ACA 8 called seriously flawed: California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights, 5/24/07

Press Release

This week, the taxpayer financed League of California Cities and other longstanding opponents of eminent domain reform announced, with much fanfare, that “Kelo” reforms are finally coming to California – some two years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s infamous Kelo v. New London decision.

The Institute for Justice (IJ), that represented Susette Kelo before the U.S. Supreme Court calls their ACA 8 bill “flawed” and other property rights experts suggest that their plan, loopholes and all, has more in common with “Swiss Cheese” than real and meaningful reform!

The Orange County Register calls it, “so dishonest that it's worthy of caution.”

Dan Walters, of the Sacramento Bee, and the Orange County Register explain why voters should be weary of this legislation and those who are sponsoring it. The articles and analysis provided by IJ and the Pacific Legal Foundation are a worthwhile read for those concerned with bringing about meaningful reform that has come to the rest of the Nation, but has eluded California so far, and those who wish to report on the coming battle between advocates for “true reform” and the elected leaders who continue to fight against protections for those they profess to serve.

Institute for Justice, the organization which represented Susette Kelo in the infamous U.S. Supreme Court’s Kelo v. New London case:
“the Act (ACA 8) will do little to prevent the actual taking of property in California – and this flaw is fatal"

Tim Sandefur, of the Pacific Legal Foundation, and author of “Cornerstone of Liberty: Property Rights in 21st Century America”:
ACA 8 would make virtually no meaningful change in the law. Far from protecting home and business owners from Kelo-style takings, this proposal, if enacted, would ensure that state and local government would continue to violate property rights in the name of development."

Dan Walters, Sacramento Bee, May 22, 2007:
"An organization that calls itself Californians for Eminent Domain Reform should, one might think, be in favor of reforming eminent domain - the process by which governments take property, ostensibly for public purposes.

However, the government-labor-environmentalist coalition that has adopted that name really doesn't want to change eminent domain laws so much as prevent someone else from changing them in ways that cities, counties, unions and environmentalists wouldn't like.”

Orange County Register, May 24, 2007:
“No one should be shocked by dishonesty in the political process, but an effort by the League of California Cities and other big-government organizations to supposedly restrict the abuse of eminent domain is so dishonest that it's worthy of caution.”

California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights: www.calpropertyrights.com

Public Advocate Ronald Chen has been pilloried for his support of eminent domain : New Jersey Eminent Domain Blog, 5/8/07

N.J. Public Advocate's role essential to eminent domain reform

By William Ward

The latest blast came from Senate Majority leader Bernard Kenny, Jr. (D-Hudson.), chairman of the Budget Committee, who took the opportunity during recent budget hearings to criticize not just the Public Advocate's budget, but Chen's eminent domain activism. The Public advocate has filed amicus briefs in four eminent domain cases: two in Long Branch, one in Lodi, and the other case, Gallenthin Realty v. Paulsboro which the N.J. Supreme Court heard last month. Kenny accused Chen of trying to change the law through the courts instead of the legislature. But Chen spoke to the press after the meeting saying, "When the Supreme Court decides it's going to take a case on the definition of blight...if you don't get on that train, it's leaving without you."

Chen used his office properly to speak out on behalf of the people of New Jersey on this issue. Don't forget the "Average Joe" who is usually the victim in these cases does not have the money or the the lobbying force to match the municipalities, the builders, and the developers.

Kenny equates the use of eminent domain in connection with redevelopment as the "economic engine" for beneficial change, mostly in the form of increased tax revenue. Kenny conviently ignores the abuse of eminent domain that goes with the process. According to the Asbury Park Press (May 8), Kenny said, "Changing the burden of proof will paralyze the state and municipalities in being able to develop their properties in accordance with the economic conditions at the time."

Changing the burden of proof to the municipality to justify blight will level the playing field in light of the overwhelming presumption in the case law which favors the validity of municipal action. See Concerned Citizens of Princeton, Inc. v. Mayor and Council of the Borough of Princeton, 370 N.J. Super 429, 851A.2d 685 (App. Div. 2004).

