Eminent domain winners must pay $96,000

By Steve Kemme

A Hamilton County [OH] Court judge ruled Tuesday that the owners of one of the two remaining buildings on the proposed Rookwood Exchange site must repay the developer, Rookwood Partners, $96,062 but are entitled to receive compensation for any damages caused by the developer or Norwood.

In her written decision, Judge Beth Myers said the amount of money the developer or Norwood must pay will be determined after a court hearing concerning compensation. No date has been set for the hearing.

The $96,062 had been withdrawn from money Rookwood Partners had set aside to buy the property in order to pay the mortgage that Sanae Ichikawa-Burton and Matthew Burton owed on their building on the 10-acre site at Edwards and Edmondson roads in Norwood. The Burtons had converted a house into a math and reading learning center.

A court had previously established $500,000 as the purchase price for the Burtons' property.

The Burtons are one of three property owners who successfully challenged Norwood's use of eminent domain to take their properties in last year's landmark Ohio Supreme Court decision. Only two buildings remain standing on the site.

Earlier this year, Joy and Carl Gamble Jr., sold their house to Rookwood Partners, and it was demolished. The Burtons' building and Joe Horney's rental house remain on the site. Both have been vacant for more than two years.

"The court finds that, in order to carry out the Supreme Court ruling, the Burtons are entitled to be placed in the position they were prior to the taking," Myers' decision says.

Bert Gall, an attorney for the Institute for Justice, a Washington-based civil liberties law firm representing the Burtons, said he's pleased with the decision, even though the Burtons must repay the $96,062.

"She did rule that the city of Norwood and Rookwood Partners have to make the Burtons whole for the taking of their property," Gall said. "It's another big win for Ohio home and small-business owners."

But Tim Burke, attorney for Norwood, disagreed with Gall's interpretation.

He pointed out that Myers sided with Norwood and Rookwood Partners in the dispute over whether the Burtons had to repay the money that had been withdrawn for a mortgage payment and ordered a $96,062 lien placed on the property.

"There's no way the Burtons could get their property back and not repay the mortgage money," Burke said.

Gall said the Burtons will comply with the court and repay the $96,062 to Rookwood.

Burke said there's no guarantee that the Burtons will be awarded any money for damages to their property.

Myers said in her decision that she will determine "the amount, if any, to award the Burtons for the temporary taking (of their property)."

Burke said the Burtons should not be paid for damage they caused when removing fixtures and a water heater from the building or for failing to maintain the building after the Ohio Supreme Court returned it to them.

Cincinnati OH Enquirer: http://news.enquirer.com
Brought to you by: Eminent Domain Attorneys

Group in Akron for eminent domain fight: Akron OH Beacon Journal, 9/27/07

By John Higgins

A national organization that fights the government taking of private land for private development is in Akron today to inform residents losing their homes in East Akron that it's not too late to fight city hall.

The city wants 20 properties in East Akron for a redevelopment project to entice Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. to stay in Akron. The city currently is negotiating with homeowners about purchase prices and relocation benefits.

Some property owners are unhappy with the city's offers.

''This is a perfect time for the homeowners and the business owners to rally against it if they want to,'' said Christina Walsh, coordinator of the Institute for Justice's Castle Coalition. ''At any point in the process the (City) can back down and decide to protect the property rights of the residents.''

Walsh will be meeting tonight with affected property owners at 7 p.m. at the New Era Restaurant, 10 Massillon Road.

She will share ways that the property owners can mount a grassroots campaign. She said if public pressure doesn't work, the Institute for Justice may take legal action.

The Institute for Justice, based in Arlington, Va., describes itself as the ''nation's only libertarian public interest law firm'' and represented homeowners in the eminent domain case of Norwood v. Horney, which involved a plan to acquire property for a retail complex in suburban Cincinnati.

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled in that case that governments and agencies cannot take land through eminent domain powers strictly for economic development. The decision did not affect the rights of cities to use eminent domain in urban renewal projects aimed at eliminating blight and preventing the recurrence of blight.

The East Akron properties the city wants to acquire are located within the 644-acre Eastgate Urban Renewal Area that the City Council designated this summer.

Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. has told the city it wants to build new headquarters in Akron, but it wants the industrial surroundings upgraded to complement its investment.

