Property owner upset hospital acquired house, land for less than value: Midland TX Reporter-Telegram, 6/10/07

By Ruth Campbell

Property owner Kerry Faudree fought Midland Memorial Hospital on buying her property and lost.

Faudree, a family therapist specializing in treatment of alcoholics and children of alcoholics, went through a process known as eminent domain.

Hospital attorney Darren Skyles said eminent domain is the power to take private property for public use by a state or municipality. The hospital district is a political subdivision of the state.

The hospital district's enabling legislation gives it the power to take property to construct parking lots "to further the purposes of the district," Skyles said.

Faudree said in this case eminent domain, one of the first reported in Midland, offered examples of people receiving unfair compensation for their property and of a municipality not handling the proceedings professionally.

This past fall, Faudree said she was contacted by the hospital about buying her property at 2108 Tennessee Avenue and 2106 Tennessee Avenue. In November, she said, the hospital offered a "horribly low" price and wrote a letter to her husband, Matthew Faudree, saying they would offer fair market value.

Faudree also contends the hospital didn't view her business as legitimate and neighboring doctors got more money for their property than she did.

Her husband said he was not interested and she didn't hear from the hospital until she received the condemnation notice. Edmondson said the hospital has been working with the Faudrees and all the property owners "for quite some time."

"I don't think it could've been done any better. ... We feel we did our best. We're coming up on a deadline. We had to move forward and go ahead and request eminent domain proceedings. What's done is done. We're moving on," Edmondson said.

Faudree said Edmondson's assistant took her to see possible office replacements, but all were under contract. She said she and fellow property owners on Michigan and Tennessee Avenues never were informed as a group about what was going on with the hospital's plans.

"I don't think they handled it in a professional, ethical manner. Nobody knew what was happening," Faudree said, adding that if all the property owners worked together, they could have fought the hospital.

The hospital got an appraiser who went back 10 years to get a comparable price. Faudree said her appraiser also valued her property lower because he couldn't find any history on it. A bid on the Faudree property came in at $92,000. It was declined, as was another for $94,000, Kerry Faudree said. She wound up with $108,000 when she needed at least $150,000 to move.

Edmondson said the hospital asked for counter-offers multiple times, but "never got an answer."

Of the $108,000 she was given for 2108 Tennessee Avenue, $15,000 went toward fighting the case, she said. The hospital paid $114,000 for the 2106 Tennessee Avenue property, according to records.

Prices paid for the properties, according to hospital information, range from $47,500 to $255,000. Edmondson said prices paid had nothing to do with whether property was owned by doctors.

Because of the housing shortage, Edmondson said, the hospital has been approached by people who want to buy the houses and move them to other parts of town. The hospital recently was taking bids for the property and a decision will be made this week.

"From a property standpoint, ... there's a difference between commercial property, which is what the doctors own, and her property, which is considered residential property," Edmondson said. "Commercial property brings in more money because of the way it's constructed."

The three-member commission appointed by County Court At Law Judge No. 1 Al Walvoord to hear the eminent domain case indicated they would like to give Faudree more for her property, but the panel went with precedent - in this case the appraisal.

"People need to know how to deal with eminent domain. Every lawyer told me the law really isn't black and white. It's gray," Faudree said. "All the lawyers felt sorry for me, but sorrow doesn't do it. You've got to get a lawyer familiar with eminent domain."

"People need to be educated. They need to realize the government can come in and take your land for any reason they so choose," Faudree said. "... If people don't know what's happening, they get bulldozed. Laws protect the condemnor. They don't protect the condemnee."

Faudree said she will have to move into an office building, which she feels is less beneficial to her clients and herself. "This was a real safe environment for them. I know I'll be OK and I'll find a way to get through this. I couldn't get a lawyer to fight further."

Edmondson said the hospital serves a public need and acquiring the lots was part of it. The hospital first considered building a parking garage, but found it would cost $5 million, overbudget for what was planned.

Total cost of property acquisition and parking lot construction was under $3 million, hospital information says.

"We feel for them if we've caused any inconvenience. We serve a public need as a hospital and acquiring the properties for additional parking fulfills that role. As a hospital district, we're responsible to the taxpayers and the prudent thing to do is get appraisals on property so it's fair and equitable to both parties.

"That's what we did and that's what we paid," Edmondson said.

Midland TX Reporter-Telegram: http://www.mywesttexas.com

Opponent of eminent domain use wins runoff: El Paso TX Times, 6/10/07

By Gustavo Reveles Acosta

Eastsiders on Saturday elected Rachel Quintana - a staunch opponent of the use of eminent domain in Downtown redevelopment - to a four-year stint in the El Paso City Council.

Quintana, 28, defeated Jim Suerken in the runoff election, in which a dismal 5 percent of voters participated.

"I'm humbled. It's awesome," Quintana said in a phone interview from her victory party at one of state Rep. Joe Pickett's properties. "I knocked on 1,500 doors today alone, and I think because I delivered my message to people personally, that really made a difference."

Just about 2,100 of the more than 42,000 registered voters in the East Side district went to the polls to decide who would fill the seat being left vacant by East Side city Rep. Presi Ortega. Ortega couldn't run for re-election because of term limits.

Quintana, 28, ran a campaign of fiscal conservatism and of opposition to some of the most important initiatives proposed by Mayor John Cook and the majority of the City Council.

Throughout her campaign, she said she would oppose not only eminent domain but also the selling of certificates of obligation for flood repairs as well as the unified development of about 3,000 acres of Public Service Board land in the Northeast.

"My promise is to let the voters decide on these issues to put them on a ballot and let them make the decision," Quintana said. "I'm not just talking eminent domain. I mean any major detail of the business of the city."

The majority of the board and Cook supported Suerken, who had said he would work with the the council on some of the initiatives Quintana opposed.

Suerken could not be reached for comment Saturday night.

Quintana, a University of Texas at El Paso graduate working as a courier for Federal Express, said that who supported whom during the campaign was no longer an issue, and that she wanted to work effectively with all council members.

"That doesn't matter. It's a clean slate. I hope to unify the council," she said. "I am a very positive person, and that's what I expect for the next four years."

Quintana will be sworn into office during a ceremony June 19 at the Plaza Theatre, she said.

Voters interviewed Saturday said they were split between the two 20-something candidates on the ballot.

John Vega said he voted for Quintana because she told him during a home visit that she would keep taxes down.

"That's the most important thing for me right now because I'm a homeowner and my taxes are through the roof," he said. "I can't afford for anyone to come in and raise them anymore."

But Suerken supporters said they wanted to continue the progressive measures the majority in the City Council have fulfilled.

"He seems like a bright young man full of great ideas for the city," Rosa Guevara said. "I think he could move the city forward."

El Paso TX Times: http://www.elpasotimes.com

Board revisits plan for Portola middle school: KPIX-TV5, San Francisco CA, 6/21/07

The West Contra Costa Unified School District's board voted unanimously Wednesday night to reconsider its plans to move Portola Middle School to Fairmont Elementary School's campus.

School Board President Karen Pfeifer said today that while she believed that the board's original decision to move the school to the Fairmont site, at 724 Kearney Street, was a good one, she felt that the board needed to open the process up to the public before moving forward.

Many people in the neighborhood told school board members that they didn't understand what the decision was based on, and "Frankly, I found it difficult to answer their questions," Pfeifer said.

The original plan would have involved re-locating Fairmont Elementary School, the city's library and senior center as well as removing five homes and one small apartment building.

Only two of the homes affected by the original plan were owner-occupied, Pfeifer said, but those two families said they didn't want to sell their homes and wouldn't move.

Pfeifer said that the school board hadn't intended to use its power of eminent domain to force the families to sell, but thought they might reconsider their stance if a middle school was literally built up around their property with only a chain-link fence separating them from the school's 640 sixth through eighth grade students.

Residents near Fairmont Elementary School said they didn't want a middle school in their neighborhood. Their reasons, according to Pfeifer, included increased traffic, increased noise and increased trash tossed carelessly in the streets and in people's yards, a phenomenon that seems to occur around all schools.

Pfeifer said that some people also simply seem to be afraid of kids and don't want them around.

Although the school board may still decide to move the middle school to the Fairmont campus, after Wednesday's vote, they will now hold public meetings on the topic with agendas posted to notify members of the public and they will hire a California Environmental Quality Act consultant to help find other possible viable sites for the school.

The problem with Portola's current site arose more than a year ago when the school district began making plans to re-build the middle school and engineers discovered that it was on top of an ancient slide.

When the school was originally built, it met all safety standards of the time, but the state has since revised those standards, making the school no longer in compliance.

According to Pfeifer, the earth beneath Portola Middle School hasn't moved for thousands of years and had the school district left the school alone, they might never have discovered the problem. But now that they have discovered it, the school has to move.

"It's not our business to tell people how to live," Pfeifer said. "It's our business to provide the best education we can in the safest place possible.