"My feeling is that if the evidence is there and the area is blighted, this really should not be much of a burden on the municipality at all," Chen said. He also doesn't agree that property can be blighted just because the state believes it can come up with a more beneficial and productive use.

Chen has testified before the legislature on numerous times, suggesting reform of current eminent domain legislation where the process is transparent, compensation is made fair, and relocation in the same community is required. But nearly two years after the Kelo decision, the New Jersey legislative process remains stalled.

The public has Ronald Chen as their advocate, and he's doing an excellent job under difficult circumstances, testifying before the legislature and presenting his arguments in the courts. He should be applauded for his efforts.

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

York, Staton Spar Over Eminent Domain; Information Distributed In Sugarland Run Called "Alarmist": Leesburg VA Today, 5/16/07

By Dusty Smith

Information sent to people living in the Sugarland Run community in a homeowners association newsletter suggests plans are afoot by the Loudoun Board of Supervisors "to use its right of eminent domain to buy your home, bulldoze your community, and replace it with a densely-populated high-rise one."

County Chairman Scott K. York (I-At Large) said he became angry when the newsletter was brought to his attention, and suggested Supervisor Mick Staton (R-Sugarland Run) had given the two Sugarland Run HOAs the impression their community had been targeted. York said there are no such plans and called the letter "alarming."

"That is the biggest lie I have ever heard with respect to the Comp Plan," York said during a campaign kickoff last week. He brought the issue up again during Tuesday's board meeting. "Unfortunately what this did is put people in a panic. Fortunately, this is not true."

He also said the term eminent domain only appears in the portion of the county's comprehensive plan that deals with transportation as a means of obtaining right of way. York said no county staff member, supervisor or developer has "ever proposed such a preposterous plan."

Staton said he did not author the message in the newsletter and that it did not exactly reflect what he told the HOA. He had addressed the HOA about a comprehensive plan amendment he has proposed that would remove language about eminent domain and about promoting development of new mixed-us town centers in communities east of Rt. 28. The Loudoun Planning Commission has scheduled a May 21 public hearing on Staton's proposal.

Since Sugarland Run and Sterling are essentially built out, Staton said, there is no way to construct town centers in those communities without tearing down and redeveloping what now exists. The HOA letter may have been over the top, Staton acknowledged.

"I found out about it after the fact. It was a complete surprise to me when I saw it," he said. "When I read the letter, it did sound a little alarmist."

However, Staton said provisions in the comprehensive plan could be construed to allow such redevelopment in the east.

"The current plan does envision the redevelopment of those areas," Staton said.

York said because of legislation passed this year by the General Assembly, the county would not be able to take property through eminent domain for economic development purposes, making Staton's amendments unnecessary. The state law was intended to allow the use of eminent domain only for the purposes of obtaining a public use site, such as for a school or fire and rescue station.

However, Staton said the fact the state has a law addressing the subject does not relieve the county from assuring residents of its intent.

"Quite frankly, their action does not preclude our action," Staton said, explaining that there's nothing wrong with making sure local policy does not envision such a use of eminent domain.

In response to the letter, York sent his own letter to the Sugarland Run HOA.

"Apparently, your HOAs were in receipt of bogus information sent to you in the newsletter titled Urgent! We need your support to protect the future of Sugarland Run," York wrote in his follow-up letter. "This letter was incorrect and needs to be addressed to set the record straight."

York promised that eminent domain would only be used "as a tool of last resort."

"Again, I can assure you that there is no such plan to buy and then destroy yours or anyone else's community," he said. "Sugarland Run is a very important part of our community and a wonderful place. I can only hope that whoever was responsible for giving the misinformation to you and your fellow citizens will next time check the facts before spreading false information."

Staton's amendment to the comprehensive plan, which would restrict the use of eminent domain for economic development purposes, strike the word "redevelopment" in several areas and remove language calling for town centers in Sterling and Sugarland Run, remains under review.

Members of the Sugarland Run Board of Directors could not be reached Tuesday for comment about the newsletter.

