain in Fairfield and send a message to homeowners, that we're going to protect them in their homes," he said.

Brian O'Gara, D-5, said many residents in the Tunxis Hill area of town live in homes that could be sought by developers because they are near commercial properties. Tunxis Hill homeowners may not have the money to fight eminent domain in court, O'Gara said.

Connecticut Post, Bridgeport CT: http://www.connpost.com

"Domain" bills need rewrite: Asbury Park NJ Press, 2/28/07


Two competing eminent domain bills produced a standoff on a Senate panel Monday. It's a good thing the vote was postponed. Both bills are flawed.

Sen. Ronald Rice, D-Essex, who chairs the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee, delayed a vote on a measure that had been previously approved by the Assembly. Rice was hoping to push a vote on his own bill. Rice and the sponsor of the Assembly bill, John Burzichelli, D-Gloucester, should sit down and come up with amended bills that combine the strongest elements of each — and then some.

They should ask for help from lawmakers who have sponsored other measures that would take their proposals further, including Sens. Ellen Karcher, D-Monmouth, and Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, who sponsored a measure that would limit pay-to-play in eminent domain cases. They also should involve Sens. Peter Inverso, R-Mercer, and Diane Allen, R-Burlington, who have proposed a constitutional amendment that would limit government's use of eminent domain to only "essential public purposes." Public Advocate Ronald K. Chen also should be seated at the table.

The measure before the Senate, a companion bill to one spearheaded by Burzichelli, was endorsed by Chen, even though it didn't include a pay-to-play ban or strong enough affordable-housing provisions. Adding them to the Senate version would go a long way toward protecting the state's property owners.

In pushing his own bill, Rice said, "We have a better product here, on everybody's account, including the public advocate's." But Chen has justifiable concerns with Rice's bill, which doesn't go far enough in defining blighted land or fairly compensating property owners. Jeff Tittel, director of the Sierra Club's state chapter, said Rice's measure would hasten the permitting process for developers.

Sen. Leonard T. Connors Jr., R-Ocean, who says the use of eminent domain used for private development is a "swinging door to corruption," sits on the panel chaired by Rice. Connors should push for a meeting of the minds on the related bills, culling the strongest points of each.

If they are added to the Burzichelli bill, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, New Jersey residents finally would have the long-overdue protections they need against abuse of eminent domain.

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

Bipartisan House Team Introduces Eminent Domain Bill: Wisconsin Ag Connection, 2/28/07

Despite a false start in the last Congress, a bipartisan team in the House reintroduced a bill to withhold federal funds to municipalities that seize private property for business.

Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Stephanie Herseth (D-SD) hope that H.R. 926 will be a disincentive for local governments to use eminent domain for economic revitalization. The 2005 Supreme Court decision in Kelo vs. New London has received criticism from a broad coalition of property rights advocates and civil rights activists who have worked to push through state restrictions on eminent domain in 40 states.

According to the House bill, any property owner could sue the local government in federal court to prevent the seizure.

A similar bill was recently introduced in the Senate (S. 48) that will require any political entity who applies for federal funds to certify that the money will not go towards eminent-domain-for-economic-development actions.

Goodlatte emphasized that the bill is necessary to protect homes, farms and businesses from "abusive land grabs."

Wisconsin Ag Connection: http://www.wisconsinagconnection.com

Case of Palmetto's attempted, eminent-domain taking is to the judge: Bradenton FL Herald, 2/28/07

By Carl Mario Nudi

An early test of a new state eminent-domain law is now in the hands of a judge.

Attorneys for the owners of the Olympia Theater and the city of Palmetto presented final arguments Wednesday to Circuit Judge Peter Dubensky - both seeking control of the quiet entertainment venue.

At stake is who will own the historic building in Palmetto's downtown area on 10th Avenue West.

Cindy and Joel Jarvis purchased the theater from the city in 1995 for $1 and have renovated it, but have failed to open it to the public.

The city decided to proceed with an eminent domain taking and use the building for public recreation.

Dubensky did not say when he would issue his ruling in the legal case, which was heard in a Bradenton court Monday.

Bradenton FL Herald: http://www.bradenton.com


MTOTSA eminent domain case to be heard in Superior Court: Asbury Park NJ Press, 2/27/07

Owners sold house that was rented by a 40-year tenant

By Carol Gorga Williams

MTOTSA — the sequel — will play out Friday before Superior Court Judge Lawrence M. Lawson as the city faces off against William A. Nordahl, whom many credit as the creative force behind the anti-eminent domain lobbying group.

Nordahl, 69, a tenant who has lived in the Marine Terrace, Ocean Terrace, Seaview Avenue area for more than 40 years, is fighting the city's attempts to get him to come to terms with the fact that his landlord has sold the building, effectively ending Nordahl's tenancy.

But according to Paul V. Fernicola, the city's attorney on the condemnation case, Long Branch is not seeking Nordahl's immediate eviction. Instead, it has offered to allow him to remain as long as the MTOTSA appeal remains an open question.

But Long Branch also wants Nordahl to agree that he will not use the city's willingness to let him remain temporarily as a defense when his eviction becomes a reality.

Nordahl, though his attorney, Barbara J. Gonos, is challenging the city's right to remove him and, in a lengthy brief, has raised many of the same issues raised last year by MTOTSA property owners before Lawson.

Nordahl claims he was not given proper notice that the plan for his area changed, from project where units would be erected on available land (called "infill") to planned residential community; he also claims the area is not blighted and that conflicts of interest on the city's side raise questions about the fairness of the eminent domain process.

"People expect the truth from their government," Gonos writes. "Without it, Democracy, government by and for the people, cannot function. People can only make good decisions about what's best for them and their community, and communicate those decisions to their representatives in government if they are told the truth. The city bases its authority to demolish Mr. Nordahl's neighborhood and replace it with three luxury condominium buildings on its 1996 redevelopment plan. Yet, nothing in the plan indicates the neighborhood would be demolished, and everything in the plan indicates that the homes therein will remain intact."

Fernicola said even though Nordahl is a tenant, not a property owner, he is not without rights under the state's relocation statute. Nordahl is on a "month-to-month" arrangement with his landlord, according to court documents.

"He clearly has rights, but I don't think his rights as a tenant take precedence over the property owner," said Fernicola, noting the owners have agreed to sell.

"That is why in this case, he has very limited standing," Fernicola said. "If the property owner were raising these objections, he could probably join in."

The city has made a deal with landlords Mark and Kathleen Sauve to sell two properties in the MTOTSA zone, 67 Marine Terrace, where Nordahl lives, and 72 Ocean Terrace. The city agreed to pay $450,000 for one and $680,000 for the other.

It is considered a "friendly condemnation" in which the owner acknowledges eminent domain can be used but also potentially receives tax benefits from the way the sale is conducted.

Gonos could not be reached for comment, and Nordahl declined comment. But Fernicola said the two sides will be before Lawson, who previously decided the MTOTSA case June 22 in the city's favor, at 10 a.m. Friday.

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

Eminent Domain to Condemn Water Rights Could Be Prohibited : Telluride CO Watch, 2/26/07

By K. C. Mason

With a little help from Western Slope Democrats, a northeastern Colorado Republican lawmaker is advancing his bill to prohibit government entities from using their power of eminent domain to condemn water rights.