KPIX-TV5, San Francisco CA: http://cbs5.com


N.J. Supreme Court clarifies 'blight' meaning in Gallenthin eminent domain case: New Jersey Eminent Domain Blog, 6/13/07

By Bill Ward

In a unanimous decision which invalidated Paulsboro’s redevelopment classification of the Gallenthin property, the New Jersey Supreme Court analyzes the meaning of blight as it pertains to the New Jersey Constitution and the Local Redevelopment Housing Law (LRHL) in Gallenthin Realty Development, Inc. v. Borough of Paulsboro (A-51-2006):
The Constitution expressly authorizes municipalities to engage in redevelopment of “blighted areas.” The State may take private property only for a “public use.” Under the Blighted Areas Clause of the New Jersey Constitution, the clearance, replanning, development, or redevelopment of blighted areas shall be a public purpose and public use for which private property may be taken or acquired. The LRHL empowers municipalities to designate property as “in need of redevelopment” and thus subject to the State’s eminent domain power.

In the Court’s final analysis, Paulsboro’s view of blight was incongruent with both the statutes and the Constitution. Paulsboro interpreted subsection 5(e) of the LRHL to permit redevelopment of any and all properties that were stagnant, or not fully productive. Any property which is underutilized could be deemed blighted under this flawed approach and, had the Court's interpretation adopted such an expanded definition of blight, most properties would be eligible for redevelopment. Instead, the Court held:
Because the New Jersey Constitution authorizes government redevelopment of only “blighted” areas, the Legislature did not intend N.J.S.A. 40A:12A-5(e) to apply in circumstances where the sole basis for redevelopment is that the property is “not fully productive.” Rather, subsection 5(e) applies only to areas that, as a whole, are stagnant and unproductive because of issues of title, diversity of ownership, or other similar conditions. Therefore, the Borough of Paulsboro’s redevelopment classification in respect of the Gallenthin property is invalidated.

However, the Court also said that its holding does not prejudice any future inquiry by the Borough regarding whether the property is “in need of redevelopment” based on any other legitimate grounds.

Paulsboro’s approach in blighting the property was flawed because of the absence of substantial evidence under the statutory criteria in the LRHL. In this case, the Court clearly states that a record must contain more than a bland, recitation of applicable statutory criteria. Paulsboro’s failure to provide such a record led to the invalidation of the blight designation:
Paulsboro’s only reason for designating the Gallenthin property as “in need of redevelopment” was that it was not being utilized in a fully productive manner. Those considerations, standing alone, are insufficient to engage the municipality’s power to designate property as “in need of development” and, therefore, subject to eminent domain. Further, there is no evidence in the record that the broader redevelopment area suffered from a lack of proper utilization caused by conditions of title of the real property therein.

Paulsboro retained expert Remington and Vernick to perform a study of the “BP/Dow Redevelopment Area.” There was no reference that the Gallenthin property should be included because of access problems associated with the larger redevelopment area, nor did the borough’s professional planner, George Stevenson, testify about access problems. Had such evidence been provided, the Court might have reached a different conclusion. In any case, the access issue could have been ameliorated with a partial taking as referenced in the oral arguments.

Instead, the expert report merely included a recitation of the subsection 5(e) of the LRHL and concluded that the Gallenthin property should be designated solely because it was stagnant and underutilized. The Court also noted that the record was silent about the borough’s designation of protected wetlands as a redevelopment area. Nor did the record contain evidence that the Gallenthin’s property was integral to the BP/Dow Redevelopment Area. To merely say that the Gallenthin property was not being utilized in a fully productive manner was not enough to declare the property blighted or to engage the municipality’s power of eminent domain The Court had no choice but to invalidate the designation.

The Court stopped short of declaring section 5(e) unconstitutional by focusing only on the fact that Paulsboro didn’t meet the substantial evidence test in this particular case:
Because it must be presumed that the Legislature intended subsection 5(e) to function in a constitutional manner, and because subsection 5(e) is reasonably susceptible to an alternative interpretation, the Court concludes that the Legislature intended N.J.S.A. 40A:12A-5(e) to apply only to property that has become stagnant because of issues of title, diversity of ownership, or other similar conditions. By adopting that construction, the Court avoids rendering subsection 5(e) unconstitutional and gives effect to the Legislature’s original purpose in adopting the language that would become subsection 5(e).

Because the Court's holding does not prejudice any future inquiry by the Borough, there is practical significance to the 42-page opinion written by Chief Justice Zazzali. The borough could redo the blight study in conformity with the Court’s opinion and the requirements of the statute. In all likelihood, those corrections would be upheld. This decision is a temporary bump in the road for Paulsboro, and gives municipalities further instruction on how to blight a property.

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

Ohio Senate votes to limit eminent domain: ThisWeek News, Columbus OH, 6/7/07

By Michael Maurer

The Ohio Senate voted overwhelmingly last week to limit the power of government to take private property under eminent-domain proceedings.

The Senate approved both a constitutional amendment for the fall ballot and a revision to Ohio's current eminent-domain statutes.

Both the resolution and the bill require further action by the Ohio House of Representatives before becoming effective.

Sen. Tim Grendell (R-Chesterland), who last year led a task force that examined the use of eminent domain for economic development, sponsored both a resolution that would put a constitutional amendment on the fall ballot and a bill that would restrict state and local government's ability to take land because of "blight," the legal term for neighborhood deterioration that allows the government to condemn even well-cared-for homes and properties.

"This issue we're talking about today goes to the fundamental right of Ohio citizens, the right to own private property," Grendell said.

Much of the debate centered on whether the amendment should prohibit takings that are "solely" for economic development, or more broadly, takings that are "primarily" for economic development.

Sen. Steve Stivers (R-Columbus) argued that "solely" is too narrow a word and would not in practice prevent takings at all.

"With regard to primarily versus solely, it is almost impossible to prove that something is solely the motivation," Stivers said. "If there are secondary or tertiary interests to something, you could say, 'Gee, we did it for all of these reasons, not just this single one.' That's why the word primarily is important to use."

The constitutional amendment also would abrogate home-rule powers of municipalities, prohibiting them from adopting different eminent-domain standards from the laws generally applicable to the state.

Sen. Kevin Coughlin (R-Cuyahoga Falls) said an Ohio Supreme Court decision issued last year, known as "Norwood," appeared to protect Ohioans' property rights against economic development takings, but it may not do so.

"I know for a fact there are law directors in the state of Ohio who advise their mayors that the Norwood decision doesn't change anything about their ability to use Kelo-type takings," Coughlin said.

Among the provisions of S.B. 7:

  • Land taken from one private landowner under eminent-domain proceedings may not be transferred to another private landowner unless the land has been determined to be blighted by an elected legislative authority.
  • Land may not be considered blighted unless 90 percent of parcels in the area are themselves blighted.
  • Landowners could receive attorney fees if the value of the land is found by a court to be at least 25 percent more than the value initially proposed by the taking authority, or if the court determines that the takings were not necessary as a public use.

The constitutional amendment passed 21 to 11, with Sens. David Goodman (R-New Albany), Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) and Stivers voting yes and Sen. Ray Miller (D-Columbus) dissenting.

S.B. 7 passed 29 to 3, with all four central Ohio senators voting in favor.

ThisWeek News, Columbus OH: http://www.thisweeknews.com

Eminent Domain Fix At Risk: Hartford CT Courant, 6/6/07

Billboard Clause Could Lead To Cuts In State's Share Of Federal Highway Funds

By Mark Pazniokas

The Federal Highway Administration warned Tuesday that the legislature's recent reform of eminent domain laws violates the Highway Beautification Act and could cost the state about $40 million annually.

Legislators voted by overwhelming margins last week to reform how municipalities can take property by eminent domain, saying the measure was a protection for homeowners against big government.

But the legislation also requires better compensation for a more frequent target of eminent domain proceedings - billboards taken down by the state to make way for transportation projects.

State transportation officials fought unsuccessfully to delete the provision, saying it could drive up the cost of transportation projects, including the Hartford-New Britain Busway, which will require the removal of 10 billboards.

On Tuesday, the department played a new card - a letter from a federal highway official warning that Connecticut could lose 10 percent of its annual federal highway funds. The money ranges from $355 to $440 million.

"I think it is an empty threat," said John Barrett, a co-owner of Barrett Outdoor Advertising and a former president of a state billboard trade group. "Don't be fooled. That's exactly why you got it last minute."

The letter said the new compensation policy runs afoul of a federal law passed during the administration of Lyndon Johnson, when the first lady, Lady Bird Johnson, made highway beautification a pet cause, resulting in federal policies that discourage billboards.

The administration of Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who must decide in coming days whether to sign or veto the bill, asked legislators Tuesday night to consider passing a second bill deleting the billboard language.

Chris Cooper, a spokesman for Rell, declined to say if the governor would veto the bill if the offending provision is not removed.

Rep. Art Feltman, D-Hartford, who wrote the legislative language as co-chairman of the planning and development committee, said he was surprised by the late objection.

Feltman said he is no friend of the industry, which has one owner in the legislature: Sen. John Fonfara, D-Hartford, who runs a billboard company called Face Value.

"It's not a kind of business I admire," Feltman said. "I am a big admirer of fairness."

The focus of legislators during the eminent domain debate last week was on homeowners, like those New London residents whose challenge of a land-taking led to a U.S. Supreme Court decision affirming the right of municipalities to take homes for economic development.

"This goes to the very core of everything that is good and right in this nation," Rep. Shawn Johnston, D-Thompson, said during the House debate. "You work hard, you save some money, you buy a house."

But the billboard industry says it, too, has been victimized by eminent domain. The state traditionally has paid only for the value of the sign, not the lost income, Barrett said.

"This whole bill was about doing the right thing," he said. "That's all we are asking for here."