Leesburg VA Today: http://www.leesburg2day.com

Supes take rare stance, approve eminent domain for Stadium Road: Columbus MS Commercial Dispatch, 5/16/07

By Kristin Mamrack

At the request of District 3 Supervisor Mike Smith, the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors Tuesday voted 3-2 to take a portion of a county resident's land by eminent domain.

After a motion to accept two of three remaining deeds for property along Stadium Road passed unanimously, Smith asked to start eminent domain proceedings on a 10th of an acre “because (the property owners) don't want to sell it.”

Eminent domain refers to the power of the state to take private property for public use with payment of compensation to the owner.

“Eminent domain is a very last resort,” protested Board President and District 1 Supervisor Harry Sanders. “I'm opposed to taking somebody's property who doesn't want to sell it. Is there not some other way to do it?”

Smith said the Stadium Road project - which calls for a bypass to relieve traffic around New Hope High School - was started years ago.”

“This one-10th is not fenced-in property,” he explained of the land, owned by six members of the Richard Cole family. “It's where the existing road is.”

“Eminent domain is one of the most extreme measures,” agreed District 4 Supervisor Jim Terry. “But if you think it's best, I will vote for it.”

“This is the first time I've heard officially we're going to eminent domain somebody's property,” Sanders objected, noting the item was added to the board's agenda at the start of the meeting. “I haven't seen a thing on this and it wasn't in the agenda published in the newspaper. It's a surprise.

“It's a very big decision,” he added, asking Smith to postpone his motion. “To me, it's a political decision.”

District 2 Supervisor Tommy Southerland also asked Smith to delay a motion.

“I am not against Stadium Road, but I have a very good reason to ask you not to bring it to a vote today,” he said, without revealing the reason.

“It is a great concern to me when we deal with people's property,” said District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks. “Mike has done his due diligence and I think he understands the needs of the area he represents.”

“I met with Mr. Cole yesterday to give him one more shot to change his mind,” Smith added. “He said he didn't (want to sell) and I said there would be action (taken).”

“Eminent domain is serious,” Sanders tried again. “You need to give the board time to explore all options.”

“You made the motion to put $188,000 into ‘the road to nowhere,'” Smith responded, referring to the board's earlier decision to use some of the interest money earned on the sale of Baptist Memorial Hospital-GoldenTriangle on the Stadium Road project.

“I'm trying to finish it. I don't want to get into no discussion about it. We need (the road) to relieve traffic to our schools. The 10th we're taking is already a part of the gravel road.”

A motion, made by Sanders, to postpone the decision lost in a 2-3 vote, with Brooks, Terry and Smith voting in opposition.

The motion to take the property by eminent domain then passed, with Sanders and Southerland voting in opposition.

Columbus MS Commercial Dispatch: http://www.cdispatch.com

School gains land through eminent domain: East Aurora NY Advertiser, 5/16/07

By Jeremy Morlock

Five-acres of vacant land which had been owned by Fisher-Price have been acquired by the East Aurora School District through eminent domain proceedings, School Board President Daniel Brunson announced Tuesday night.

The School Board first voted to move ahead with eminent domain proceedings in 2005 to allow for a possible expansion of the Parkdale Elementary building.

Voters approved that expansion plan in January as part of the school's Capital Facilities Project. The proposition for the Capital Facilities Project also included language allowing the school to continue with eminent domain proceedings, and set aside a maximum allowance of $310,000 for acquiring the land.

Gaining title to the land in question is necessary for state approval of the Parkdale expansion project.

According to a document provided to the East Aurora Advertiser by Brunson, the New York State Supreme Court granted the school's petition for the land on April 10. Fisher-Price did not file an objection to the petition, and waived the right to appeal the decision. The company has one year to file a claim for additional compensation if it deems the school's payment to be too low.

In the same document, the school recognized the company's role and history in the East Aurora community, and said, "The district regrets that a negotiated settlement could not be reached with Fisher-Price, but is confident that just compensation will be awarded by the court in a manner fair to both parties."