The House voted 33-30 Friday to give preliminary approval to House Bill 1036, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling. He said the two missing members – including Rep. Bernie Buescher, D-Grand Junction – are expected to support the bill when a final House vote is taken this week.

“Eminent domain should be used as a necessity and not as a convenience,” Sonnenberg said. “It’s getting to the point where we must do something to ensure that condemnation is not used as the path of least resistance.”

The measure is strongly opposed by the Denver Water Board and the Colorado Municipal League, whose lobbyists contend the power of municipalities to obtain water rights through condemnation is protected by the state constitution.

“A vote for this bill is a vote for violating the constitution,” said Rep. Randy Fisher, D-Fort Collins, who noted the bill also is opposed by the Colorado Water Congress. “Eminent domain is seen as a safety net for unforeseen circumstances. This bill leaves (government entities) with no flexibility.”

Sonnenberg countered that the constitution’s reference to the use of eminent domain was related to the infrastructure needed to convey water, such as ditches and drainages.

“It doesn’t say anything about the water right itself,” he said. “When that was challenged by home rule cities, the court said you can’t have water works without water rights so they can condemn for water rights. It was an expansion by the judiciary of what the constitutional says.”

Sonnenberg then amended his bill to state specifically that “water works shall not be construed to include appropriated water rights.”

Other opponents argued the bill wasn’t necessary because condemnation for water rights has rarely been used in Colorado.

“This bill chips away at the ability of locals government to provide needed services for cities and municipalities,” said Rep. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton. “There is no evidence of abuse. This is a bill in search of a problem.”

Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, said she was suspicious of the opposition.

“Why are they opposed to this bill if these folks are contemplation doing these takings,” Curry said. “The General Assembly has passed several measures than can be used as tools for governments to obtain water.”

Both Curry and Sonnenberg listed a number of recent laws that allow for flexibility in moving water from agriculture to cities without permanently drying up the land. They include leasing through temporary water supply plans, water banking and rotational crop management plans.

There are a variety of alternatives to condemning a water right,” Sonnenberg said. “Water rights don’t have the same quality as fixed real estate. The ability to use and develop water is not tied to specific location.”

Telluride’s representative in the House, Republican Ray Rose of Montrose, also supported the bill.

“We’re not talking about a gallon of water out of the Colorado River but very broad condemnation rights that could supersede such things as the (Colorado) River Compact,” Rose said. “If we allow this to happen, it will be a free-for-all for water in Colorado.”

Rep. Al White, R-Winter Park, said Colorado needed to be proactive to head off future water wars.

“I can envision a time in 20 years when the terms of fallowing and leasing contracts are over and a farmer says, ‘I want my water back,’” White said. “That’s when the municipality will come in with condemnation.”

Curry reacted strongly when Fisher claimed that “powerful interests on the Eastern Slope are going to get that water one way or another.”

“If that is true and that is their attitude, that reinforces the need for this bill,” Curry said. “Governments have other options. They don’t have to take water rights in a hostile action.”

Telluride CO Watch: http://www.telluridewatch.com

Eminent domain not over: Bridgeton NJ News, 2/27/07

By Jaime Marine

Representatives for Millville [NJ] First say they accept the fact a special election can't be held to deal with their eminent domain petition.

But President Emil Van Hook said during a press briefing Monday afternoon the city still needs to address the first part of the petition request, which asks commissioners to pass an ordinance banning eminent domain for the benefit of a private developer or private development.

The petition was submitted on Feb. 20 during the commission meeting.

"Contrary to what they would have you believe, the law does not forbid the commissioners from passing an ordinance," a statement issued by the local watchdog group said. "The commissioners should openly declare they will or will not adopt the petitioners' ordinance. That action is not only allowed, but required."

In a statement issued by Solicitor Rich McCarthy last Tuesday, he stated, "Any petitions which seek to adopt an ordinance or resolution, through initiative or referendum, to restrict or eliminate (eminent domain) in a designated redevelopment area are in direct contravention of state law.

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

Van Hook said any city commission should recognize a petition signed by over 1,100 voters.

"They have by ordinance banned condemnation at the request of the motorsports park, and they passed a resolution stating they would not condemn a single-family, owner-occupied home," the statement read. "There is no question, whatsoever, that if they had any desire to abide by the wishes of the signers of the petition, they have the power to do so."

Van Hook said they are not ruling out legal action, but said they are hoping to avoid it. The city has about 40 days to respond to the group's request.

"We really don't want to go there," he said, noting it would be costly.

Van Hook said the group disagrees with McCarthy's reported opinion that a non-binding referendum is prohibited by statute.

They added they would like to see the city use this tool to see how people feel about the issue.

"If it can be done for the developers, then why can't it be done for the people?" he asked. "The fact is, this issue will not go away."

McCarthy could not be reached for comment Monday.

City Clerk Lew Thompson said the petition is in the hands of the clerk's office, but said, under McCarthy's advice, they aren't required to take any further action on it.

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

Mayor seeks to take Crystal Lake site by eminent domain: Newton MA Tab, 2/26/07

By Christopher Loh

After nearly six months of failed negotiations to purchase a Crystal Lake-front property, Newton [MA] Mayor David Cohen wants to take over 20 Rogers St. from owner Pat Hannon by eminent domain.

“I have not come to this conclusion without a great deal of careful consideration,” said Cohen. “A taking by eminent domain is a very serious matter and it is not being done lightly. However, it is my feeling that this is a virtually once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the City of Newton.”

Eminent domain is the inherent power of the government to seize a citizen’s private property for a public reason. In the case of Hannon’s property, the city intends to use the property to extend the public beach at Crystal Lake.

Cohen informed the Board of Aldermen of his intentions in a letter dated Feb. 23.

The mayor said he is asking the Community Preservation Committee for $2.3 million of Community Preservation Act funding which he believes represents fair market value.

Eminent domain cannot be implemented until the money has been appropriated.

If the money is approved by the CPC, the issue moves before the full Board of Aldermen, which has final approval of the action.

Hannon doesn’t object to the idea, but he wants to be paid a higher figure than what is currently being requested by the Mayor.

“This guy’s unbelievable,” said Hannon who added that while he is not against eminent domain, he would prefer to have a “friendly taking” in which he receives more than the $2.3 million.

“It’s not the end of the world but what it is, is an unfair tactic to get the property for less than it’s worth,” said Hannon.

Hannon said he is willing to consider any offers between $3 million and $3.9 million.

The property is also laden with $12 million worth of liens - $6 million of those are back taxes Hannon owes to both the state and federal governments while the other half is to private organizations.

Cohen said that after speaking with government officials he is “100-percent confident” that the city would be released of those liens and not found responsible.

The mayor’s spokesperson Jeremy Solomon said the City will be taking the property by eminent domain based on four arguments.

First, Solomon said, the property is “unique” and is specifically “one that abuts a city facility on Crystal Lake.”

Solomon was referring to the city’s bathhouse used by swimmers.

The second argument was that Hannon has “shown a willingness to sell,” said Solomon. “We’re not trying to seize a property from a homeowner who wants to hang on to it.”

Third, the house located on the property is not habitable, according to Solomon. And fourth, taking the property would enable the city to “enhance and preserve the recreational facility already located there,” said Solomon.