Plans for that redevelopment area include a destination shopping center on the land the city is acquiring, which is a small island of residential dead-end streets branching off Seiberling Street. The area has long been zoned industrial.

Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic told Akron City Council on Sept. 17 that if all goes as planned, the project would be the biggest in Akron since the 1930s, with $200 million in public investments drawing $700 million in private investment.

Plusquellic said that he expects a decision from Goodyear by the end of the year.

Ward 2 Councilman Bruce Kilby, who owns one of the affected properties, and other critics have said the city shouldn't be taking property without a written guarantee from Goodyear that the tiremaker will stay in Akron.

Akron OH Beacon Journal: http://www.ohio.com

Officials Boost Columbia Expansion: New York NY Sun, 9/27/07

By Eliot Brown

As Columbia University takes its proposed 17-acre expansion before the City Planning Commission and the City Council in coming weeks, the institution is facing lessening political resistance, as elected officials are lining up to offer support for the plan.

The president of Manhattan, Scott Stringer, yesterday recommended approval for the project, and received praise from the local council member, Robert Jackson, for an agreement he reached with the university.

While the Community Board has refused to support the expansion based on Columbia's threatened use of eminent domain, among other issues, Mayor Bloomberg and Mr. Jackson have not taken such positions.

While critics want the council or the Bloomberg administration to pressure off the table the idea of using eminent domain before approving the project, the lack of strong political opposition on the issue makes that pressure seem less likely.

The approval of the City Planning Commission and the City Council are necessary for the project to proceed, and the recommendations of the Community Board and Mr. Stringer are advisory.

Mr. Stringer stated his approval for the project yesterday at a news conference, and, standing beside Columbia's president, Lee Bollinger, announced a commitment by the university to give more than $30 million to the creation of new "affordable" housing and parkland in the area.

New York NY Sun: http://www.nysun.com

Dover council shoots down eminent domain resolution: Foster's Daily Democrat, Dover NH, 9/27/07

By Leslie Modica

A local man won a two-year battle Wednesday night to stop a resolution by the city [of Dover NH] seeking to acquire 12,000-square-feet of his Henry Law Avenue property through eminent domain.

After hearing public comment from seven people, including property owner Peter Rousseau, opposing the resolution, the City Council unanimously voted against its passage.

Henry Law Avenue residents and friends of Rousseau told the council it would be unfair to take his land, adding the construction would hurt the rural character of the area. The land equals about a third of an acre.

"I look around the room and I see at least six of you who don't own more property than your house sits on," Ward 4 City Council candidate Rick Hebbard said. "You don't know what it's like to have your property taken. You might as well come up to them with a club and say 'I'm taking your land'."

The city has been trying to buy the land from Rousseau for about two years in an effort to widen that area of Henry Law Avenue and add sidewalks. On Wednesday night, the city was offering him $6,000 for the land. In the past, they have offered $8,000 and $2,400, Rousseau said.

Until Wednesday night, Rousseau was unresponsive to the city, calling their attempts to buy the land an "insult."

"I've owned the land since I was 17," Rousseau said. "I need every inch of it and what you all are taking away from me feeds my cows for a week."

Before the vote, Rousseau also submitted a petition with 126 signatures to Deputy City Clerk Valerie French opposing the acquisition of the land. But after the meeting, Rousseau said he thinks the vote finally ended the two-year argument.

"I don't think (the issue will come up again)," Rousseau said. "I think it's a dead issue now."

The council held a site walk of the area before the meeting. Some councilors said they were prepared to vote in favor of the resolution until the public spoke, and nobody spoke in favor of the resolution.

"It was my intention tonight to support this," Ward 2 Councilor Doug DeDe said. "But tonight's hearing did not produce one person in favor of the project. So why go through the expense? I'm just as happy to leave it as is."

The Henry Law Avenue reconstruction project has been in the works for the past five years. In 2002, the city held a neighborhood meeting with residents, who said they wanted sidewalks, Mayor Scott Myers said. But residents who came to the meeting said no such meeting was ever held. The project has been stalled for the past five years due to unsuccessful negotiations, City Engineer Paul Vlasich said.