East Aurora NY Advertiser: http://www.zwire.com

Council votes eminent domain for juice plant : Orange County CA Register, 5/16/07

OCTA would provide $24 million for 1,000-space parking structure

By Barbara Giasone

In a rare move, the City Council on Tuesday voted to use eminent domain to acquire 2.83 acres at 130 W. Commonwealth Ave., to build a public parking structure for transportation center commuters.

The property, owned by World Citrus West, was vacated in March 2006. The juice company has been unsuccessful in selling the total 5.2 acres, although three developers have shown an interest in building a mixed public/private venture.

Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Rob Zur Schmiede said the city offered to buy the 2.83 acres it wants from the property for $7.4 million based on negotiations with the Orange County Transportation Authority to provide 1,000 more parking spaces for commuters.

OCTA has budgeted more than $24 million in state transportation funds for the project. Another $16 million may be available, based on increased Amtrak and Metrolink ridership by 2020.

World Citrus attorney Gary Weisberg questioned the necessity of the structure.

The next step is to file a complaint in Orange County Superior Court for eminent domain. The court will determine whether the Agency has the right to take the property, and if so, determine the just compensation amount the city should have to pay.

Orange County CA Register: http://www.ocregister.com

Neptune turns attention to eminent domain rules: Asbury Park NJ Press, 5/16/07

By Bill Bowman

The [Neptune NJ] Township Committee is taking another look at a proposed ordinance that would restrict its use of eminent domain in redevelopment efforts.

The committee was scheduled to vote Monday on an ordinance that offered some restrictions on the use of eminent domain on residential properties and none for commercial properties. The ordinance was meant to replace a "Property Owners Bill of Rights" the committee passed by resolution several years ago.

Township Attorney Gene Anthony has said he believes resolutions are not transferable from one municipal administration to another.

Committeewoman Mary Beth Jahn suggested tabling the ordinance because, she said Tuesday, she did not want to "settle for something that isn't adequate."

She said an alternate ordinance proposed by Committeeman Tom Catley was "interesting," but said she'd also been doing some "soul searching" on the issue.

"I want to sit down and take a look at both of them and see if we can do a little better," she said.

The committee will take up the matter at its next workshop session, set for 6 p.m. May 29 at the municipal building, 25 Neptune Blvd.

Eminent domain is the practice of government of taking private property for fair consideration. Critics have said some towns are abusing that power to allow private developers to profit.

Catley last week suggested strengthening the ordinance to include protections for commercial properties and strengthening protections for residential property owners.

For example, the ordinance that was tabled required a residential property owner to have lived in a house for at least two years before any eminent domain prohibition would be attached to it. Catley's suggestion would remove that threshold and allow a residential property owner to pass the protection onto other family members who may inherit or buy the property.

Jahn said she also thinks the ordinance should include protections for commercial property owners.

Asbury Park NJ Press: www.app.com

Downfall from eminent domain: York PA Dispatch, 5/16/07

The issue of eminent domain struck all the wrong chords at personal and political levels.

So York County voters yesterday fired two county commissioners in reaction to their efforts to seize private property for a tourism-oriented heritage park in Lower Windsor Township.

The rejection at the primary polls of President Commissioner Lori Mitrick, a Republican, and Democrat Doug Kilgore, both proponents of the controversial park proposed by the Lancaster-York Heritage Region, was a profound reaction to the county's use of eminent domain to acquire land for the project. It also put party politics, for a moment, on the back burner.

Incumbent Commissioner Steve Chronister, long an opponent of the park project for its use of eminent domain to acquire private property, will join former commissioner Chris Reilly on the Republican ticket in November. Reilly has termed the Lauxmont Farms land grab an example of big government at its worst.

They will face Democrats Ned Grove, who says the county cannot afford the project, and Doug Hoke, who called the project a disaster.

Mitrick and Kilgore both have served the county with dedication and integrity. But the issue of eminent domain in the case of Lauxmont Farms - the taking of private property for what elected officials perceived to be the public good - overshadowed all else. The seizures smacked of heavy-handedness and indifference to the situation of landowners involved.