“I have reached this conclusion after protracted conversations and six months of negotiation with the current owner to try to reach a mutually agreeable purchasing price,” said Cohen.

This is not the first battle Hannon has had with the city.

Hannon has argued with Garden City officials over his right to snowmobile on the lake; over whose responsibility it is to fix an old retaining wall; and his right to tear down the house sitting on the property after it was twice damaged by fire.

In October Hannon asked the city for $4.5 million for the property. He was upset by Cohen’s counter offer of $2.3 million and pulled the property from the table.

Cohen has said all along that in order to use CPA funding for the purchase, he was legally bound to the $2.3 million figure that was the result of an appraisal the city had commissioned.

Eventually, with the help of Ward 6 Alderman Ken Parker, Hannon asked for $3.9 million but once again pulled the offer when the city sent him a letter saying it was preparing to come on to the lakefront property to fix the retaining wall.

“They’ve succeeded in taking away my emotional attachment to the property but I still want the money that it is worth,” said Hannon, who paid $3 million for the property that has been assessed at $2.7 million by the city.

While he has been looking into building 45 units of affordable housing on the site Hannon said he will wait a week to see what exactly happens.

“I don’t think [Cohen’s] bluffing, I think he is going to take it,” said Hannon but added that he was still not bothered by the news. “I was born at night but not last night and I’m just as good at mind games as he is. I’ve been married a long time and I have eight kids, I can take anything. None of this is a challenge for me.”

Adding to the drama of the saga around Hannon and his property is Cohen’s disclosure that 20 Rogers St. is encumbered by about $12 million in liens. According to Cohen, the city solicitor has determined that taking the land by eminent domain is the only way the city can get a clear title.

While Hannon downplayed the liens, saying he was confident the federal government would relieve him of them, Cohen said he has had conversations with officials on both the state and federal level and is “100-percent confident” the city will not be responsible for any of the liens if eminent domain is taken.

The mayor’s office provided a complete list of liens that have been taken out on the property since its purchase by Hannon in August 2002.

The liens include two federal tax liens of $2.7 million each within one week of each other in February 2003 and more recently an $871,000 lien from ACSTAR Insurance Company in September 2005 and a $2.4 million lien applied by the Middlesex Superior Court this August.

This isn’t the first time it has been reported that Hannon has had tax problems.

In November the IRS announced the seizures of seven different properties in Acton, Maine all owned by Hannon and his wife Elizabeth.

Hannon later said the seizures never happened and that the IRS made a mistake adding that the liens are an extension of what took place in November.

Newton MA Tab: http://www.townonline.com/newton

Panel delays eminent domain vote: Cherry Hill NJ Courier Post, 2/27/07

By Gregory J Volpe

A [new Jersey] Senate panel did not vote as planned on an eminent domain reform measure Monday, after an apparent standoff between an Essex County senator and Gloucester County lawmakers who are advancing competing bills.

Last June, the Assembly passed a measure spearheaded by Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-Paulsboro, that aims to place more hurdles for redeveloping towns, limit what land can be taken and increase compensation for taken property.

Sen. Ronald Rice, D-Newark, chairman of the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee, hoped for a vote on his own bill, which has similar aims, but different mechanics. After an impromptu meeting with Burzichelli's district-mate, Sen. Stephen Sweeney, D-West Deptford, who sponsors an identical measure to the one passed by the Assembly, Rice announced he was postponing the vote for another meeting.

"We have a better product here, on everybody's account, including the public advocate's," Rice said after the hearing. "Take a look at it. . . . Some of the things in it are extractions from (Burzichelli's) bill."

Public Advocate Ronald K. Chen, who endorsed Burzichelli's measure even though it didn't include a pay-to-play ban or strong enough affordable housing provisions, had concerns with Rice's bill, saying it did not go far enough in defining blighted land that could be taken, placing strong burdens of proof on municipalities seeking to take land or providing fair replacement housing.

"There are certain provisions that I think are an improvement, but there are others that I still have some concerns about," said Chen, who wants to see a final version of the legislation before picking sides.

Chen said Rice's measure does go further with public notice and assistance for displaced tenants.

Burzichelli denied an adversarial effort to reform eminent domain.

"I don't think "standoff' is the right word," Burzichelli said. "We expect in this process work in the one house builds upon the other. We always expect if there's going to be changes, it's going to come back better."

Burzichelli said he didn't have a chance to study Rice's measure to compare the differences. Sweeney did not return phone calls Monday afternoon.

One of the major differences highlighted Monday was creating a land use court that would deal solely with eminent domain-related cases.

Dan Phillips, legislative liaison for New Jersey's court system, said that would cost about $10 million annually and won't speed up a process that resolves such cases in six to eight months.

"They are some of our highest priority cases and we try to move them quickly," Phillips said.

Rice, whose measure calls for the court to hear complaints within 90 days, said six months is too long. "When it comes to poor people needing representation, you say we don't have any money," Rice said.

Jeff Tittel, director of the Sierra Club's New Jersey chapter, said Rice's measure will hasten the permitting process for developers.

"Burzichelli's is a step in the right direction," Tittel said. "It still has a ways to go, but this is two steps backward."

Another difference is requiring municipalities to declare areas in need of condemnation to specify which parcels might be taken in redevelopment projects.

Bill Potter, chairman of the New Jersey Coalition Against Eminent Domain Abuse, said that's a positive step but decried the measure's grandfather clause, which allows any project with any stage of municipal approval to proceed under old guidelines.

"Here we are dealing with eminent domain abuse in New Jersey, which is ground zero in the country, and we've got this 60-page bill and it doesn't do anything for any of the cases that are out there," Potter said.

Some critics want to ban any eminent domain used for private redevelopment.

"This is a swinging door to corruption," said Sen. Leonard T. Connors Jr., R-Surf City.

Cherry Hill NJ Courier Post: http://www.courierpostonline.com

Eminent domain and the high cost of gasoline: Atlanta GA Journal-Constitution, 2/25/07


By Tom Baxter and Jim Galloway

For two years, Republicans at the state Capitol have tortured themselves over eminent domain, the seizure of private property for the greater good.

GOP lawmakers and a GOP governor have dared the world and its courts to chisel away at individual rights in Georgia.

They’re about to tackle the topic again. But this time, the outcome is likely to be different. Senate Bill 173 pits the sacrament of land against your right to cheap gasoline for your cars, diesel for your tractors, and fuel for your jets.

In the past, outrage over eminent domain has been driven by government seizure of real estate for purposes of economic development. But in a sense, this has been something of a straw man.

Utilities, not the evil gummint, are the most common employers of eminent domain, in this state and elsewhere. And in Georgia, utilities generally get what they want - unless they screw up in horrible, horrible fashion.

Which reminds us of the story of Colonial Pipeline Co. It operates a dual set of underground pipes that stretch from Louisiana through Georgia and clear up to the New York City harbor, providing this side of the United States with all sorts of liquid petroleum products.

Back in the mid-1990s, the company hit an astounding stretch of bad luck. The federal government declared Colonial’s leaky pipes a hazard. Colonial pipes flooded the well water of a Bibb County pecan farmer with fuel. He turned out to be an influential state lawmaker.