Hartford CT Courant: http://www.courant.com

Poway considers eminent domain ordinance: North County Times, Escondido CA, 6/6/07

By Andrea Moss

The Poway [CA] City Council on Tuesday gave initial approval to an ordinance that describes the city's authority to acquire properties.

The city will almost certainly need that authority, also known as eminent domain, to proceed with a town center project that the council approved in March. On Tuesday, Poway Redevelopment Director Dena Fuentes told the council that the power would remain unchanged by the proposed ordinance, which simply "restates" the existing power in a way that would bring the city in compliance with a state law passed in September.

That law requires redevelopment agencies to adopt ordinances that explain how those agencies can acquire property. The new ordinances must be approved by July 1, under the state law.

Poway's proposed ordinance will come back to the council for a final vote June 12.

The city formed the Paguay Redevelopment Project Area as a way to revitalize sections of Poway that were physically or economically deteriorated. The project area includes 8,200 acres, or roughly half the city, with most of the area centered around Poway and Community roads.

The Poway Redevelopment Agency - actually, the council in a dual role - oversees the project area. And the agency gets its money from a so-called tax increment, or the difference between original and new property tax revenues in the redevelopment area.

Those taxes typically increase as improvement projects within the project area cause property values to go up. The agency can use the increment for similar projects or offer it as an incentive to developers willing to do the same.

Used properly, the approach can greatly improve blighted areas. Aware of that, every city in North County except Encinitas has created at least one redevelopment area.

The idea of government agencies having the power to acquire properties is frightening to some people because it brings to mind cases in which private property was condemned so that a government entity could acquire and incorporate it into projects deemed necessary for the public good. Highways and schools are examples of projects for which forced sales have been carried out in various places around the country.

Fear of eminent domain escalated after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that government agencies could use eminent domain to seize private land and transfer it to private developers to build shopping malls or similar projects.

Poway's existing redevelopment ordinance lists a variety of ways the city can acquire property. Those include buying it, accepting gifts or grants of property, or swapping one site for another.

The city can also work out a cooperative agreement, lease "or any other means authorized by law."

The council decided when it created the redevelopment agency that it would never use eminent domain to buy properties zoned for and developed as residences. The ordinance leaves the door open for Poway to acquire other types of property through condemnation, though.

Fuentes told the council that, since 1991, the city has only done so a couple of times. In both cases, the property involved was environmentally contaminated, and the city used authority given to it under a state act that allows government agencies to seize property, if doing so is necessary to ensure that the contaminants are removed, she said.

That nuance made those cases technically different from any involving the use of eminent domain as defined in the existing and proposed city ordinances, said Fuentes.

Poway's eminent domain power will expire in 2016. A staff report that Fuentes prepared for the council says that if the redevelopment agency wants to acquire any properties between now and then, it will try to work out a "fair market" purchase price with the owners.

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

Atlantic Yards suit dismissed by federal judge: Crain's New York NY Business, 6/6/07

By Erik Engquist

A federal judge today dismissed a lawsuit against the $4 billion Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn. The ruling, eagerly awaited for two months, is a major blow to opponents of the project, who plan to appeal.

The lawsuit challenges the eminent domain condemnations that Atlantic Yards needs to proceed. Thirteen residents and businesses in the project’s footprint have refused to sell their apartments, buildings or long-term leases to Forest City Ratner Cos., which wants to build a 19,000-seat arena, a huge office and retail complex, and more than 6,000 apartments.

"Today's decision is an important victory not only for Atlantic Yards but for Brooklyn as well. This decision means we are one step closer to creating over 2,200 units of affordable housing, thousands of construction and office jobs and bringing the Nets to Brooklyn," said Bruce Ratner, president and CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies.

Their suit’s chances, say project opponents, are best if the case remains in federal court. That is why they say they will appeal the ruling issued today by Judge Nicholas Garaufis to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

“Part of the reason we have a better chance to win [there] is because the federal courts are much more familiar with constitutional issues and are less susceptible to political pressures,” said the plaintiffs’ attorney, Matthew Brinckerhoff days before the ruling.

A federal magistrate judge had recommended in February that the case belonged in state court. Judge Garaufis disagreed, but dismissed the case on its merits.

Another suit by opponents, challenging the process by which the state reviewed and approved the development, remains pending. But the eminent domain lawsuit was considered the greater threat to the project.

The crux of Mr. Brinckerhoff’s argument was that the condemnations do not have a primarily public purpose, as required by New York’s eminent domain law.

Crain's New York NY Business: http://www.newyorkbusiness.com

City May Use Eminent Domain To Obtain More Arena Land: WFTV-TV9, Orlando FL, 6/5/07

The city of Orlando needs more land for its new arena and it may use eminent domain to get it.

The city is in negotiations to buy three pieces of land in the Parramore area for just under $3 million.

The council took a vote, Monday, which would allow it to use eminent domain if it can't come to an agreement with the land owner.

The city has already spent more than $35 million on land for the arena.

WFTV-TV9, Orlando FL: http://www.wftv.com

New Law Designed To Protect Vital Sites: Hartford CT Courant, 6/6/07

Restrictions Placed On Eminent Domain Use

By Mark Peters

Energy legislation signed into law this week includes a provision that grants more protection to vital energy structures, such as tank farms or power plants.

The legislation places new restrictions on the use of eminent domain to take energy-related properties for public projects. The new law arose from New Haven's interest in building a passenger ferry terminal at a site currently used as a fuel delivery and storage terminal.

The new law requires a review by the state Department of Public Utility Control and other state agencies before a municipality can take ownership of an energy facility.

A principal proponent of the new requirements is Magellan Midstream Partners, which owns a fuel storage facility and deepwater dock in New Haven Harbor.

City officials, the company said, have shown interest in using the waterfront land as a site to board passengers and vehicles for a ferry service between New Haven and Long Island. That has raised concerns by the company and by oil industry lobbyists who say the site is crucial to ensuring that the state has enough heating oil and diesel fuel.

The Magellan facility holds millions of gallons of home heating oil kept by the federal government as a strategic reserve to prevent shortages in times of extreme cold, said Bruce Heine, director of government and media affairs for Magellan, based in Oklahoma.

The new legislation "creates a balanced approach," Heine said.

An official for the city on Tuesday played down the city's interest in the property. New Haven has not even started a feasibility study of the proposed ferry service, and when it does, the city will look at several sites for a terminal, said Karyn Gilvarg, executive director of the New Haven City Plan Department.

The city recently hired a consultant to study whether a cross-sound ferry makes sense as a complement to the current service between Bridgeport and Port Jefferson, N.Y., Gilvarg said.

Hartford CT Courant: http://www.courant.com

APS reaches deal to keep water flowing to power plant: KVOA-TV4, Tuscon AZ, 6/3/07

Arizona Public Service [APS] will be able to keep pumping groundwater to supply a northeastern Arizona power plant under a deal with a large private landowner whose property the utility was trying to seize.

The tentative out-of-court settlement between APS and the Aztec Land and Cattle Co. ends prospects for a trial in Navajo County Superior Court focused on property rights and the state's eminent domain laws, both parties said.

APS was trying to condemn rangeland owned by Aztec using eminent domain so it could pump water for the Cholla Power Plant near Joseph City.

The utility leased the water for nearly 35 years, paying $6 an acre-foot, which is 326,000 gallons. But the lease is set to expire in August, and Aztec was demanding an increase to $200 an acre-foot, a price cattle company said was market-rate.

APS offered $56,000 to buy six acres around each of its wells plus easements for access.

The firms failed to agree, and APS filed suit to condemn the land.

The settlement calls for the utility to pump only from six square miles it owns, said Steve Brophy, Aztec's president. The land company will no longer be paid for the water.

APS declined to detail specifics of the settlement.

Brophy said Aztec officials agreed to the settlement because it was the best deal the company could get under the state's eminent domain laws.

"The law subjects them (APS) and us to the 'big pump rule,'" he said. "He who has the biggest pump, rules."

Sen. Jake Flake (R-Snowflake) had scheduled a hearing Wednesday by the Senate Natural Resources and Rural Affairs Committee about the case but canceled when it appeared a settlement was near.

Flake said he still is prepared to introduce a bill that would prohibit condemnation of land for water rights.

"I simply don't think that big companies should use eminent domain for water," he said.

KVOA-TV4, Tuscon AZ: http://kvoa.com

Top Ag Groups Applaud Texas Legislature Action on Eminent Domain: Texas Farmer-Stockman, 6/4/07

By J T Smith

Before the Texas Legislature adjourned its 80th Session at the end of May, lawmakers passed a significant reform in eminent domain, which is being praised by top agricultural groups. Texas' largest farm organization, the Texas Farm Bureau [TFB], applauded the Legislature for passage of a bill to fine-tune the state's eminent domain process. The Texas House concurred with Senate amendments to HB-2006, the eminent domain bill. Gov. Rick Perry is expected to sign it.

Kenneth Dierschke, TFB president, San Angelo, called HB-2006 the most important property rights legislation in Texas in more than a decade. The bill, sponsored by State Rep. Beverly Woolley of Houston, also had passed the Texas Senate on a 30-0 vote. The House, with her leadership, then concurred.

"Texas farmers and ranchers have been concerned for some time about the eminent domain process," Dierschke notes. "It's been far too easy to take property in this state, sometimes without even a good faith offer. Landowners can't match the deep pockets of the taking entities in legal proceedings."