And best intentions aside, the rejection of Commissioners Mitrick and Kilgore at the polls yesterday can be laid to their perceived eagerness to act in seizing land owned by others, and an unwillingness to listen to the concerns of opponents of the park project.

For those excesses, the political price has been paid.

York PA Dispatch: http://www.yorkdispatch.com

Eminent domain questioned in city, county: Baltimore MD Examiner, 5/16/07

By Rita Chappelle

The use of eminent domain to seize private property has become a tool of economic development in some parts of Baltimore.

“The city thinks they can just go around seizing people’s land for their own purposes,” said John Murphy, who is one of the top eminent domain lawyers in the state. “Promising private owners’ properties to developers even before going to court to legitimately seize it. Just look at how they promised the Weinberg Foundation privately held property in the city’s Westside. It’s unimaginable.”

“When [officials] are condemning viable businesses to give the property to a developer to bring in their own business, then something is wrong with the process,” said Linn Koo, who with his father is embroiled in an eminent domain battle with the Baltimore Development Corporation and Baltimore City. “It’s not like they are clearing the land to make way for a highway to help ease congestion. They are just putting sound businesses out of business.”

Calls to BDC executive director M.J. “Jay” Brodie, contracted to spearhead economic development projects in Baltimore City, were not returned.

“It’s been used in building roads, schools, parks and public infrastructure,” Baltimore County spokeswoman Fronda Cohen said. “Baltimore County used eminent domain to purchase property when the County was building Honeygo Boulevard in White Marsh.” Baltimore County plans to use eminent domain to seize more than 8 acres of land in Dundalk’s Yorkway community in order to make way for a $17.2 million economic development project, despite promises from County Executive Jim Smith to use eminent domain powers to only build parks.

In the last legislative session, Maryland lawmakers passed a bill in the state Senate to increase compensation to private owners and place a three-year timeline on local governments that initiate such proceedings.

In Baltimore County, a fight over eminent domain launched the political career of Del. Richard Impallaria, a Republican whose Middle River body shop was targeted by officials for condemnation. Their plans were thwarted when Impallaria’s grassroots efforts to avoid land seizure put an initiative on the ballot that voters supported.

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

Landowner wrath growing over use of eminent domain by pipelines, utilities: Energy Pipeline News, 5/16/07

Press release

Landowners complaining about Enbridge Energy Co.’s use of eminent domain to seize land for a 321-mile, $1 billion leg of a pipeline to bring crude oil from Canada to Chicago exemplify a growing nationwide trend, according to editors at Energy Pipeline News newsletter. The Wisconsin landowners are only a few of those objecting to use of condemnations to seize private property “in the public interest,” according to the daily and fortnightly subscription newsletter published by Anvil Publishers of Atlanta, Ga.

Among the complaints of Wisconsin landowners in the path of the Enbridge pipeline are that the pay for trees being cut is unfair; that some trees shouldn't be chopped down, that Enbridge uses threats and that human waste was left behind from earlier work.

"You may not want to talk to me. I despise this company so much," Dennis Bosanec, 64, of rural Vesper, Wis., told a reporter. He owns a tree farm in the pipeline expansion’s path. "They destroyed my spirit of planting trees for the next generation." “I've concluded that no one but a fellow landowner could understand the essence of what Enbridge is doing to us,” Bosanec contends. “Enbridge sues us, making it impossible to sell our property, and all we wanted was fair treatment. Bosanec says that minutes after he learned of his father’s death, a process server gruffly shoved a two-inch packet of legal documents at him, snarling, “You've been served.” The irony, he says, is that Enbridge, a Canadian energy company, had already surveyed his land. Bosanec says the agent he was dealing with told him that his boss wanted to “take a few of us to the woodshed.”