And the company tried to muscle a new pipeline through the pristine plantations of some very, very wealthy landowners in south Georgia. These were the kind of people who could motivate then-Gov. Zell Miller to sign legislation in 1995 that subjected petroleum pipelines to a permitting system.

Before using eminent domain to expand, pipeline companies now are required to get approval from the state Department of Transportation and the state Environmental Protection Division.

But times change. Things happen, like Hurricane Katrina, the occupation of Iraq, and a near-nuclear Iran.

Five new refineries in Louisiana are set for completion in 2010. Colonial says it needs to construct a third, 500-mile pipeline stretching from Baton Rouge to holding tanks in Cobb County, to keep up with the demand. At an estimated cost of $1 billion.

S.B. 173, sponsored by Ross Tolleson (R-Perry), passed out of a Senate committee last week. Delta Air Lines, whose name is magic around the Capitol these days, spoke in favor of it. The added pipeline is specifically named in Gov. Sonny Perdue’s energy program.

The bill would strip away the requirements for DOT and EPD permits - for Colonial and one other petroleum pipeline company in Georgia. No other utility is subject to them, argued Colonial spokesman Sam Whitehead. (Sarcastic tree-huggers no doubt would point out that electricity and natural gas rarely leave oil slicks in groundwater.)

The permits cost time and money. “Our best estimate is that if everything went well, it would take eight to 12 months,” Whitehead said. But that’s only a guess. Though the legislation has been on the books for a dozen years, no company has actually gone through the process. Ever.

The bill would also let Colonial to relocate portions of its third line within a two-mile swath - one mile on each side of its current route - to avoid environmentally sensitive land, historic sites, and crowds.

“Oh, my God, that just might include anything,” said Robert Ray. He was the state House member with the pecan farm. A conservative Democrat, he retired from the Legislature last year. “I just can’t believe the new Republican Legislature is opening up these situations that were partially resolved,” he said.

Whitehead, the Colonial spokesman, said his company has changed with the times, and is more sensitive about deploying surveyors onto property it does not own. “Certainly, in these ensuing 11 years, we do these purchase of easements completely differently than was done at the time,” he said.

Republicans are handling S.B. 173 very carefully. So carefully that they’ve included two Democrats among the four top signatures, the better to spread the blame if things go wrong. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle issued a statement on Friday acknowledging the balancing act that must be struck.

Cheap gas is a must. As is fuel for crop harvests. “However, he recognizes that private property rights are paramount,” said Cagle spokeswoman Jaillene Hunter.

Colonial recognizes GOP discomfort with the issue. “We understand it’s a sensitive issue, and we would prefer not to be doing this,” Whitehead said. “But it’s a matter of needing to expand the capacity for petroleum products into not just Atlanta, but the entire state of Georgia.”

If you still have any doubt about the ultimate fortunes of S.B. 173, remember one thing: You live in a state that, 18 months ago, shut down nearly every school in the state to make sure farmers had enough diesel to gather up their peanuts.

Atlanta GA Journal-Constitution: http://www.ajc.com

Assembly restricts eminent domain: Roanoke VA Times, 2/25/07

By Michael Sluss and Mason Adams

After more than a year of work on the issue, the [Virginia] General Assembly on Saturday passed legislation that restricts government's power to seize private property by invoking eminent domain.

The Senate and House of Delegates agreed on bills that define "public uses" under which government can take private property, stripping out a Senate provision that would give housing and redevelopment authorities greater ability to condemn property in blighted areas.

The passage of House Bill 2954 and Senate Bill 1296 nearly completes lawmakers' efforts to strengthen eminent domain restrictions in the wake of a 2005 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Kelo v. New London. In that case, the court upheld a Connecticut city's condemnation of a homeowner's property for a private development project.

The bills define five "public uses" for which private property can be taken. The legislation allows eminent domain for eliminating blight, but only if the property itself is blighted.

The bills would not affect current plans of redevelopment and housing authorities if they file petitions for condemnation by July 1, 2009.

Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, said the legislation should not pose a major burden on the Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority, but said the authority would have preferred no restrictions.

"I think the grandfather clause should allay most of their concerns," Edwards said. "I think they can live within the parameters of the statute, and if not we can come back and look at it another year and see if tinkering needs to be done."

Roanoke VA Times: http://www.roanoke.com

Griswold selectmen drafting eminent domain ordinance: Norwich CT Bulletin, 2/25/07

By Julie A Varughese

[Griswold] property owners could be protected from having the town take land for economic development if taxpayers approve an eminent domain ordinance being drafted by selectmen.

Selectmen are seeking guidance from ordinances in place in other towns as they work on the proposal for Griswold.

The move is in response to the Kelo v. New London case, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2005 a government could transfer private property from one owner to another for economic development. In New London's case, the Fort Trumbull neighborhood will be eliminated to build condominiums, a hotel and offices.

The Planning and Zoning Commission will have to review the ordinance before the selectmen send it to a special town meeting, which will probably occur within two months, First Selectman Anne Hatfield said.

"We're not supporting the expansion of the eminent domain that took place in the Kelo case," she said of the ordinance she has been looking into since she was elected in 2005.

A bill to limit eminent domain by municipalities failed to make it through the General Assembly last year.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell said in her State of the State address she plans to submit a bill to the legislature this session.

Her plan calls for a two-thirds authorization from a municipal legislative body, such as a Board of Selectmen, and property owners would receive 125 percent of their property's fair-market value.

Griswold farmer Bernard Laizer said he would show the proposal to attorneys for perusal.

"When the government gets involved, when it comes to anything regarding eminent domain, they need to put it under the microscope and really study it," he said.

Plainfield First Selectman Kevin Cunningham said Plainfield's ordinance, which was passed a few weeks ago at a special town meeting, does not protect properties from being bought by the town for building a school or for creating or re-routing utility lines and transportation systems.

Cunningham said the town's Eminent Domain Committee spent six months reviewing the pros and cons of creating such an ordinance.

"There were some concerned citizens who wanted to put things in writing to protect the town a little further," he said, regarding the General Assembly's inability to pass a bill last year. "It's not a slight to the state, but it was a matter of making sure we were protected as soon as possible."

A referendum will be held April 10 for Plainfield voters to decide if the ordinance should be included in the town charter.

Norwich CT Bulletin: http://www.norwichbulletin.com

House passes eminent domain restriction: KOB-TV4, Albuquerque NM, 2/25/07

By Associated Press

The [New Mexico] state House has voted to strip local governments of their authority to condemn private property for economic development purposes.

The bill was approved Saturday on a vote of 62-5. It now goes to the Senate.

The measure came in response to a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision in a Connecticut case that allowed a city to take private property as part of a redevelopment effort.

A governor’s task force had recommended the removal of condemnation power from the 1979 Metropolitan Redevelopment Act, which is used to rehabilitate blighted sections of communities.

The proposed change wouldn’t prevent local governments from condemning land for traditional public purposes such as roads or public buildings, or from dealing with structures that are public nuisances.

KOB-TV4, Albuquerque NM: http://www.kobtv.com

City of Syracuse may use eminent domain: News 10 Now, Syracuse NY, 2/23/07

By Cait McVey

The city of Syracuse may use eminent domain to take over land on Midler Avenue.