The council's decision prompted applause and cheering from Rousseau's crowd of supporters.

Foster's Daily Democrat, Dover NH: http://www.fosters.com

Renewal of eminent domain called illegal: San Diego CA Union-Tribune, 9/26/07

By Tanya Sierra

Lawyers representing a youth boxing program filed a lawsuit against the city of National City [CA] yesterday, alleging the way in which the city renewed its eminent-domain authority was unconstitutional.

Attorneys from the Institute for Justice, a law firm based in Arlington, Va., say National City officials violated state law and the U.S. Constitution when they approved an ordinance in July that extends the city's eminent-domain authority for 10 years.

The Institute for Justice represents National City's Community Youth Athletic Center, a boxing, mentoring and tutoring program for at-risk youths. The gym is in the path of a high-rise condominium and retail project on National City Boulevard, where neighboring businesses have been forced to sell their properties.

The lawsuit says city officials did not provide sufficient evidence that the 700 properties in the city's redevelopment area are blighted, nor did they allow enough time for their consultant's blight analysis to be scrutinized by the public.

“It is utterly and completely lacking in evidence,” said Dana Berliner, an attorney with the Institute for Justice.

To be seized through eminent domain, property must be considered blighted, described by state law as property that is not economically viable and is physically deteriorating.

Mayor Ron Morrison yesterday responded to the lawsuit outside Education Village on National City Boulevard, a redevelopment project that required the use of eminent domain.

“This is the ultimate frivolous lawsuit,” he said. “This is the height of ridiculousness.”

Morrison said the gym is not in danger of being condemned, citing efforts the city has made to find a new location for the program and the developer's recent decision to build around the boxing center.

“They are in no danger whatsoever,” Morrison said. “That's what makes this so ridiculous.”

Berliner said those promises could never be enforced by law.

City Attorney George Eiser agreed, saying that by law, the City Council cannot promise to never use eminent domain in the future.

Anyone wishing to challenge the city's reauthorization can do so within 90 days of the eminent-domain ordinance's passing, which is why the Institute for Justice filed its lawsuit in National City.

“Now is the only time the gym can protect itself,” Berliner said.

City officials understand the gym's importance to the community, a reason they say they have not begun condemnation proceedings on the property, although they did send a form letter to the gym when the project was proposed. Three properties adjacent to the gym were recently condemned to make way for the condo project.

City officials object to attorneys' challenging the entire redevelopment area the city is trying to revitalize, Morrison said.

“We do not have a lot of the things the other communities have,” he said.

San Diego CA Union-Tribune: http://www.signonsandiego.com

Eminent Domain Issue Forces Colorado Land Dispute Property Owner Jack Hanna to Say, Not For Sale to County: EWORLDWIRE, 9/25/07

In a surprise move, the County of Clear Creek, Colorado, recently condemned Boulder resident and retired Michigan real estate developer Jack W. Hanna's dream property. Condemnation or eminent domain is a power that is given to all of the counties within the United States - it is almost impossible for an owner to stop the process.

"I was utterly shocked," said Hanna. "Last October I purchased an 80 acre 'dream parcel' located on U.S. 6 at Tunnel 5 in Clear Creek County. It has a half mile of Clear Creek stream frontage. I reviewed the approved 2005 Clear Creek Green Way Trail Plan, which is a trail network for horses, bikes and hikers some 25 miles long. When I met with the County last October, everyone seemed to be following the plan. I hired a great team of professionals to help me plan a modest, 3000 square foot Western Cedar log cabin; my team worked with Clear Creek building officials beginning in October, 2006."

After spending $75,000 in professional fees to satisfy the many county requirements to build on the property, Mr. Hanna met at the property with the Open Space Committee last June. The ten committee members assured him their only interest was a trail for hiking, bikes and horses. Mr. Hanna agreed to a trail - his only concern was the location. He didn't want the planned trail to be 25 feet to his home. That was the last time Mr. Hanna had any discussions with the committee.

In what he calls, "The Friday the 13th Letter", Hanna stated: "We basically had all of the required work done and were about ready to pull permits when the deedholder gave me the Friday the 13th of July 'Notice of Condemnation'."