Bosanec says he signed Enbridge's work space agreement and got $13,400 for allowing the utility to construct its pipeline across his property. The move led to at least 2,000 of his trees - some of them mature oaks - being cut down, he said. "The day after I signed, they cut my timber. Really, now it is a wasteland… It is a ruthless company. These are oilmen. They sat at my table and said if you don't sign it, we will take it. I don't call that negotiation." In the majority of right of way acquisition cases, emotions don’t run as strong. The lesson in the Bosanec case, according to Energy Pipeline News, is that the pipeline company made an enemy of Bosanec, when he could just as easily have been made a supporter. Energy Pipeline News has covered many examples of eminent domain being used with tact to make allies rather than enemies of landowners along utility corridors. Meanwhile, cases like Bosanec’s are leading to a flurry of legislative proposals to protect landowners from the rapacious.

Energy Pipeline News: http://www.energypipelinenews.com

Brooklyn's Eminent Domain - DDDB v. ESDC: New Jersey Eminent Domain Blog, 5/4/07

By William Ward

The opponents and proponents of the massive Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn assembled on Thursday, May 3, 2007, before New York State Supreme Court Justice Joan A. Madden. Lawyers for both sides argued before a packed court room for more than 3 hours.

Norman Oder's comprehensive blog post covering the oral arguments can be found at the Atlantic Yards Report: ESDC grilled over blight, "civic project" in EIS lawsuit hearing, but judge's latitute may be limited.

The definition of blight was among the interesting issues argued. Another argument focused on whether the proposed arena can be considered a "civic project" under New York state law. As to the latter issue, we are of the opinion that the proposed new arena for the NETS is window dressing for a massive real estate project backed by developer Bruce Ratner of Forest City Ratner (FCR). A telling point made by attorney Jeffrey Baker, representing Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and 25 neighborhood and civic groups, is that the alleged blight was determined after developer Ratner decided what the footprint for the project should be. In other words, Ratner went shopping for other people's property and the Empire State Development Corp. (ESDC) obliged him: they did the blight study after the project was announced.The predetermination of the project footprint by FCR prevented the ESCD from considering alternative locations, such as Coney Island, for the new arena.

Ratner's predetermination of the site and his desire to tie it to a mixed-use development was the theme for this opera, and ESDC and the MTA provided the full orchestration. Why couldn't this project be limited to the rail yards? Is it necessary to acquire and build on all the surrounding properties to achieve the "civic purpose" to bring professional sports to Brooklyn? We've seen the answer over and over in redevelopment projects in New Jersey: "There's gold in them there redevelopments." This project has more to do with real estate development than with the arena. Arena projects, per se, are losers (see the Field of Schemes site.) They do not generate enough dollars to justify the cost of the land and construction. The sales pitch is always more jobs and business coming to the area. The jobs issue is minimal at best: 300-400, mostly part-time and low-paying jobs. On the whole, sports subsidies do not benefit the community. Research shows that stadium and other sports subsidies benefit team owners, like Bruce Ratner, and professional athletes.

Baker argued that the legislature never intended a privately-owned sports facility as a "civic project," which is defined as “a project or that portion of a multi-purpose project designed and intended for the purpose of providing facilities for educational, cultural, recreational, community, municipal, public service or other civic purposes.”

As for the the blight determination, Baker asserted, “There is no mention that the purpose of this project was to avoid and eliminate blight.” Oder reports that the blight determination was included in ESDC’s scoping document of September 2005.

The challenge to the blight designation centered on the blocks designated for the project outside the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area which were never determined to be blighted, Oder reports:
Baker put new posters on the easels, pointing to the apparent contradictions in the state’s blight study, which counted multiple indicia of blight, including unsanitary/unsafe conditions, vacancy status, empty lots, and the failure to use 60% or more of the allowable development potential.

He pointed to two buildings on Pacific Street, above. “I would ask your honor,” he addressed Madden. “Which is blighted? You can't tell.” ....

Baker called the state’s criterion of underutilization “a fairly unique concept,” because it lacked any analysis of how the property is being used. The lot at the northwest corner of Dean Street and Flatbush Avenue, he said, is considered “dramatically underutilized,” but now is occupied by “a highly successful gas station.” There’s nothing in the law, he said, “that says all buildings must be built to the maximum size possible.” The ESDC’s method, he argued, “is, per se, arbitrary and capricious.”