The city originally leased the property from the Sutton Investing Corporation in 1984. Now, Sutton wants the city to clean up and move off the property, but the city said the site serves an important purpose. For years, it has been used by the DPW for yard waste.

City Attorney Nancy Larson said with lease negotiations and purchase offers falling through, the city has no other choice than to use eminent domain.

"We have to pay to do that process somewhere, and without the city being able to do it on the Sutton site, then we will have to pay to do it elsewhere and pay to remove the mulch immediately from that site. And, it's just not the right solution to the taxpayers," said Assistant Corporation Council Nancy Larson.

Still, the Sutton Corporation said it would be an abuse of eminent domain. The city council will address the issue on March 12th.

News 10 Now, Syracuse NY: http://news10now.com

Newman - Bill limiting eminent domain will likely please no one: Lynchburg VA News & Advance, 2/23/07

By Conor Reilly

A Lynchburg [VA state] lawmaker is working to craft compromise legislation that would limit the state’s power to take private property using eminent domain.

“I can absolutely assure you that everyone will dislike it some,” said Sen. Steve Newman, R-Lynchburg. “But the Kelo decision just screams for us to fix this problem.”

He’s referring to a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed an economically depressed Connecticut town to take private homes and give the land to a private company that would generate more jobs and more tax revenue for the locality.

Two bills that differ in one significant respect are still alive - one passed by the state Senate, the other by the House of Delegates. Both bodies spent Friday negotiating a compromise that will likely be considered today, the final day the General Assembly is in session.

The Senate version would allow local governments to acquire all property in a designated “redevelopment area” provided that area is more than 85 percent blighted - so a property that is well maintained could still be taken. That provision is absent from the House version.

Newman, who was appointed to serve on the eminent domain conference committee, said he staunchly opposes language that allows private property to be taken if it isn’t a blight.

“I believe that is wrong,” he said. “It is a basic fundamental right that property should not be taken away simply because it’s near a run-down property.”

Del. Ben Cline, R-Rockbridge, agreed.

“The Senate (version) kind of blows a hole in the carefully crafted agreement,” he said.

Last year, both the House and the Senate passed similar legislation before talks broke down at the end of the session.

Cline said that voters would take note if the General Assembly fails to address the problems created by the Kelo decision.

While lawmakers are in talks on Capitol Square, Lynchburg officials are keeping close watch because they say the proposed laws are unnecessary and could restrict an important tool used locally to target blighted properties.

Lynchburg Housing Authority Executive Director Ed McCann said that the legislation may have “unintended consequences.”

The housing authority has used eminent domain on property not designated as blighted in the past, he said.

When a property has a bad or unclear title, eminent domain is often the only way to clear up the issue and allow it to be sold or redeveloped.

“I think it’s an important tool,” McCann said.

Officials are also concerned that if a bill passes, cities across the state will lose the ability to use the “spot blight” program, designed to get rundown properties out of the hands of irresponsible owners and into the hands of responsible ones.

The city began using its program in 1999 and has since dealt with 60 blighted properties in and around downtown Lynchburg. The city had to resort to eminent domain in seven of those cases.

Since then, the program raised the assessed values of those 60 properties by $1 million.

Cline, though, said the lengthy tentacles of eminent domain need to be reined in.

He said he hoped the conference committee would compromise but still move more toward the House version of the bill.

“It’s all about compromise,” he said. “Each side needs to give a little.”

Lynchburg VA News & Advance: http://www.newsadvance.com

Lamborn defends eminent domain as military's last resort: Rocky Mountain News, Denver CO, 2/23/07

By Dick Foster

The Army's plan to add 418,000 acres to its Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site should not displace ranchers and farmers, but condemning private land may be necessary as a last option, U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn said Thursday.

"The Army needs to go out and explain why their mission of training soldiers for the defense of our country requires the added space. I believe they can make that case and make it well," said Lamborn, a Republican whose 5th Congressional District includes Fort Carson's main post in Colorado Springs but not Piñon Canyon, northeast of Trinidad.

Lamborn said he encourages the Army to acquire land through leases, easements and buying only from willing sellers.

But he added that he would support condemnation and taking of private property by eminent domain if it were the Army's last option.

"If they make a good argument that this is important for the mission of training soldiers for the 21st century, then I'll support that," Lamborn said.

Lamborn outlined his position in a meeting with reporters as he opened a new congressional office in Colorado Springs.

"You do have two competing vital needs. One is the protection of private property. But national defense is also a compelling need that the federal government has," Lamborn said.

Rocky Mountain News, Denver CO: http://www.rockymountainnews.com

Bills advance on eminent domain use: Richmond VA Times-Dispatch, 2/23/07

Both houses' plans would limit condemnation power for development purposes

By Greg Edwards

Bills restricting use of government condemnation powers for economic development passed the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates yesterday.

Because they differ in one significant aspect, they likely are headed to a conference committee, which would look for middle ground.

A search for compromise runs throughout the bills, which by yesterday had the backing of most organizations allowed to exercise eminent domain in Virginia.

The only holdouts were city housing authorities that have used condemnation to revive blighted neighborhoods. Language in the legislation would have prevented the authorities from using eminent domain to acquire individual properties in a redevelopment area unless it was blighted, vacant, created a public nuisance or was beyond repair.

In a close vote, Sen. Martin E. Williams, R-Newport News, successfully amended the House bill in the Senate to allow condemnation to acquire all property in a redevelopment area as long as 85 percent of the area is blighted. Without the amendment, Williams argued, a single holdout property owner could hold up an entire project.

Sen. Ken Cuccinelli, R-Fairfax, who managed the bill on the Senate floor, argued that Williams' amendment would allow government to take someone's well-kept property. The policy intended by the bill, like the Constitution's Bill of Rights, is to protect individual rights, which may inconvenience the government, he said.

The legislation with Williams' amendment passed the Senate, 33-3. In the House, the legislation passed without the amendment, 87-9.

Martha Moore of the Virginia Farm Bureau said yesterday's action gives her hope the House and Senate will agree on a measure that will protect the public from eminent-domain abuse.

Richmond VA Times-Dispatch: http://www.timesdispatch.com

Receivable deposit keys quick-take eminent domain, SC rules: Legal News Line, 2/23/07

By Rob Luke

Two important conditions governing California's so-called "quick-take" eminent domain action are both constitutional, the state Supreme Court ruled late yesterday.

In quick-take actions, condemners can take possession of condemned property before compensation litigation with owners is complete if they deposit "probable compensation" with the courts.

In the case of San Jacinto Community College District vs. Superior Court of Riverside County/Azusa Pacific University (no. S132251) the Supreme Court affirmed an Appeals Court ruling on the constitutionality of both issues.

First, the court ruled in favor of a requirement that the condemned property be valued on the day that "just compensation" is filed by the condemner. Second, it allowed the condemner to make receipt of the deposit by the owner conditional on waiving rights to future disputes with the condemner.

On the first issue, "the value of the property on the date of the deposit is a fair amount to award the owner for the taking of its property," wrote Justice Ming W. Chin in the unanimous decision. "A greater award would be unjust to the condemner."

On the second issue, writes Chin, "as long as a probable compensation deposit [is] available...for 'prompt release'...a waiver of the right to challenge the validity of the taking if the owner elects to withdraw the deposit does not undermine the constitutionality" of the condition.