The deal had not closed yet; Hanna had until October, 2007, to close, but he closed in two weeks. He further stated, "It was an obvious ploy to squeeze me out of the deal, screw up any financing I might have, but from my point of view, the Clear Creek Green Way Plan spelled out a trail only - the discussions I had with the Open Space Committee indicated only a trail. I think the County owes it to everyone to follow the plan that was approved. The plan on page 69 of the policy states it will not use condemnation and will work with willing sellers, only, if they followed the plan, the problem would go away. Had I known there were plans to condemn the property, I would not have spent one dime or wasted my time."

The county claims it was trying to buy the property for five years, prior to Hanna's purchase agreement in October, 2006. Hanna signed an option to purchase days after he saw it listed in the MLS. The seller had the property for sale in the MLS for seven years; mysteriously several deals fell through when the potential buyers began dealing with the county. Hanna added, "If the county wanted it so bad, why didn't it buy the property then? Clear Creek County has less than 10,000 residents and many expenses to be concerned about, from public safety to roads, fire and police. The schools need help and, frankly, the entire infrastructure of the county is old - the County could be addressing these issues if the approved Clear Creek Green Way Plan was followed. We can settle this in two minutes."

Hanna concluded, "If Clear Creek County has another 20 or 30 miles of trail to purchase, then I guess I'm going to be the example for everybody else - the other land owners might as well just sign a blank check."

The Open Space Green Way Plan was approved by voters in 2000.

For more information on Clear Creek Green Way Plan, visit http://www.co.clear-creek.co.us/OSWebsite/Greenway.htm.

EWORLDWIRE: http://newsroom.eworldwire.com

Judge Rules Norwood, Developer Must Pay In Eminent Domain Case: WCPO-TV9, Cincinnati OH, 9/25/07

The City of Norwood [OH] and a developer must pay a local couple for illegally using eminent domain to take their small business.

Last year, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled the city's attempt to take homes and businesses along Edwards Road was unconstitutional.

The couple says the property was damaged when they were forced to move out two years ago.

On Tuesday a judge's ruling says the city and the developer must pay to fix the damage.

WCPO-TV9, Cincinnati OH: http://www.wcpo.com

EDC asks state to OK pipeline eminent domain: Bloomington IL Pantagraph, 9/25/07

By Scott Miller

The Economic Development Council of the Bloomington-Normal A[IL] rea has asked a state agency to approve an eminent-domain request for a crude-oil pipeline “at the earliest possible date.”

In a letter to the Illinois Commerce Commission last week, EDC Executive Director Marty Vanags said the proposed crude-oil pipeline would create 500 new jobs along the route, along with local capital investment in McLean County.

In addition, “when you look at a pipeline like this, you also have to look at the larger national security questions when you talk about oil,” Vanags said. “Would you rather get oil from Canada or would you rather get oil from the Middle East?”

Enbridge Inc. asked the ICC to issue a certificate of good standing to construct a pipeline from Pontiac to Patoka in Southern Illinois to funnel about 400,000 barrels of Canadian crude oil daily to refineries throughout the Midwest.

The certificate would allow for eminent domain — government authority to compel property owners to sell land at market value for public good — if Enbridge can’t reach agreements with landowners.

In Central Illinois, the project affects about 95 landowners in McLean County, 68 in Livingston County and 65 in DeWitt County.

Several landowners have filed as interveners in the case with the ICC.

ICC hearings on the request begin in October.

Meanwhile, not all of the 500 temporary construction jobs will be in McLean County. Most will be hired from local union halls along the 170-mile route of the pipeline, said Joe Martucci, spokesman for Enbridge Inc. So McLean County laborers, truck drivers, equipment operators and other union members won’t work along the entire 170-mile route or during the entire eight-month construction process, he said. Construction is slated to start in May, he said.

A “few” permanent jobs will be available at a pumping station when the pipeline is complete, Martucci said. A location for the station hasn’t been selected, he said.

In addition to the 500 construction jobs, specialized workers and supervisors will come from out of state with the contractors hired to oversee the project, Martucci said.

“The economic shot in the arm, or boost, comes in two ways, the local hiring and the people who come from out of town and need a place to stay and place to eat,” he said.