Dierschke says HB-2006 will compensate landowners on what a willing buyer would pay a willing seller - "It's hard to argue with the fairness of that."

Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association [TSCRA] also was pleased.

"H.B. 2006 helps level the playing field for landowners who are condemned and ensures that they are justly compensated for the damage done on their property," says Jon Means, TSCRA president, and a Victoria cattle producer.

Dierschke says the legislation ensures property owners will be fairly compensated for the taking of their property by the thousands of entities that have power of eminent domain. The Farm Bureau leader says entities with such authority include state and municipal governments, utilities, university systems, some corporations, and various government groups. And with Texas' population growing rapidly, eminent domain proceedings are expected to increase, and Dierschke adds, "We cannot ask Texas property owners—rural and urban alike—to sacrifice their farms, ranches, businesses, and homes without fair compensation."

Means says the bill defines "public use" in a way aimed at preventing condemnation for economic development, the subject of great controversy after the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Kelo v. City of New London.

TSCRA also praised Senator Kyle Janek of Houston for guiding Senate passage.

Texas Farmer-Stockman: http://thefarmerstockman.com

Eminent domain bill heads to House: Wooster OH Daily Record, 6/3/07

By Marc Kovac

A bill and a ballot issue that would change Ohio communities' use of eminent domain passed the state Senate on Thursday, but not before a couple of hours of debate on the need for the legislation and the wording of the potential constitutional amendment.

Senate Joint Resolution 1, the more hotly contested of the two, passed by a party-line vote of 20-11. The final vote on Senate Bill 7 was 29-3.

Both, which will head to the Ohio House for consideration, would establish standards for the use of eminent domain and limit public entities' ability to take private property for private economic development projects.

They were written following state and national court decisions that affected how eminent domain could be used. One decision allowed local governments to take land in non-blighted areas and transfer it to private entities for redevelopment, while the other raised the standard governments must meet in order to take land from a private property owner.

Sen. Tim Grendell, a Republican from Chesterland and sponsor of the legislation, outlined the basic provisions of SB 7: objectively defining blight, providing ample and early public notice and involvement in eminent domain proceedings, expediting the appeals process for affected property owners and protecting farmland.

"This is an important day for private property rights in Ohio," he said.

Dale Miller, a Cleveland Democrat, opposed the bill, stating he feared its impact on urban revitalization and legitimate public projects.

"I am very concerned about private property rights ...," he said. "I believe that we do need legislation and that we do need to more clearly define what is an appropriate exercise of eminent domain power. ... (But) what is proposed here is a severe overreaction. I do believe it will restrict or eliminate development that is a legitimate exercise of eminent domain authority."

He added, "The House has a lot of work to do on this bill, and I think I would implore them to very carefully consider what we're about to do here and come up with a very substantial revision so that we have something that is reasonable, that is balanced, that deals with the problem but doesn't throw the baby out with the bath."

Tom Sawyer, a Democrat and former mayor of Akron, also opposed. Holding an illustration of the city, circa 1846, and noting the changes the community has experienced in a century and a half, he said cities need to have the power to remove blight, engage in redevelopment and protect other property owners.

"The definition of blight is impossibly high," he said. "In many portions of our larger cities, it would require dropping a bomb in order to qualify for the blighted standard."

SJR 1 was offered by Sen. Kevin Coughlin, a Republican from Cuyahoga Falls. It would place on the statewide ballot a constitutional amendment calling for General Assembly-created standards for the use of eminent domain (like those in Grendell's bill) to apply in all areas of the state, including home-ruled cities. As it stands, cities have the ability to set their own standards for eminent domain.

"Those who live in cities in our state, their property rights against government abuse are no less important than those who live out in the townships and in other places ...," Coughlin said.

"It's a uniform right," Grendell said. "There is no reason to make the residents of Ohio municipalities second-class citizens when it comes to the protection of their fundamental property rights."

He later added for those voting against the resolution: "You're saying that 'I don't trust the people of Ohio to be able to vote on the issue.' ... We ought to give the people of Ohio the final say."

But John Boccieri, a Democrat from New Middletown, took issue with the use of the word "primarily." According to the resolution, the amendment would "prohibit a public authority from taking private property for a public use 'primarily' for the purpose of increasing the revenues available to any public authority."

Boccieri said a task force that studied the issue recommended eminent domain could not be used "solely" for increasing revenues, and the change in wording made the ultimate effective too broad.

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

City to review all eminent domain plans: Cherry Hill NJ Courier Post, 6/3/07


By Angel Fuentes

For several years prior to and during my recent successful re-election to Camden City Council, I met with many of my Ward 4 constituents and other residents of Camden concerning a very important, and oftentimes, controversial issue faced by municipalities statewide: the use of eminent domain by the city government.

As the state Legislature debates and enacts legislation providing further statutory guidance in the use of eminent domain by municipalities, in the end it is not so much redevelopment requirements and parameters, but a municipality's engagement and accommodation of the affected residential neighborhoods that will matter most. The city has learned this the hard way.

In anticipation of the introduction of redevelopment plans in Camden and the potential use of eminent domain in the acquisition of properties, I previously sponsored an ordinance that would subject all city redevelopment plans to a 10-point review that would engage the city's neighborhoods and foster their active participation in the entire redevelopment process. Please visit my Web site: www.angelfuentesforcitycouncil.com.

Furthermore, the 10-point review would ultimately seek to minimize the impact and maximize the benefits to those city neighborhoods affected by a redevelopment plan. Where property would potentially be acquired - particularly through eminent domain - my 10-point review requires:

  • The redevelopment plan justify or demonstrate the best effort of the city to minimize the actual properties to be acquired.
  • In the interest of removing uncertainty concerning the redevelopment status of any property that may hamper property owners' ability to sell or transfer their property, no secondary list under the category "may be acquired" will be accepted in any redevelopment plan.

Best interests
Rest assured, I and my colleagues on City Council have and will continue to ensure that the acquisition of properties and related potential use of eminent domain under any city redevelopment plan genuinely serve the best interests of all Camden's neighborhoods.

Cherry Hill NJ Courier Post: http://www.courierpostonline.com
Angel Fuentes is the Camden NJ City Council president

Eminent Domain Examined: New Brunswick NJ Home News Tribune, 6/3/07

Land grab or needed tool?

By Gene Racz

Public Advocate Ronald Chen has put himself at the forefront of ending the misuse of eminent-domain laws for redevelopment in New Jersey.

It now remains to be seen just how many citizens, mayors, planners and other interested parties will join him.

Last week, Chen issued a report listing specific abuses and remedies regarding the state's eminent-domain laws, which he characterized as "overbroad" and which allow the government to "take our homes and businesses without meeting the basic principles of fairness enshrined in the New Jersey Constitution."

Chen is calling for legislation to protect the rights of property owners while also preserving the tools municipalities need to carry out essential redevelopment efforts. A reform bill (A-3275), sponsored by Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-Salem, has passed the Assembly and another reform bill by Sen. Ron Rice, D-Essex, has stalled in the Senate.

Both bills have received mixed reviews.

"Most mayors I talk with who do redevelopment don't support either the Assembly or the Senate version," said New Brunswick Mayor James Cahill. "I think we can eventually get a bill that preserves property owners' rights while also giving municipalities the tools they need to do effective redevelopment. I think people can sit down with Public Advocate Chen and others and get good, fair legislation passed."

Chen's report cited three elements that he feels should be addressed by any legislative reform enacted. They are:

  • Tightening the definition of "blighted area."
  • Making the process for using eminent domain more fair, open and transparent.
  • Requiring adequate compensation and relocation assistance for property owners and tenants.

"I'm glad Public Advocate Chen is leading the charge now in this state," said Edison Mayor Jun Choi. "I also believe that half the states now, ever since the Supreme Court's landmark Kelo vs. City of New London ruling, have adopted legislation focused on curbing eminent-domain abuses.

"The language of the law is just too vague," added Choi. "The report talks about the "bogus blight" issue and due process deprivation. It is astonishing under current law that you can use eminent domain without the owner even knowing about it — as an example. That's obviously ridiculous."

Under Choi, Edison voters passed a referendum question banning the use of eminent domain for private redevelopment in the township. Choi feels it has sent a strong message.

"I think the development community, mainly the irresponsible developers that did business in Edison in past, got a very clear message from our new administration: "We're not here to continue the hanky panky,' " said Choi.

"This really is a new era, we need legitimate public input and we have to address the pressing concerns."

That public input is ongoing, and at the end of Chen's report, the public advocate called for "continued feedback . . . to help achieve further improvements to A-3257."

While the Burzichelli bill addresses all three concerns Chen considered to be key, Cahill said he considers some of the bill's provisions problematic. He cites some requirements of notification to be unnecessarily onerous. Cahill also considers ill-conceived and impractical the provision which precludes a municipality from discussing a redevelopment project with a developer in advance of initiating the redevelopment plan.

Cahill asks things like: How would a redeveloper then know if a plan it crafted would even be accepted by a municipality? What about traffic disruption and things like sewer services? And wouldn't it be good for a developer considering a plan with slim profit margins to know if tax abatements were available?

Cahill notes that in his tenure as New Brunswick mayor, "dozens and dozens and dozens" of redevelopment projects have been completed and that the city has only had to work through problems with property owners in "a handful" of instances. Two of them are ongoing at the moment — one with the Gateway Center project on Somerset Street and another involving an auto-body shop which sits in the midst a proposed town house redevelopment project near Remsen Avenue.