The case has now been remanded "for further proceedings consistent with this conclusion."

Legal News Line: http://www.legalnewsline.com

Domain bill clears Senate: Jackson Hole WY Star-Tribune, 2/23/07

By Joan Barron

The [Wyoming] Senate passed an eminent domain reform bill Thursday after removing a sticking point for landowners.

House Bill 124 easily passed the Senate on a 25-4 vote. It now goes back to the House for a vote on Senate changes.

On Wednesday, the Senate adopted an amendment from Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper, to restrict comparisons of easement prices to the landowners' own property in determining fair market value.

On Thursday, the Senate adopted a two-word amendment that essentially negates Scott's amendment.

Offered by Sen. Phil Nicholas, R-Laramie, and others, the new amendment allows an appraiser to consider the price paid for other comparable easements on the same “or similar” property in calculating fair market value.

Scott cautioned that the amendment was too broad and could invite lawsuits.

But Senate President John Schiffer, R-Kaycee, said appraisals for easements are traditionally based on the price paid for similar land.

The Senate adopted Nicholas' amendment on a 15-14 standing vote.

Sen. Tony Ross, R-Cheyenne, fended off a second, significantly longer amendment offered by Sen. Drew Perkins, R-Casper, to improve the wording in the bill on grounds it came in too late.

"I'm afraid of losing a good piece of work because we can't agree with the House,” Ross said.

After the vote, Laurie Goodman of the Landowners Association of Wyoming said Nicholas' two-word amendment was “crucial” and allows the landowners to continue to support the bill.

Her group has sought to increase the control of property owners in the eminent domain or condemnation process, including the way to determine fair market value of land sought by industry or government for a project.

The bill was drafted in response to a U.S. Supreme Court decision in a case from Connecticut. In that case the court upheld the action of a public government entity which condemned private property and transferred it to a private entity for development. While many legislators claim the bill as written takes care of that case, Goodman disagrees.

The bill, however, is progress, she said.

"We'll see how it works,” Goodman said. “If, in fact, industry continues to draw a hard line, we'll have to come back and look at it.”

"For us, the big thing is we got a good bill through the Legislature," said Jim Magagna of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association.

The bill, he added, has a lot of things in it to help level the playing field between property owners and companies that have eminent domain powers to acquire easements on their land.

Ken Hamilton of the Wyoming Farm Bureau and Carolyn Paseneaux of the Wyoming State Grange said a coalition of representatives of agriculture and industry was responsible for getting the bill together.

Minerals industry and utility representatives argued from the beginning that the bill was not needed, Hamilton said.

"We've been criticized that we were too close to industry,” Magagna said.

The agricultural groups, he added, had to work with the minerals industry, utilities and others to bring the bill forward.

Magagna also pointed out that the coalition - often referred to by legislators as an industry group - included seven agriculture organizations.

Jackson Hole WY Star-Tribune: http://www.jacksonholestartrib.com


House OKs bill addressing flaws in eminent domain laws: Salt Lake City UT Deseret News, 2/22/07

An eminent domain bill that addresses flaws with existing laws governing redevelopment agencies passed the House Wednesday.

The bill, which sponsoring Rep. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, said is "layered with a lot of protections," gives property owners and surrounding residents more leeway when it comes to blighted property in their area.

"This is a tough balancing act," he told representatives. "How do we deal with blighted areas? How do we do it so we're protecting the rights of property owners?"

Cities can still declare areas blighted under existing law. But the bill, HB365, provides tools for property owners who wanted to improve an area.

Under the bill, if 75 percent of the property owners who control at least 50 percent of the property value within the urban renewal project petition the agency, then the city can acquire blighted property by eminent domain without an owner's consent.

The bill now moves on to the Senate.

Salt Lake City UT Deseret News: http://deseretnews.com

Eminent-domain bill passes 2nd Senate vote: Billings MT Gazette, 2/22/07

The [Wyoming] Senate on Wednesday gave second-round approval to a bill that would reform the state's eminent-domain law.

The Senate on Tuesday rejected an amendment that would have stripped language from the bill that says fair market value can be determined by comparison with prices paid for other easements.

Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper, said companies fear that making their settlements - even confidential settlements - public would prompt other landowners to ask for more money.

But Sen. Tony Ross, R-Cheyenne, said the Judiciary Committee heard five hours of testimony from 35 speakers before crafting, and unanimously approving, the bill. "The question is, 'How far do you want to go to protect private property?' " Ross said. "This is a good start, and better than what we have on the books right now."

The amendment died on a tie vote.

The bill headed to third reading in the Senate.

Billings MT Gazette: http://www.billingsgazette.net

2nd bill aims to set limits on eminent domain: Cherry Hill NJ Courier-Post, 2/22/07

By Richard Pearsall

To all the other disagreements that swirl around eminent domain, add a territorial tiff in the Legislature over whose bill gets top billing.

Rather than take up a reform bill that passed the Assembly by a wide margin last summer (56-18, with 11 abstentions) the state Senate will begin considering a bill of its own Monday.

Concern about eminent domain in New Jersey has been building for years, fueled by rapid growth in a number of communities - rich, poor and in between - that have created redevelopment zones.

That concern became alarm in the summer of 2005 when the U.S. Supreme Court decided, in a Connecticut case, Kelo v. New London, that government can take property from one owner and give it to another simply to promote economic development.

In June 2006, one year after Kelo, the state Assembly passed a bill aimed at reforming the state law governing eminent domain.

That bill, sponsored by Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-Paulsboro, tightens the criteria for finding properties "in need of redevelopment," and increases compensation for people displaced, among other provisions.

It gets a good grade from the state Public Advocate's Office, which has taken a keen interest in the issue.

"We're pretty happy with the bill in that it limits the definition of blight," said Nancy Parello, a spokeswoman for the advocate.

Instead of taking up the Burzichelli bill as the basis for his own legislation, however, State Sen. Ronald Rice, D-Newark, will introduce a bill of his own Monday at a session of the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee, which he chairs.

"I would have preferred the Assembly bill be the basis of their deliberations," Burzichelli said Wednesday as he waited for a draft of the Rice bill to arrive in his office. "I thought we established some pretty good standards.

"Hopefully Sen. Rice has stumbled on some things to improve it," Burzichelli said.

Rice said Wednesday he was not yet prepared to release a draft of his bill.

"I'm trying to put the final touches on it," he said.

He suggested, however, his bill will be "tougher" than the Burzichelli bill.

"My bill has some of his components, but I saw things differently," Rice said. "I've been at this a long time."

He said he believes Burzichelli, who began conducting hearings in February 2006, rushed his bill to passage.

A conference on redevelopment Wednesday sponsored by NJ Future, a coalition that supports redevelopment over sprawl, showcased the wide variety of opinions on what should and should not be done in terms of reforming eminent domain.

Edward McManimon, an attorney who represents the N.J. League of Municipalities, lamented that in the wake of Kelo "eminent domain" has become a "dirty word," something negative that people want to "get rid of."

"We can't have that," McManimon said, alluding to the progress that redevelopment has spurred.

Connie Pascal, an attorney for Legal Services of New Jersey, said what's missing from the reform efforts to date is a requirement that "the people in the community get the benefit" of community redevelopment, in both housing and employment.