Bloomington IL Pantagraph: http://www.pantagraph.com

Business owners don't want to budge: Fresno CA Bee, 9/23/07

By Matt Leedy

The Baskin family has been fixing up car seats and selling parts in downtown Fresno for 90 years, and fourth-generation owner Bruce Baskin has no interest in moving the business.

His voice and temper rise when he talks about eminent domain and the city's plans to replace Baskin's Auto Supply and other businesses just south of Chukchansi Park with town homes and apartments.

"We don't want to go anywhere," says Baskin, 48.

Baskin's is in the middle of a six-block area that the Fresno Redevelopment Agency has targeted for homes, stores and fountains promised by Cleveland-based developer Forest City Enterprises.

The redevelopment agency - which plans to buy the land and lease it to Forest City - has the power of eminent domain and can acquire the property from landowners whether they want to sell or not.

Many buildings in the six blocks are vacant, boarded up and fenced off. The area has been labeled blighted by the agency.

But some businesses thrive, including Baskin's - where Bruce and his father Richard Baskin often are busy installing new upholstery in classic cars.

"When everyone moved north and fled downtown, we stayed here and stuck it out," says Bruce Baskin from inside his Broadway Avenue business. "Now all these big shots want to do something downtown, and they're going to make us leave. Well, I don't think that's right."

Fresno City Council members and redevelopment agency officials say eminent domain would be used only if property owners won't sell willingly or join the project.

But it's important to Forest City that the city has the option.

Forest City had been in talks with the city several years ago about a different version of the project. Plans later were changed to emphasize residential over retail and company officials said the project was put on hold while they waited for the outcome of Proposition 90, a state ballot measure that would have severely limited the use of eminent domain.

The proposition failed to win voter approval last year, and Forest City was back in City Hall last month presenting plans that won praise from the council.

There are about 40 properties that the city must either purchase or get the owners to participate in the six-block project, considered the first phase. And there are many more in Forest City's full project area, which spans another two phases and 85 acres southeast of the baseball stadium. The company only has a timetable for the six blocks. It hopes to finish the initial $232 million project in four years.

In January, the council plans to vote on a spending plan that could include a $100 million public investment in the project. Forest City also must complete a yearlong environmental review, which will include suggestions for three buildings on the local historic registry. Those suggestions could include preserving the buildings, moving them or preserving only their facades, said redevelopment agency executive director Marlene Murphey.

The redevelopment agency won't attempt to buy property in the south stadium area until the environmental review is finished. And then it will first try to acquire the property without using condemnation powers. Agency officials predict that if necessary it would take two years for the eminent domain process to start.

Landowners don't have to sell. They can choose to participate in the redevelopment plans by making all the changes and improvements required by the city.

This could be a daunting task for several businesses. Required changes could be as extensive as adding second-floor apartments, and local businesses would have to foot the bill. Redevelopment agency officials said they would help secure small business loans or government grants.

But Richard Baskin said it would likely be too costly to conform his building to the city's plans.

"If the city wants to pay for it, fine. Maybe we could do that. But for me to do it, I don't see how it would be possible," Baskin said.

If landowners balk, the eminent domain process could begin.

The agency would hire a team of appraisers that would meet with owners and determine the highest possible value of the targeted property.

Property owners could hire their own appraisers and be reimbursed for up to $5,000 of the cost. Murphey says the agency must consider these appraisals but isn't required to use them.

The agency would then need approval from the council for each property it buys, paying the highest possible value determined by the appraisers.

Closing costs are paid by the agency, which also must help find a new home for the businesses and pay moving expenses.

Once landowners find a new location they pay the same property taxes charged on their previous property.

Murphey says eminent domain is rare in Fresno.

In the last 10 years, the agency has bought about 250 properties, she says, and 98% of them have been voluntary sales.

The agency used eminent domain to buy a liquor store to make room for the Kearney Palms Shopping Center near Fresno Street and Highway 99, which opened in 1999.

"Of course, eminent domain is absolutely, positively the option of last resort," City Council Member Larry Westerlund says. "I hope there will be folks who are willing sellers. Certainly they must realize the area around them is very depressed. And we have the opportunity to create something really great for downtown, and all of Fresno, with a vibrant, living, breathing area."