"In New Brunswick, since I've been mayor, we've created 4,000 new jobs; we've reduced the unemployment rate from over 13 percent to now 4.4 percent; created 2,000 new housing units, half of which are affordable; cut the crime rate in half. Would that have all happened if we weren't able to exercise our powers of eminent domain, or take advantage of the redevelopment tools that were provided by the Legislature decades ago?" he asked.

"The answer is no, we wouldn't have been able to," Cahill concluded.

Across the river in Highland Park, Mayor Meryl Frank said that, while she had not seen Chen's most recent report, she and the borough officials "have taken a very gentle hand with redevelopment."

"We've been through our plan (for Highland Park) and we said that we would not take people's homes," Frank said. "We are not looking to bring in a master redeveloper. We are asking the property owners to do their own redevelopment, and that is happening in Highland Park."

"The reason redevelopment is an important tool is that it offers us more flexibility in getting property owners to clean up their property," Frank added. "Again, in Highland Park, most of (redevelopment) is curb cuts and connecting parking lots. We couldn't get rid of all of these driveways that go over sidewalks without redevelopment."

William Potter, past president of the Coalition Against Eminent Domain Abuse, now called Stop Eminent Domain Abuse, says he sees two things that would be helpful in bringing about meaningful eminent-domain reform — judicial and executive action.

"What we really need are two paths: one is (a ruling from) the state Supreme Court and the other is if Gov. Corzine will follow the footsteps of Gov. (Tom) Kean and Gov. (Brendan) Byrne and issue an executive order moratorium on eminent domain," said Potter, partner at Princeton law firm, Potter and Dickson.

"Both of those governors found their land-reform legislation stymied by the Legislature and then they impose a moratorium on development. Under Gov. Byrne it was in the Pinelands, and for Gov. Kean it was on the freshwater wetlands. Each one declared a moratorium through an executive order, and guess what happened? Suddenly the Legislature passed a significant reform bill."

At the moment, eminent-domain reform in New Jersey is at a crossroads awaiting compromise. Advocates of sweeping eminent-domain reform say that redevelopment abuses are impossible to quantify since some property owners don't even contest the taking of their property. Some estimate as many as 100 towns in New Jersey now have battles being fought over redevelopment using eminent domain.

Mayors who rely on eminent-domain laws to help assemble properties for "smart growth" projects that are beneficial to their communities are concerned about losing essential tools.

"Both the Rice bill in the Senate and the Burzichelli bill in the Assembly significantly undermine a municipality's ability to do redevelopment in a cost-effective and efficient way — if you do that, then redevelopment stops," said Cahill.

"What we don't want to see happen is the pendulum swing so far in the other direction that we make it so difficult for municipalities to do redevelopment, that whatever tools we've had before now become unusable."

New Brunswick NJ Home News Tribune: http://www.thnt.com

Connecticut lawmakers vote to limit use of eminent domain: WRIC-TV8, Richmond VA, 6/3/07

Associated Press

Connecticut's legislature has decided to limit the use of eminent domain, two years after a landmark US Supreme Court case.

The state's House of Representatives voted 132 to 7 Saturday night in favor of a bill that restricts private property from being taken solely to boost property tax revenues. The move comes two years after the US Supreme Court ruled the city of New London could take homes for a private riverfront development.

Despite the overwhelming vote, many lawmakers wanted an outright ban on using eminent domain for economic development. They complained that this bill would not have stopped the property seizures in New London. But an amendment failed in a close vote.

Governor Jodi Rell is expected to sign the bill limiting the use of eminent domain.

WRIC-TV8, Richmond VA: http://www.wric.com

County opposes legislation on eminent domain: Ft Worth TX Star-Telegram, 6/3/07

By Anna M Tinsley

It pits property owners against government agencies, wildlife conservationists against bureaucrats.

And it's kicked up a firestorm throughout Texas.

Pleas from both sides are flooding into Gov. Rick Perry's office over House Bill 2006, a measure awaiting the governor's signature that would give property owners more protection when forced to turn over their land to the government through eminent domain.

Critics say it could cost local and state governments more than $1 billion a year in additional costs for road projects, airport runways and other public projects. Supporters say the money should have gone into landowners' pocketbooks all along.

Tarrant County is leading the charge against the bill, preparing a letter asking Perry to veto the legislation. The Texas Wildlife Association, the Institute for Justice and other supporters want it to be signed. Perry has until June 17 to take action.

"We are convinced that the legislation ... will result in much greater costs to taxpayers because the overall costs of acquiring right-of-way for public road projects, both local and state, will be increased significantly," the proposed Tarrant County letter says.

Rep. Beverly Woolley, who carried the bill along with fellow Houston Republican Sen. Kyle Janek, said it's geared to protect property rights.

"Texas courts have chipped away at property-owner protections for decades," Woolley said. "I believe governmental entities should not operate with a sense of entitlement to my land.

"House Bill 2006 restores these property-owner protections."

Added protections
If Perry signs the bill, landowners would have more rights when governments step in to take property through eminent domain, a controversial practice that allows local governments to take and buy land for public projects.

The bill would ensure that landowners receive good-faith offers for condemned property, be compensated for damage done to adjoining property, and have a chance to buy back their land - at the same price they received - if it isn't needed in 10 years for the development.

If signed into law, the provision would go into effect Sept. 1. The buyback provision would require a constitutional amendment that would go before voters on Nov. 6.

The measure defines "public use" to keep land from being taken for economic development and creates a process for courts to determine whether initial purchase offers are fair.

It has followed sharp reaction to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2005 in a Connecticut case that said local governments could take private homes and businesses for economic development. That same year, Texas lawmakers passed legislation prohibiting such use, and they came back this session to add further protections.

'Lawyers' retirement bill'
Opponents say this bill would boost the cost of public transportation projects because of an amendment that requires governments to compensate property owners for road projects that reduce access to the property. Current law doesn't require compensation "if access is merely changed, as long as a reasonable access is preserved," according to an analysis by Tarrant County officials.

The costs could add as much as $800 million to state highway projects alone, officials said. No estimate is available on how much it could add to Tarrant County projects, but Harris County officials say their costs could go up $200 million a year.

"This will make it more expensive for everyone," Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said. "Not only that, but a surrounding property owner could sue for damages - noise, damages or some other reason. This is basically a lawyers' retirement bill."

Randall Dillard, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Transportation, declined to comment on projected road costs.

Woolley said the money belongs to property owners.

"Any additional costs to a condemning entity because of HB 2006 means that property owners have been shortchanged that much for years," she said. "I firmly believe that no property owner should suffer an economic loss when he sacrifices his land for the greater good."

Seeking a veto
Tarrant County commissioners will vote formally Tuesday on sending the letter to Perry asking for the veto. Whitley said other counties, including Harris and Denton, are expected to follow suit.

The Texas Municipal League is urging any cities concerned about the bill to send letters to Perry asking for a veto.

"It's much worse than we thought it would be," said Frank Sturzl, the league's executive director. "Requiring the state to pay for loss of access, that has never happened before. That will make some roads very expensive."

Fort Worth officials are still evaluating the bill's impact on city projects.

"We are real concerned about provisions in the bill, and we believe we'll be in more litigation for projects where eminent domain is being used," said Joe Paniagua, an assistant city manager. "We are concerned about the unintended consequences."

Officials with the Tarrant Regional Water District and the Trinity River Vision Authority - which are overseeing the $435 million Trinity Uptown project - said the changes to the law should not dramatically affect their operations.

J.D. Granger, executive director of the Trinity River Vision Authority, said the buyback provision shouldn't affect Trinity Uptown, since eminent domain provisions will be used only for land needed directly for the flood-control portions of the project.

Flurry of lobbying
Supporters say the measure will level the playing field for property owners. The Texas Wildlife Association sent Perry a letter last week asking him to sign the bill.

"The arbitrary use of eminent domain can touch anyone who owns anything anywhere," the letter said.

"Threats to the sanctity of private property ownership cannot be ignored because property ownership is the basis of our free enterprise system and our economy," the letter said. "The legislation is the best fix to eminent domain abuses that we'll probably ever have in Texas."

The bill can also deter government abuse of eminent domain, said Bill Peacock, director of the Center for Economic Freedom at the Texas Public Policy Foundation in Austin.

"I'm hoping Perry does sign it," Peacock said. "I think it's the most important property-rights legislation I've seen in Texas."

The Institute for Justice, the Virginia-based public interest law firm that represented the losing side in the 2005 Connecticut case, is lobbying supporters nationwide to ask Perry to make the measure law.

"We think it's an important piece of legislation that would protect home and small-business owners, farmers and ranchers across Texas," said Steven Anderson, director of the Castle Coalition at the institute. "It would protect all Texans."

Ft Worth TX Star-Telegram: http://www.star-telegram.com

City paves way for eminent domain: Victorville CA Daily Press, 6/2/07

By Tatiana Prophet

While [Victorville] officials say they have no immediate plans to use eminent domain, the City Council is set to pave the way for the day they will need to use it in Old Town and other parts of the city.

“We have no plans to use eminent domain whatsoever at this point,” said Councilman Bob Hunter. “That doesn’t mean that at some point we won’t have to use it, but as always, we negotiate with individuals before we consider eminent domain.”