Instead of being displaced, he said, "people in the community should have the right to stay there," and be afforded the training and opportunity to take any jobs created.

Cherry Hill NJ Courier-Post: http://www.courierpostonline.com

Amendment to eminent domain bill concerns Eddy County officials: Carlsbad NM Current Argus, 2/21/07

By Stella Davis

A proposed amendment to House Bill 393 by the city of Rio Rancho that supporters of the bill say would negatively expand the definition of uses for eminent domain, is meeting resistance from supporters of the original bill, which includes Eddy County.

The Senate is also considering an identical bill, SB401.

Eminent domain gives the government the power to take private property against the owner's wishes.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, was passed unanimously by the Health and Government Affairs Committee and has been sent to the Judiciary Committee.

On Tuesday, the Eddy County Commission voted to e-mail the Judiciary Commission asking that it pass the bill that grew out of recommendations from the governor's task force.

Commissioner Lewis Derrick, who introduced the motion to send a letter asking that HB393 be passed as introduced, said, "It's not right for the government to take people's private property for economic development. We need to let them know in Santa Fe that we are against the amendment Rio Rancho is requesting."

Eddy County is currently looking at the purchase rights-of-way for the proposed loop road, and the commission was questioned last year by affected residents about what the county will do if they don't want to sell their land to the county.

"We are not in favor of taking anyone's land. We will have to look at another option if we don't get the right-of-way we need," Eddy County Manager Steve Massey said at a loop road public hearing late last year.

Former New Mexico Lt. Gov. Walter Bradley, who serves on the eminent domain task force and is lobbying for the passage of the bill as originally introduced, said he was happy to hear that Eddy County is supporting HB393 as is.

Bradley served two terms from 1995 to 2002 during Gov. Gary Johnson's administration.

"That's good news. I'm glad the county has taken this position. I hope more voice their concern about Rio Rancho's proposed amendment to the bill," he said.

Bradley said the amendment proposed by Rio Rancho is what he terms as the "Rio Rancho exemption."

"It would actually expand the definition of uses for eminent domain while HB393 limits the use. It would allow the taking of vacant land in older subdivisions. This could affect many areas of our state since we don't grow real fast," Bradley explained.

The issue of eminent domain was brought to national attention in 2005 when the U.S. Supreme Court redefined "public use" and allowed the city of New London in Connecticut to condemn property to take from one private owner and hand it directly to another private interest.

The court case — Kelo vs. city of New London — resulted in Gov. Bill Richardson deciding to convene a task force to study the issue of eminent domain the New Mexico.

"Although Kelo now allows for eminent domain abuse under the federal constitution, the task force members came together to study whether current law in New Mexico allows for eminent domain abuse, and if so, what could be done to fix New Mexico's laws and protect our citizens' private property rights," Bradley said.

In a 2006 editorial, Bradley noted that the task force discovered that some of New Mexico's eminent domain laws are so broadly written that currently every property in the state is at risk for a "Kelo-like" taking.

"Local governments are free to use New Mexico's incredibly broad condemnation authority to take virtually any property in the state and hand it over to private developers," he noted. "While most people recognize the need for eminent domain to accomplish traditional public uses, such as schools, roads, utilities and so on, based on the public comments our task force received, the overwhelming majority (99 percent) of our citizens made their position undeniably clear — New Mexico should respect the rights of individuals to keep what they have worked so hard to own, and should protect its citizens from eminent domain abuse."

Bradley said that the state's Metropolitan Act, the Community Development Law and the Urban Renewal Law are laws in New Mexico that were enacted nearly 30 years ago and are the only laws that authorize the use of eminent domain for economic development.

He said that these laws were never used until about two years ago when Rio Rancho first used the Metropolitan Redevelopment Act.

"Their experience showed us (the task force) that a Kelo-like taking of private property not only can happen in New Mexico, it did happen," Bradley said. Under the MRA the city selected a tract of property and prepared a general plan of the city's vision for that privately owned property's use. They held a public meeting to present their vision and then submitted it to their commission for approval or disapproval. Upon approval, the city sent out a request for proposals. Due to the size of these projects there are only a few developers who had the financial strength to bid. When accepted as a sole bidder, the developer then becomes the sole developer for the city for the designated privately owned property.

"That developer then contacts all the property owners notifying them the developer is the sole developer for the city and will be buying their property at market value. The developer, in the Rio Rancho case, contacted the property owners and informed them if they chose not to sell to the developer, the city would condemn their property," he said. "In fact, the city did file on about 10 percent of unwilling sellers. This is taking and the city attorney said they could use this same procedure to take a house or building if the city chose to do so."

Bradley said that although at this time no other city in New Mexico has use the MRA, at least two cities — Belen and Albuquerque — have seen Rio Rancho's example and are looking at using it.

"Farmington testified they want to use the MRA, but would like eminent domain out of the law because their property owners are fearful of the eminent domain gun," he said.

Bradley said that during testimony hearings before the task force, the task force discovered that the city of Albuquerque is using existing historical eminent domain statutes and ordinance to condemn hazardous and unsafe buildings for disposal or renovation.

"These ordinances were used to renovate the old Albuquerque High School. Albuquerque also accomplished a redevelopment project without using MRA or condemnation in northeast Albuquerque by contacting all the property owners and making them partners in the redesign. It was a win-win for all," Bradley said. "The point is that there are other avenues open to local governments to further economic development without condemning and taking private land."

Bradley said that Gov. Richardson voiced his support of the task force recommendations that were put into HB393, and he hopes the Legislature will also give its unanimous stamp of approval, ensuring that all citizens in the state will be protected from eminent domain abuse in the future.

Carlsbad NM Current Argus: http://www.currentargus.com

City unveils eminent domain plans for downtown Jamaica: Astoria NY Times Ledger, 2/22/07

By Craig Giammona

The city released specific details Wednesday night of its plans to redevelop the area around the AirTrain terminal in downtown Jamaica, and residents reacted with strong consternation when they learned of a proposal that calls for the use of eminent domain.

Speaking before the largest crowd at a Community Board 12 meeting in several months, officials from the city's Economic Development Corporation, or EDC, described plans to widen Archer Avenue and improve traffic flow around the AirTrain terminal and Long Island Railroad station.

The plans involve extending Atlantic Avenue and turning 94th and 95th Avenues into a pair of one-way streets with an eye toward spurring "transit-oriented development." The plan would also improve traffic flow and make the area safer for pedestrians, city officials said.

It has been known for some time that the city planned use eminent domain to push the plan forward, but Wednesday specific details of the proposal were released and building owners whose properties are at risk spoke out strongly against the plan.

"I think it's outrageous the money they are talking about spending for people who ride the LIRR," said Carol Radin, whose family has owned a Sutphin Boulevard building for 50 years.

Radin runs an insurance office in the building and there are three apartments with 11 tenants upstairs. City officials used the term "acquisition" Wednesday, when referring to efforts to acquire the buildings and property necessary for the project. However, if the owners of these buildings do not consent to sell their property, the city will use eminent domain, city officials said.

Many residents expressed concerns Wednesday that the plan would create a downtown Jamaica that would be unaffordable for many longtime residents. There were also questions about whether or not local labor would be used during construction.