Reviving downtown is a good justification for eminent domain, agrees Bill Higgins, a legislative representative for the League of California Cities.

"If we're going to invest in our inner cities, we need to make sure the investment works," says Higgins, adding that eminent domain power helps ensure cities can assemble large pieces of land and market them to developers willing to build big projects.

But eminent domain has plenty of critics.

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association is collecting signatures for a ballot initiative that would prohibit governments from using eminent domain to buy property that would be turned over to private companies. Cities under the proposal still would be allowed to use condemnation powers to build hospitals, schools, roads and other public-use projects.

"The abuses in eminent domain occur when city councils and redevelopment agencies pick winners and losers in the private-development game," says Jon Coupal, president of the association. "The losers are usually local property owners and family businesses."

In downtown Fresno, a handful of families may prove to be stubborn holdouts.

Rick and Nanette Stockle own Mecca Billiards and have sold pool tables from their Fulton Street building for 21 years. Mecca has become well known, in part, for the colorful paint job on the Stockles' building. It's pool-table green and decorated with giant billiard balls and a pool cue.

Nanette Stockle does not want to start over in another location.

"We've prospered down here, but it took us a while to get established," she says.

The Mecca building is 7,500 square feet and has a parking lot of an equal size. Stockle doubts she can afford a similar-sized setup anywhere else.

"Where are we going to go?" she asks.

Larry Kragh doubts he can move his Arrow Electric Motor Service from its Broadway Street locale just south of the stadium.

Kragh's 55-year-old company started by his father repairs air conditioners and turbines that farmers use to move water to their crops. He says most of his machines are old and wouldn't survive a move. And some of his equipment can't be used legally at another location. The city would be required to move it, but not to offer further aid.

Kragh uses two ovens to burn off insulation so old turbines can be repaired. One is 33 years old; the other 22 years old. He has permits to use them in his 22,500-square-foot building. But Kragh says new air pollution control regulations would prohibit him from getting permits for the ovens at another location.

Kragh also fears he would lose customers if he moved.

"I have a business that's been here since 1952. I grew up with my Dad in this business and I've worked all my life here," Kragh says.

"Everyone knows where I'm at. Why would I want to move?"

Fresno CA Bee: http://www.fresnobee.com

Couple Awarded More Money in Eminent Domain Case: WSAZ-TV3, Charleston WV, 9/20/07

By Associated Press

A jury has decided that a Sissonville [WV] couple whose land was seized by the Kanawha County school board two years ago through eminent domain should be paid an additional $202,000.

The Kanawha County jury weighed three appraisals presented as evidence before deciding yesterday that the 48 acres was worth more than the $305,000 Beldon and Clara Huston were paid in 2005.

One appraisal placed the value at more than 1 million dollars.

The lawyer for the school board said that appraisal incorrectly compared the hilly Sissonville land to developed property along U.S. routes 119 and 35.

The Huston land was selected as the site of the new Sissonville Middle School.

Kanawha Circuit Judge Irene Berger gave both sides 10 days to file further motions in the case.

While the Hustons aren't satisfied with the amount they were awarded, Clara Huston says they're tired of fighting.

Huston says she and her husband didn't want to move and never would have sold the property - for any price.

WSAZ-TV3, Charleston WV: http://www.wsaz.com

Eminent domain measure rejected: Ventura County CA Star, 9/21/07

Moorpark will consider other ways to revitalize downtown

By Anna Bakalis

Now that buying properties through eminent domain is not an option for redevelopment in Moorpark, city staff members said they will focus on other projects to help revitalize the downtown area.

In a packed Wednesday night meeting, the Moorpark City Council, acting as the Redevelopment Agency, rejected an amendment to reinstate for 12 years eminent domain authority over commercial and industrial properties in a 1,200-acre project area.

The unanimous vote was taken after more than 350 people sat and stood in council chambers in quiet opposition to the amendment. Dozens of residents inside and outside the project area spoke against the issue during a public comment period that lasted three hours.

The council voted 5-0 just before midnight; the audience applauded the vote.

"If you don't trust us with eminent domain, we don't want it," said Councilman Keith Millhouse, who made the motion to reject the measure. This decision puts the issue to rest indefinitely, city officials said.