A summary of the issues in the DDDB v. ESDC case can be found on the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn site. If the suit succeeds, the ESDC will be forced to revise its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), delaying the project. Justice Madden is expected to issue her ruling in four to six weeks.

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

Port of Tacoma wants private land to expand: Tacoma WA News Tribune, 5/15/07

By Kelly Kearsley

The Port of Tacoma says its needs more than 30 pieces of privately owned property on the east side of the Blair Waterway to develop marine cargo terminals.

And – if necessary – the port will use its power of eminent domain to force the sale of the land, said Bob Emerson, the port's senior director of real estate and industrial development.

The landowners affected by the port's expansion – 22 in total – received letters this week notifying them of the situation and of a Port of Tacoma commission meeting.

At that meeting, the commissioners will vote whether to authorize the port's use of eminent domain to acquire the properties, if negotiations between the port and the individual landowners fall through.

The properties affected total 130 acres.

The port may not physically need the land for two or three years, but Emerson said the port wants to be certain that the land will be available for development.

Many of the businesses will need to relocate, though a few should be able to reconfigure their operations on their current site, Emerson said.

Tacoma WA News Tribune: http://www.thenewstribune.com

Campbell denies secrecy in Flats project: Cleveland OH Plain Dealer, 5/15/07

By Tom Breckenridge

[Former Cleveland mayor] Jane Campbell on Monday rejected any notion that she and her top staff worked secretly and illegally to pave the way for developer Scott Wolstein and a proposed $230 million redevelopment of the east bank of the Flats.

Testifying in Cuyahoga County Probate Court, the former mayor said Wolstein was a significant land owner in the Flats and the only developer with a comprehensive plan to achieve the city's goals of new housing downtown and improved access to the Cuyahoga River and Lake Erie.

"No one else came forward with a plan that had enough merit," Campbell said.

The former mayor was called to testify as the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority is suing to acquire 11 parcels north of the Main Avenue bridge. The port is working with the city and Wolstein on a plan to raze the one-time party central and build a $230 million neighborhood, with 300-plus dwellings and a park, boardwalk and marina.

Property owners, including businessman Tony George and developer James Kassouf, argue that the port is trying to seize their land at an unfair price and give it to a favored developer. It's an unconstitutional taking of land under eminent domain law, they argue.

In questioning Campbell, lawyers for property owners noted that Campbell and Wolstein first talked of a Flats development in 2002, long before a public announcement of the project in spring 2005. They noted that Wolstein's late father, Bert, wrote in a 2004 biography that the city would have to use eminent domain to purchase land not owned by the Wolsteins.

Lawyer Kenneth Seminatore noted that Kassouf had proposed high-rise housing on his Flats property and that other big developers would probably be interested in east bank development.

But Campbell's administration never solicited bids or proposals for the community-development plan, as required by law, Seminatore argued. And her top staff worked behind closed doors for months with Wolstein's company, without any public hearings.

Campbell said there was no law requiring the city to solicit bids. And she said her staff worked Wolstein's plan the same way it did any big proposal, by gathering information and gauging public subsidies to decide if the project was even feasible.

Lawyers for property owners argued that Wolstein's exclusive grip on the east bank was evident in the city's 2004 master plan for lakefront development. It calls for housing, a boardwalk and other features that Wolstein had been pitching, lawyers noted.

Campbell acknowledged the two plans "are consistent," but she said those features emerged from dozens of public meetings.

"People liked that idea - mixed uses and public access" to the water, Campbell said.

Lawyers for property owners also contested the city's decision to have the port handle eminent domain, even though the city already had crafted a community-development plan for the project and had completed a blight study on two dozen buildings.

The lawyers have argued that Campbell and City Council illegally delegated their power to the port to avoid the political fallout that comes with eminent domain. By law, the city first should have asked voters if it could turn over the power of eminent domain to the port, lawyers said.

Campbell said there was no law requiring such a vote. The port was the logical choice for eminent domain because the port board includes both city and county representatives and the port has lots of experience in economic development, she said.

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