The AirTrain area redevelopment, known as the "Sutphin Boulevard Plaza" project, is part of a massive rezoning of downtown Jamaica that is currently under public review.

CB 12 has until April 16 to issue a recommendation on the Sutphin Boulevard project and the overall rezoning plan.

Astoria NY Times Ledger: http://www.timesledger.com

Eminent domain measure moves forward: Santa Fe NM New Mexican, 2/22/07

By Staci Matlock

It took rancher John King and his family six years to win an eminent domain lawsuit against Tri-State Electric Cooperative. But the victory cost King and his family dearly — well over $100,000 in attorneys fees and court costs, he said.

King appeared before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday to support changes to the eminent domain laws to protect other people from what happened to his family.

Tri-State wanted to build a major electric power line across two parcels of King’s land near Raton to power the operations of a private company, and the family said no. “It’s an eyesore, and it reduces the value of your property probably 30 to 40 percent,” King said.

A state District Court jury awarded the Kings five times what Tri-State had offered for an easement in condemnation proceedings. By the time King paid litigation costs, he had used up all the award plus another $100,000, he said. “We feel like, just in this case, it is wrong for any entity to take property,” King said.

The House Judiciary Committee passed one eminent domain bill Wednesday and tabled four others.

The committee approved House Bill 393 authored by Rep. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe. It follows recommendations from Gov. Bill Richardson’s eminent domain task force, which the governor formed last year to address a U.S. Supreme Court decision involving a case in which a Connecticut town condemned homes and turned the property over to a private company for an economic development project.

Wirth’s bill repeals the use of eminent domain by governments for economic development projects and repeals two other older eminent domain laws. Governments can still condemn property for public uses and to protect public health, safety and welfare.

The committee also approved an amendment allowing municipalities to condemn property incorrectly platted prior to 1975 that’s been vacant and poses health and safety concerns.

The committee tabled Wirth’s other bill, HB 557, which would mandate how courts should award legal costs to a property owner who prevails in a condemnation proceeding. The bill could be revived Friday, but the status of three others that were tabled remained unclear.

Utility representatives opposed the bill, calling it “a dangerous tool” that would lead to more litigation and cost rate payers money. Utility companies have the right to condemn property for a utility line easement under state law.


Santa Fe NM New Mexican: http://www.freenewmexican.com

Solicitor - State won't allow eminent domain referendums: The Press of Atlantic City NJ, 2/22/07

By Saba Ali

Any referendum, binding or nonbinding, will go against the state statute that protects the city's use of eminent domain in redevelopment zones, said City Solicitor Richard McCarthy.

Millville First learned Tuesday night that the estimated 1,100 signatures it collected would not receive any further action on the part of city.

The petition was intended to force the city to either create an ordinance to ban eminent domain or place it as a referendum on the next ballot.

Emil Van Hook, president of Millville First, said the group would discuss its next step to push their petition forward. He said asking for a nonbinding referendum could be a possibility.

A nonbinding referendum places the question on the ballot, but the city is not obligated to follow the outcome of the vote.

Millville First, an organization of residents concerned about redevelopment and property taxes, had been collecting the signatures for the past few months.
Lew Thompson, city administrator, explained to those present at the commission meeting that eminent domain in the redevelopment areas is a power that is protected by state statute. Any effort to restrict eminent domain is in direct violation of that statute.

Van Hook said he was familiar with the state statute and was expecting such a response, but he was hoping that the city would see how opposed residents were against the use of eminent domain.

“This a state issue and any type of referendum would be inappropriate,” McCarthy said.

The Press of Atlantic City NJ: http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com

Riverside limits its power of eminent domain: Riverside CA Press-Enterprise, 2/20/07

By Doug Haberman

The Riverside City Council on Tuesday enacted a law severely limiting when the city Redevelopment Agency can use eminent domain to buy owner-occupied single-family homes.

Public agencies use eminent domain to acquire private property for public uses such as roads, parks and libraries.

A 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling said the government also could use it to acquire land for developers whose projects would create jobs and boost tax revenues.

Ten residents spoke out Tuesday.

"We need to know that we have a sense of permanence in our area," University neighborhood homeowner Margaret Johnson said.

The new law prohibits the agency from buying any owner-occupied single-family residence through eminent domain unless the house is encumbered with a lien stemming from a code violation, has been boarded up for more than a year or has become a public nuisance.

In the portions of La Sierra and Arlanza where the Redevelopment Agency has jurisdiction, a house must be boarded up for three years before the agency can use eminent domain to buy it, under terms of a 2006 legal settlement.

The new law also requires the agency to pay fair market value for any property it buys through eminent domain.

The agency has never used eminent domain to buy an owner-occupied single-family house for economic development, city officials said.

"It's not something we're going to do," Councilman Art Gage said.

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

Eminent domain - Tool of last resort: Baltimore MD Examiner, 2/21/07


Cities around the nation have come to routinely demolish decrepit or abandoned buildings in neighborhoods to eliminate “blight.” Baltimore is one of them. Often, these are abandoned properties, where taxes have not been paid for some time.

And by using the power of eminent domain — the right of government to seize private property for the “public good” — cities may purchase homes and businesses standing in the way of urban renewal plans. These plans often call for new shopping centers or upscale housing that can increase a city’s tax base and attract new residents. This application of eminent domain is relatively recent, with government exercising the power in the past primarily for infrastructure projects.

In and of themselves, the new housing and retail centers are not bad. And they may improve the quality of life for residents who use them.

But the tool should not be used lightly. Private property rights are some of the most sacred of those laid out in the U.S. Constitution. The Baltimore Development Corp. has proven that has not always been the case. The state’s highest court last year forced the group — charged with overseeing city renewal projects — to open up its meetings and papers largely as a result of secrecy surrounding eminent domain projects. More recently, the Maryland Court of Appeals outlawed the use of “quick takes” for yet-to-be-proposed economic development projects — also in response to BDC actions.

And research shows those displaced by eminent domain pay a high price.

Historically, urban renewal schemes disproportionately uproot blacks from their homes and businesses, triggering a host of other losses. A new study by Dr. Mindy Thompson Fullilove, professor of clinical psychiatry and public health at Columbia University, outlines them. The Institute for Justice, a nonprofit that legally represents home and business owners whose property has been seized through eminent domain, published the report.

Under the Federal Housing Act, in force between 1949 and 1973, urban renewal projects “displaced 1 million people, two-thirds of them African American,” writes Fullilove. Given the disproportionate number of blacks affected by eminent domain, Fullilove sees the policy as part of chain of events starting with slavery that “have threatened African Americans’ lives homes, and family.” It’s hard not to agree.

Segregation policies in place during part of the time the Federal Housing Act was in place made finding a new home more difficult. That issue does not exist today, but the other losses are still very much in effect. They include separation from family, friends and political organizations, the need to pay more for a new home in a different neighborhood, increased risk for depression and heart attack, and loss of respect for government.

Given Baltimore City’s vigorous use of eminent domain for urban renewal projects, now would be a good time to re-evaluate its impact on the city, where 64 percent of residents are blacks.

A better solution for renewing Baltimore would be to make structural reforms such as improving schools and lowering property taxes to make the city attractive to the professionals it wants. The city must not perpetuate the legacy of displacement haunting the majority of its residents.

Baltimore MD Examiner: http://www.examiner.com