Eminent domain is described as the power of a public agency to forcibly acquire private property at fair market value for public use. Officials have said it would be used only as a last resort, and not on residential properties.

The agency's eminent domain authority expired in 2001, and city leaders have tried to get the issue to a council vote for the past two years. They ordered a study of blight in the area and established a Project Area Committee, made up of residents and business owners.

But the crowd Wednesday night wanted nothing to do with the idea.

"The best thing for me and my neighbors is to just forget this eminent domain thing," said Terry Davenport, a 52-year-old Moorpark resident. "When we sell our home, it shouldn't be a profit-making thing for the city."

Focus on High Street
Hugh Riley, assistant city manager, said the city will continue to focus redevelopment efforts along the south side of High Street with the Severyn Ashkenazy development by a San Fernando Valley builder who specializes in historic projects. At the other end, the city is hoping to add a mixed-use development, including a restaurant and office spaces.

Officials have said a revitalization of downtown includes a good mix of offices, businesses, restaurants and entertainment.

Riley estimated the city spent about $60,000 over the past several years in consultant costs in its attempt to reinstate eminent domain.

But the people spoke loud and clear Wednesday, Riley said.

"We tried to be honest about it, but there's a lack of trust there," he said. "These people were passionate; that's just the way it goes."

Fears about residences
The project area includes downtown High Street, Walnut Canyon Road and south to the Arroyo Simi, extending as far east as Condor Drive and west to Gabbert Road. While the amendment did not include residential housing, there was the fear that could change.

"In spite of telling them there were no plans to do that, there was a lack of trust that would happen," said Councilwoman Janice Parvin. "In order to relieve everyone of that stress and worry, better to go the other way."

The council decision goes against a Project Area Committee recommendation to adopt the agency's previous authority, known as Amendment No. 2.

Politically prudent' move
"They did what was politically prudent last night it's a bittersweet day for me," said Dale Whitaker, chairman of the committee. "I'm a little disappointed because I feel what we sent as a recommendation to the City Council was the best thing for the city."

One of the main goals of the city's redevelopment plan is eliminating blight, which ranges from graffiti to boarded up houses and run-down cars on private property. The council reviewed a 100-page blight report that was completed by Urban Futures Inc.

Councilman Mark Van Dam pointed out flaws in the study, saying there were two pictures used as examples of blight that were wrong. One labeled as "faulty wiring" was really a TV cable. There was also an RV on a residential property that was listed as blight.

"It's only a few years old," Van Dam said. "I wish I had an RV like this."

Not reflecting community
Parvin is happy to see the blight report sit on a shelf and gather dust.

"The report was, to me, not a reflection of our community," she said. "I was looking at these parcels, and saw there was a disconnect."

The council said they wanted to bring back the "Moorpark Beautiful" program, which focuses on cleaning up, landscaping and other beautification to the affected areas.

"We need to go in a more positive direction, where you don't have to take away people's homes," Parvin said.

Ventura County CA Star: http://www.venturacountystar.com

Little Chute denies request to use eminent domain: Appleton WI Post-Crescent, 9/21/07

Village officials hope to aid talks with farmers for developer's access

By J. E. Espino

Eminent domain issues do not arise often in Little Chute [WI]. But when they do, things can get controversial.

On Wednesday, the Village Board rejected a housing developer's request to take control of a sliver of land owned by Peter and Paul Van Groll, two brothers who live in the Town of Vandenbroek.

Derek Erickson and his partner, Dion Volk, of Erickson Construction & Development need the land to access 29 acres to the north that they want to buy.

The meeting drew the interest of an attorney, who said he was there to defend the Constitution, a former village president and a Little Chute family firmly against the use of eminent domain.

Eminent domain is the power of a government body to buy private property against the owner's wishes if it is deemed in the public interest.

"Public persona does not like to see governments pick on the little guy," said Village President Chuck Fischer.

The last time the village dealt with a similar situation was in 1997 when a local developer proposed to bring an Osco Drug store to the corner of Main and Madison streets.

The village needed to buy three of six lots and sell them to developer Jerry Van Dyn Hoven who spearheaded the project. He already owned one parcel and had bought two others.