A state law passed in 2005 puts a time limit of 12 years on eminent domain powers in redevelopment areas.

Before extending the time limit, cities must demonstrate that significant blight still exists in the areas, and that the blight cannot be eliminated without the use of eminent domain.

The time limit expired in the 1980s and 1990s on the areas in question.

According to a City Council agenda item, the city is extending the powers on the Bear Valley Road Redevelopment Project Area, an area bounded by Bear Valley Road on the south and Ottawa Street on the north, next to Foxborough Industrial Park.

The powers would also be available at the Hook Boulevard Redevelopment Area, which runs around the area at Civic and Roy Rogers drives.

Finally, if the measure passes, eminent domain powers would be available for the Old Town/Midtown Redevelopment area.

The city has already approved its Old Town Strategic Plan and is courting private developers to help turn the area into a pedestrian-friendly environment.

Part of the Old Town strategy would involve creating “catalytic” sites along Seventh Street, permeating the four-block grid from A to D streets.

According to the strategic plan, housing is a critical component of the area’s rebirth.

With plans for artist’s lofts priced at about $240,000 per unit, the city’s development partners will likely need to acquire land in the area.

But city officials have come out adamantly against using eminent domain for private use — only for government use such as roads and required infrastructure.

The last time the city used eminent domain was in March, when it took an 1,800-square-foot corner from a half-acre lot at Nisqualli Road and Seventh Avenue to be able to install a drain, sidewalk and street signal for the street’s widening.

Victorville CA Daily Press: http://www.vvdailypress.com

Stealing home: Hackensack NJ Record, 6/1/07


NEW JERSEY'S vague laws on government taking of property put ordinary homeowners and small businesses at risk. The Legislature needs to protect property owners by reforming eminent domain laws. So far, it has failed.

The Assembly passed a reform bill last year. The measure has stalled in the Senate.

Some opponents say eminent domain abuse is not really a problem. Municipalities act fairly when condemning homes and businesses, they say.

But anyone who has watched Lodi's treatment of residents of two Route 46 trailer parks knows better. The borough is fighting to kick out the 200 people who live in the Costa and Brown's trailer courts. It is trying to condemn these generally well-maintained properties on a flimsy premise that they are "blighted." It wants to convert the site into an upscale condo development - all for the sake of increasing borough tax revenues.

Lodi is just one example. A report this week by state Public Advocate Ronald Chen gives other instances of eminent domain abuse around the state. It shows municipalities, like Lodi, using designations of "blight" to take private homes and businesses. It shows governments failing to give property owners a chance to contest condemnation of their property, such as the city of Passaic's treatment of Charlie Shennett.

Shennett had no idea his home had been condemned until, in 2005, he inquired why he had not received a tax bill. The city condemned the home that had been in his family for 80 years without notifying him. It had transferred the property to a company owned by a former city councilman.

The transfer of the property to a political insider carried the appearance of a potential conflict of interest. But in eminent domain cases, that's not so unusual. Chen's report details another case, in Long Branch, where municipal officials involved in condemning property appeared to stand to personally benefit from the deal. As the report notes, such potential conflicts of interest undermine public confidence in all government condemnations of property.

Sometimes, eminent domain is the right thing to do. Homes and businesses sometimes have to give way for schools, roads and other important public projects. Sometimes, properties truly are blighted and detrimental to public health; government needs to declare eminent domain to bring in new, private development.

But condemning property for private development should be rare. And it should be fair.

Municipalities should be barred from declaring properties "blighted" merely because of faded paint or overgrown weeds. They should be required to give owners adequate notice and a fair chance to contest the property taking. They should also have to pay fair compensation for displaced owners to start over somewhere else.

The Assembly bill, co-sponsored by Robert Gordon, D-Fair Lawn, would help ensure fairness. The Senate should pass an identical measure. It should reject a bill sponsored by Ronald Rice, D-Newark, that would fail to give property owners needed protections.

Many municipalities do the right thing when condemning property. Some do not. And it's ordinary people who get hurt.

Hackensack NJ Record: http://www.northjersey.com


Maryland earns ‘D’ on eminent domain report: Baltimore MD Examiner, 6/7/07


Adeptness at seizing private property should not be a skill Baltimore City and other local governments in Maryland cultivate.

But recent events and a new report card from the Institute for Justice — which represents property owners in Maryland and throughout the country fighting government condemnation — show it as the regular modus operandi locally.

Since the Supreme Court’s 2005 Kelo decision granting governments power to condemn property for private economic development, many states have moved to strengthen laws protecting property owners. Maryland is not one of them.

The 2007 Eminent Domain Report Card gives Maryland a “D.” [Click here to download the report card: http://www.castlecoalition.org/publications/report_card/

“Maryland homeowners are not much more protected from eminent domain abuse today than they were the day the Kelo decision came down,” said Steven Anderson, director of the Castle Coalition, a branch of IJ.

The legislature debated some bills in the past two sessions, but very few reached committee and only one passed, Senate Bill 3, which requires those doing the condemning to complete it within four years of authorization. It also raises financial caps on how much owners can receive.

That’s a start, but property owners need much greater protection from government and those who benefit from it.

Traditionally governments used eminent domain to build highways and other public works projects.

But Baltimore City used it aggressively to pave the way for retail and housing developments, including in the Superblock area on the Westside and in the North Charles Street region.

Twice in the last year the state’s highest court has condemned the city-financed Baltimore Development Corp. for abusing a provision of eminent domain — quick-take — for immediately seizing property it had nothing other than theoretical plans to develop.

We don’t begrudge the city for wanting to turn neglected areas into attractive shopping and housing centers that can boost the tax base and provide welcome amenities for residents.

But respecting property rights must be paramount. Next session the legislature must prioritize clarifying when and how property can be condemned and define “economic development” so that yet-to-be determined plans do not provide the basis for seizing property.

Those faced with eminent domain condemnation can order a DVD from the Castle Coalition and its “Survival Guide” for $3.95 at www.ij.org/freedommarket to learn how to fight it successfully.

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

Bloomfield consents to cease eminent domain: New Jersey Eminent Domain Blog, 6/12/07

By Bill Ward

The long, contentious three-year litigation over Bloomfield’s redevelopment and its attempts to secure properties by eminent domain is over. The New Jersey Superior Court entered an order approved by Essex County Assignment Judge Patricia Costello dismissing Lardieri et al v. Township of Bloomfield (ESX-L-8929-06) on the express condition that Bloomfield would not use its power of eminent domain to acquire the five plaintiffs’ properties.

The order was approved in a resolution by the Bloomfield Township Planning Board, the Mayor and Council. Both the resolution and the order establish that Bloomfield, when it selects a new developer, cannot use eminent domain to acquire private properties for the project, and the developer can acquire properties only through arms length negotiations. Most importantly, eminent domain has been removed from the developer’s arsenal.

In a related case, 110 Washington Street v. Bloomfield, the corporation’s partners are proceeding with the development of their own parcel in accordance with the redevelopment plan. Once the planning board finalizes the approval of 110 Washington Street’s plan for high rise residential development, Bloomfield will see progress.

A municipality can achieve economic revitalization through its zoning powers without condemning large swaths of properties and dislocating long established businesses. This mechanism will attract private capital to the redevelopment area and achieve the economic objectives through market forces without eminent domain.

“Eminent domain isn’t the key to economic development,” said Anaheim, California Mayor Curt Pringle in his report, Development Without Eminent Domain, published by the Institute for Justice.

Pringle achieved Anaheim's redevelopment objectives without condemning properties. His efforts should be a template for all muncipalities that desire redevelopment but oppose taking private properties for economic benefit through eminent domain. Perhaps Bloomfield Mayor Raymond McCarthy and the township council have set a similar standard for New Jersey.

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

School Board to Vote on Rescinding Decision: No Middle School at Fairmont Blog, 6/15/07

Some great news for all those concerned with the prospect of a middle school at Fairmont!

The WCCUSD [West Contra Costa CA Unified School Board] board will vote to rescind its decision to make Fairmont the lead proposal for the relocation of Portola and is basically going to restart the entire process to find a solution to the problem. They are proposing a much more systematic approach to finding a middle school site, including establishing criteria for what they are looking for in a middle school and employing a CEQA consultant. See the agenda for the meeting on June 20 here. On the agenda, it is Item E1.

Thanks so much to everyone who attended meetings, circulated petitions, wrote letters and generally raised the profile of this issue.

It's comforting to see that the school board can change its mind when a mistake is made and I applaud them for doing so. Many people have commented about the flawed process and the board seems willing to learn from its failures in this case. As the agenda item says: ``We regret the difficulty and length of this process and for the fact that, after all this, we find ourselves `back at the drawing board.' We are, hopefully, wiser for these efforts. ''

Please realize that the search for a new middle school is not over and we all need to stay engaged and give the district as much support and feedback as we can to make sure we can all get the kind of middle school our kids and community need.

No Middle School at Fairmont Blog: http://nomiddleschoolatfairmont.blogspot.com

Kelo Anniversary - A night of cinema and citizen action at the Jersey Shore Arts Center on June 22, 2007

Dana Berliner, Co–Counsel landmark Kelo Case, Joins Asbury Park Filmmaker on Panel

The Castle Coalition in partnership with the Stop Eminent Domain Abuse Coalition of New Jersey (StopEDA.org) and state and local activists will commemorate Kelo Day, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that broadly expanded the use of eminent domain for private development with a program celebrating citizen action.

The program, to be held Friday, June 22, 7pm at the Jersey Shore Arts Center in Ocean Grove, will feature a panel discussion with Dana Berliner, litigator for the public-interest law firm the Institute for Justice and co-counsel on the Kelo vs. New London case. The program also features a call to action for a state-wide moratorium on eminent domain abuse, and a special in-the-works screening of Greetings from Asbury Park, a documentary feature film by Asbury Park native Christina Eliopoulos about the price of progress in her hometown and her family’s struggle with eminent domain abuse.

In the wake of the Kelo decision, more than 41 states have enacted legislation
aimed at limiting the abuse of eminent domain, hoping to give tenants and property owners greater protection, participation and compensation

Across New Jersey, more than 115 municipalities have the authority to use eminent domain in “areas in need of redevelopment.” With this designation, private homes and businesses can be taken and given to private development companies for private development, like luxury condominiums and big-box stores.

The Institute for Justice, in its yearly report card on individual states, gave New Jersey an “F” for its track record of eminent domain abuse.

In its report, the Institute for Justice states that “New Jersey desperately needs reform, as the State’s Public Advocate admitted in his recent report. In particular, the criteria used to declare an area “in need of redevelopment,” a designation that triggers the power of eminent domain, are so broad that most every New Jersey property is subject to acquisition.” The report goes on to say that “ New Jersey is one of the nation’s worst eminent domain abusers and is one of the states with the most work to do in the legislature.”

The Institute for Justice, based in Arlington, Virginia represents homeowners in Long Branch’s Marine Terrace Ocean Terrace Seaview Avenue area (MTOTSA). The City of Long Branch, New Jersey is trying to seize the well-kept beachfront homes of senior citizens and families to give their land to a private developer.

Featured panelist Dana Berliner serves as a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice, where she has worked as a lawyer since 1994. She litigates property rights, economic liberty and other constitutional cases in both federal and state courts. She represented the home and business owners in Norwood, Ohio, who, on July 26, 2006, secured a unanimous ruling from the Ohio Supreme Court that the city could not take their property for a privately-owned shopping mall and “lifestyle center.”

Along with co-counsel Scott Bullock, Ms. Berliner represented the homeowners in the recent decision in Kelo v. New London, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that cities could condemn property because other uses may produce an increase in tax dollars and jobs. She also recently secured a ruling that the Village of Port Chester, N.Y., violated due process in its use of eminent domain to secure waterfront property. Her first eminent domain case was a successful challenge to the use of eminent domain to take Vera Coking’s Atlantic City home for limousine parking for a neighboring Trump hotel and casino.

Greetings from Asbury Park, a documentary feature film, began filming in Asbury Park in 2001. Over the past five years, the filmmakers have interviewed over 40 local residents, historians, artists, musicians, community leaders as well as numerous national public policy experts and distinguished scholars. Director Christina Eliopoulos interviews her hometown neighbors and three generations of her family. The film, a work in progress, will be completed shortly and make its debut on the festival circuit in the fall of 2007.

Lori AnnVendetti, co-chair of the The StopEDA Coalition of New Jersey and co-sponsor of the event, called the Kelo Day event “a monumental opportunity for eminent domain activists from all corners of the state to come together and take a stand for our constitutional rights to our homes and property.” Ms. Vendetti, who owns a home in Long Branch’s MTOTSA neighborhood, said “everyone has to realize that it’s my home today, but it could be your home tomorrow.”

The suggested donation for the event is $20, $10 for students and senior citizens. Reservations are required. Please call (732) 380-1592. All proceeds will cover costs of the evening. The Jersey Shore Arts Center is located on Main Street and Main Avenue in Ocean Grove.

For more information about "Greetings From Asbury Park," call Kerry Margaret Butchcell at 732-306-8701; for additional details about the Stop Eminent Domain Abuse Coalition of New Jersey, contact Lori Ann Vendetti at 973-699-0375.

Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle Introduces “Development Without Eminent Domain”: California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights, 6/7/07

News release

If you are convinced that urban renewal can’t take place without using eminent domain to seize homes, small businesses, family farms and places of worship from unwilling sellers, this report is a must read!

Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle shares his expertise in economic redevelopment in a report released this week. The report, the second in a series published by the Institute for Justice, is titled, “Development Without Eminent Domain: Foundation of Freedom Inspires Urban Growth” and explains how “Anaheim’s leadership brought economic vibrancy to Anaheim without resorting to any takings of private property.”

Pringle explains in the report, “my City Council colleagues and I decided that we would not agree to any development plan that proposed the use of eminent domain.” As a result, “the area is blossoming with more economic activity than ever imagined.”

Click here to Download Mayor Pringle’s report to read a post Kelo perspective on urban renewal without the destructive use of eminent domain: http://www.castlecoalition.org/publications/Perspectives-Pringle/index.html

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

California earns a D- on eminent domain reform: California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights, 6/7/07

News release
Experts say recently introduced legislation will not improve the grade

The Institute for Justice (IJ), who represented Susette Kelo in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Kelo v. New London case, just released a state by state report card giving California a D- grade for failing to pass substantive eminent domain reforms.

The report card cited the D- grade on the legislature’s failure to pass any significant reforms, instead, passing several measures that were according to IJ, “basically a waste of paper.” The report provides that the 5 bills passed in 2006 “are mostly cosmetic and will not prevent determined officials from taking private property for another private party’s benefit.”

With the second anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Courts Kelo v. New London decision quickly approaching (June 23rd), the State Legislature has yet to pass any meaningful reform. In recent weeks, the League of California Cities introduced ACA 8, sponsored by Assemblyman Hector De La Torre (D- South Gate). “Consistent with previously submitted legislation, ACA 8 will not land California on IJ’s honor roll,” said Alliance president Marko Mlikotin. Property rights experts have been very critical of ACA 8 by identifying its loopholes and limited protections. The Institute for Justice had previously weighed in by saying ACA 8 “will do little to prevent the actual taking of property in California – and this flaw is fatal.”

Tim Sandefur, an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation and author of “Cornerstone of Liberty: Property Rights in 21st Century America” also expressed his doubts on ACA 8, saying the measure would make “virtually no meaningful change in the law.”

Mlikotin also said, “While other states have passed meaningful reform, California has a long way to go to protect homes, businesses, family farms and places of worship from eminent domain abuse. Historically, California has led the Nation in so many ways, but unfortunately we have not taken the lead in reforming a system that allows government to profit by seizing private property from unwilling sellers and giving it to the wealthy and politically connected.”

The California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights (the Alliance) is a statewide organization dedicated to exposing the abuses of eminent domain in California. The organization is a co-sponsor of the California Property Owners and Farmland Protection Act, a ballot measure proposed for June of 2008.

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

Click here to view the Report Card: http://www.castlecoalition.org/publications/report_card

Family gives up home to Bellevue: Cincinnati OH Post, 6/1/07

By Shelly Whitehead

Outside a Northern Kentucky courtroom Thursday, moments after a Bellevue, Ky. woman reluctantly agreed to sign her childhood home over to the city, her son said his mother's case serves as a cautionary tale for all about the threat he believes eminent domain laws pose.

Campbell Circuit Court Judge Julie Reinhardt Ward signed a settlement between the city of Bellevue and Florence Matthews Thursday morning that ends legal challenges first filed by the 79-year-old woman four years ago, contesting the city's right to acquire her 97-year-old home through the power of eminent domain.

The city agreed to pay $200,000 for Matthews' riverfront home, which, according to county property records, she actually sold to her children, Leah Kay and Charles Kevin Matthews, for $61,200 in April.

In turn, Mrs. Matthews agreed to move from the Lafayette Avenue residence within the next 18 months to make way for a wider road to the $65 million Harbor Greene development along Bellevue's riverfront.

Mrs. Matthews was the sole holdout among numerous property owners whose land was first targeted 18 years ago for Bellevue's urban renewal plan.

But after five years and two rounds in both Campbell Circuit Court and the Kentucky Court of Appeals, the case was finally resolved.

Kevin Matthews said his mother and her family simply felt they were out of options.

"We were forced to come to an agreement. We had no choice the way the eminent domain laws are written," said Matthews, a history professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.

"I know there's a difference between justice and the law and this is a good example of that. ... What we had to do today is sign away my mother's property. ... Mom just wanted to live there the rest of her life."

Bellevue city leaders referred all questions about the settlement to Paul Alley, who has represented the city in the case. He said that although the settlement was long in coming, it is key to the city's future since road improvements essential to the city's overall revitalization can now proceed.

Harbor Greene is a combined residential and commercial project being developed by Cincinnati-based Ackermann Group that spreads high-end condos and office space along 12 acres east of Port Bellevue. Matthews' modest home sits at the corner of Lafayette and Eden avenues, where Alley said the street must be widened for daily traffic as well as emergency vehicle access to the riverfront complexes.

"The street construction is needed to facilitate growth in the area," Alley said. The street widening is the final element of the city's urban renewal plan, he said.

Mrs. Matthews admits that her fight was never with the plan, per se. In fact, she sat on Bellevue's Planning and Zoning Commission when the plan was approved in 1989 and voted for it.

"I voted for it, but I never knew my home would be taken away from me," she said. "... They even said they were going to put tennis courts across from my home. I thought I would get to have the river and tennis also. I like tennis."

Mrs. Matthews said she'd like to stay in Bellevue. But, at $400,000 and up, it's doubtful that she'll be moving into one of those neighboring Harbor Greene condos since her son estimated she would be left with little more than $150,000 from the sale of the family home after paying legal fees and taxes.

Mrs. Matthews said even the $1.6 million penthouse condo next door pales in comparison to what she's used to.

"I've got seven rooms and two big yards," she said of her beloved home. "And my flowers are there. Everything's there."

Cincinnati OH Post: http://news.cincypost.com

Ruling revokes land seizure: Contra Costa CA Times, 6/1/07

Hercules Council suffers setback in battle to keep out Wal-Mart, but company still needs OK to build a store

By Tom Lochner

Hercules [CA] lost a round in its battle to keep out Wal-Mart when a judge tentatively ruled that the ordinance the City Council invoked last year to seize the retail giant's property by eminent domain is invalid.

But even if Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Judith Craddick affirms her tentative ruling and the city makes no further eminent domain attempts, it would not mean Wal-Mart will ever build a store in Hercules, City Attorney Mick Cabral said Thursday.

"Instead of becoming the owner of the property, the city would then process (Wal-Mart's) application on its merits," Cabral said. "The process just resumes."

It is a process in which the retailer so far has not fared well.

Hercules, in oral arguments Tuesday, asked Craddick to reconsider her tentative ruling. A final ruling is expected any day, Cabral said.

The city rejected three previous Wal-Mart applications on the grounds the retailer exceeded size limits that derive from a 2003 development agreement with a previous owner. Wal-Mart owns the 171/4-acre future Bayside Marketplace on John Muir Parkway about midway between San Pablo Avenue and San Pablo Bay.

Wal-Mart's latest application last year was for a 99,000-square-foot store - down from 140,000-plus square feet in earlier plans but still larger than the 64,000-square-foot limit the city claims by virtue of the 2003 agreement. Wal-Mart has said 64,000 square feet is merely a guideline.

The City Council will discuss what to do next in closed session June 12, Cabral said. Alternatives include appealing the ruling to a higher court, going ahead with eminent domain under a 1996 redevelopment plan amendment whose eminent domain authority the city believes is still valid or forgoing eminent domain and entertaining the next Wal-Mart application.

In her tentative ruling, Craddick agrees with Wal-Mart attorney Edward Burg that a September Hercules City Council ordinance is invalid. That ordinance purported to confirm the continued existence of the city's eminent domain authority in the so-called Dynamite Project Area and extended it for an additional 12 years. Burg contended the authority had lapsed and therefore could not be extended.

Craddick left open the possibility that a redevelopment plan amendment approved by the September ordinance could be "lawfully adopted" in the future.

Craddick also agreed with Burg that Hercules did not substantiate its finding that the property is blighted, a necessary condition for eminent domain. Blight must be economic and physical under modern-day redevelopment laws, which have evolved since the original Dynamite Redevelopment Plan was adopted in 1983. The name is a reference to a dynamite plant that closed in the 1960s.

Cabral defended the city's invocation of eminent domain last year, because "if eminent domain is successful, it would bring the Wal-Mart application process to an end." He and others had predicted then that Wal-Mart would mount a court challenge.

Wal-Mart's plans to build a Hercules store has angered residents who said a big-box store catering to regional shoppers would clash with the city's pedestrian-friendly vision for the area. Dozens railed against Wal-Mart at several public meetings, saying the company underpays workers and destroys neighboring businesses.

Wal-Mart has claimed overwhelming community support in Hercules, but only a handful of people testified in its favor at the meetings, including some company employees who don't live in the city.

Wal-Mart's Northern California spokesman could not be reached. Calls to Wal-Mart corporate headquarters in Arkansas were not returned.

Contra Costa CA Times: http://www.contracostatimes.com

Ohio Senate passes eminent-domain curbs: Columbus OH Dispatch, 5/31/07

By Jim Siegel

Fearing potential abuse by local officials who want to turn run-down properties into more lucrative developments, the Ohio Senate today passed a pair of proposals that would limit governments' ability to take land through eminent domain.

The measures include a constitutional amendment that, if it passes the House and is approved by Ohio voters in November, would require all cities to adhere to new state private-property laws, regardless of local regulations.

“Today is our opportunity to tell all Ohioans that we think their property rights are revered, fundamental and entitled to protection from the improper use of government eminent-domain powers,” said Rep. Timothy J. Grendell, R-Chesterland, sponsor of the bill.

“Unfortunately in recent years, some governmental entities … have used eminent domain as a tool of convenience, not a tool of last resort.”

The measures come in response to a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court case known as the Kelo decision, where the court ruled that cities could take private property and give it to developers for economic development.

In Ohio, however, the state Supreme Court ruled last July that local governments can't seize private property solely for economic development.

But court decisions can change, said Sen. Kevin J. Coughlin, R-Cuyahoga Falls. “I think the people of Ohio deserve a more permanent solution to this.”

The House is expected to vote next week on its own eminent-domain proposal, which differs from the Senate-passed version in a handful of ways, including how many properties within a targeted area must be considered blighted before government can take the land. It's 90 percent in the Senate bill, 50 percent in the House version.

While the Senate bill passed overwhelmingly, all but one Democrat opposed the proposed constitutional amendment, arguing it would strip away cities' home-rule rights. They also don't like that it prohibits the taking of private property “primarily” to generate more government revenue. Democrats wanted the wording to read “solely.”

“ Primarily, frankly, does not go far enough,” said Sen. Capri S. Cafaro, D-Hubbard. “Does that mean secondary, or as a residual result it's OK? It will eventually lead to broad interpretation and litigation for years to come.”

Some highlights of Senate Bill 7, which now moves to the House:

  • Prohibits the use of eminent domain in nonblighted areas for private economic development.
  • Defines blight as property that is unsafe, unsanitary or a health threat. Absent that, a blighted property must meet at least two of eight other criteria, including a public nuisance, fire hazard, disconnected utilities, vacant or delinquent on taxes.
  • Requires elected officials to give final approval to any eminent-domain action. This includes Gov. Ted Strickland approving projects for state parks or highways.
  • Mandates early notice and public input before eminent-domain proceedings begin.
  • Shifts the burden to the government to prove the public purpose for taking private land.

Columbus OH Dispatch: http://www.columbusdispatch.com

Eminently Inadequate - Legislature Fails To Prohibit Private Gain In Public Takings: Hartford CT Courant, 6/17/07


By David R Cameron

The Connecticut General Assembly has finally gotten around to dealing with eminent domain. It's been three years since the state Supreme Court allowed New London to take 15 residential properties in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood for private development and two years since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Connecticut court's decision, setting off a political firestorm across the country.

It was hardly worth the wait. The Democratic-dominated General Assembly finessed the issue. Not surprising, given, on the one hand, the public uproar over what happened in New London and, on the other, the opposition of the Democrat-controlled big cities to any restrictions on their use of eminent domain.

The legislation allows lawmakers to claim they've addressed the public's concerns about eminent domain while leaving intact the ability of municipalities to use it. No wonder it passed with huge majorities in both the House and Senate.

The legislation does include several procedural safeguards in the use of eminent domain. It prohibits the taking of properties primarily to increase local tax revenue (the rationale in New London). It requires a development plan that details the public benefit of the project. It requires local government approval by a two-thirds majority for any taking. And it provides a compensation bonus for properties taken by eminent domain amounting to at least 25 percent more than the average of two appraisals.

But it fails to do what many had hoped - prohibit the taking of owner-occupied homes in projects involving private entities and generating private benefits. Instead, it requires only that the development agency and legislative body of the municipality determine that the public benefits of a project outweigh any private benefits.

The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution says, in part: "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the majority in the Kelo decision, noted that the Supreme Court long ago moved away from a literal interpretation of "public use" to a "broader and more natural interpretation of public use as `public purpose.'"

He concluded that the New London takings were justified because the city "carefully formulated an economic development plan that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including - but by no means limited to - new jobs and increased revenue. ... that plan unquestionably serves a public purpose ... "

Stevens and the other justices in the majority were naive to assume that, simply because the development plan envisioned public benefits, the project would in fact produce such benefits. As Justices Joette Katz and Peter Zarella and former Chief Justice William J. Sullivan argued in their partial dissent from the state Supreme Court decision, there was no "clear and convincing evidence" the properties actually would be developed to achieve a public purpose.

The new legislation fails to require the development agency and municipality to provide clear and convincing evidence or, indeed, any evidence at all that the public benefits of a project would be realized.

The second flaw in Stevens' decision was its interpretation of "public purpose." By approving the New London takings despite the fact that the hoped-for public purpose would be achieved by private developers reaping private benefits, the court in effect allowed eminent domain to be used for a private purpose, provided only that it also serve a public purpose.

Following that flawed logic, the state's new legislation extends the use of eminent domain beyond projects that have an exclusively public purpose to those that include private purposes and benefits.

In concluding, Stevens noted that nothing prevents states from placing additional restrictions on the exercise of eminent domain. He pointed out that many states had already imposed "public use" requirements stricter than those in federal law.

The Conneticut legislature could have done that. It didn't. Instead, it finessed the issue and left the power of municipalities to use eminent domain intact.

Hartford CT Courant: http://www.courant.com

David Cameron teaches political science at Yale: david.r.cameron@yale.edu