The Community Development Authority had negotiated with the landowners, including an 85-year-old woman. She didn't want to sell her long-time residence. The CDA voted to begin condemnation proceedings to make way for the retail project when plans came undone.

Residents protested the condemnation of the properties. A crowd showed up at a board meeting and hundreds signed petitions against the deal. The board eventually voted against the project.

"If we would've used eminent domain to take that house … I think we would've been tarred and feathered and run out of town," recalled Fischer, then a trustee on the board.

State statutes are fairly broad on the subject, but as a practical matter, eminent domain is rarely used, said Dan Thompson, League of Wisconsin Municipalities executive director.

"The politics of it are even more stringent than the law," he said, primarily because Wisconsinites have a strong sense of property rights.

Little Chute has never used it.

"It scares me as a property owner that somebody can decide they want to put something in because … (it) is superior to what I live in," said Leanne Wildenberg, a Little Chute resident.

Despite written and verbal offers of $30,000 per acre and partnerships, the Van Grolls were not interested in selling a 12-acre strip that abuts Appleton, north of Evergreen Drive, Erickson said.

"I understand the farmer wants nothing to do with it," Erickson said before the board's action on Wednesday. "He wants to sell his entire farm and be done with it. He won't part with 12 acres to bring in a road."

The Van Grolls have suggested in the past they would be willing to sell all 160 acres at $30,000 an acre. That would total $4.8 million.

"We don't want to be there to see what happens to (the farm). We want to be done with it," said Peter Van Groll, a former Vandenbroek town chairman.

Erickson said he is unsure a deal can be negotiated.

Fischer says the village remains supportive of the project and will do what it can to facilitate a deal, but he is emphatic it won't happen through eminent domain.

"The road is not etched in stone," he said. "It's kind of part of the comprehensive plan, but I see no reason why the location of the proposed road can't be changed or switched."

Fischer said he is confident development will come to the area once Evergreen Drive is upgraded to a four-lane, concrete road in 2009.

"There will be some requests for more annexations and as that goes along, the Van Grolls (land) will all become more valuable, and I think there will be a good chance one, two or three developers would say, 'OK we'll buy the whole farm, and annex to the village,'" he said. "It might be in two years. It might be in 10."

Appleton WI Post-Crescent: http://www.postcrescent.com

Eminent Domain Opposed for New Subway: New York NY Sun, 9/21/07

Mayoral hopeful John Catsimatidis, who owns the Gristedes supermarket chain, may fight the state's attempt to condemn part of his supermarket on East 86th Street to make way for the Second Avenue subway line.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority [MTA] last night held a public hearing on the acquisition of residential and business property along the subway route under the state's eminent domain law and several property owners were expected to express their concern that the law is being used too liberally, and that construction of the subway should circumvent their property.

"We're not opposed to the Second Avenue subway, but there's a shortage of supermarkets in New York City right now," Mr. Catsimatidis said. "I would think that the MTA should take that into consideration. The Gristedes store in question is situated on East 86th Street between First and Second avenues, he said. "It's not on Second Avenue, so somebody at the MTA would have to explain that."

As part of the first phase of construction — between East 96th Street and East 63rd Street — the state seeks to acquire at least four buildings. The MTA has expressed interest in acquiring permanent easements on at least 19 other properties.

Ultimately, the subway line will run between the financial district and 125th Street. Construction on the first segment of the more than $15 billion project, variations of which have been proposed since the 1920s, began in April.

Yesterday, the chairman of the Upper East Side's Community Board 8, David Liston, said the board supports the subway line, but believes eminent domain laws should be used sparingly.

Mr. Liston said the board has worked with the MTA to reduce the number of properties that may be disrupted. "We don't want to see anyone kicked out of their homes unnecessarily," he said.

New York NY Sun: http://www.nysun.com

City invokes eminent domain for mall: Toledo OH Free Press, 9/21/07

By Duane Ramsey

The City of Toledo's proposed use of eminent domain for taking the Southwyck Mall properties for redevelopment will be the subject of a public hearing on Sept. 24. The issue of eminent domain became official with a resolution presented to City Council Sept. 18.

The resolution (603-07), calling for the use of eminent domain for the roadway extension at Southwyck Mall, was discussed and held for the next Council meeting on Oct. 2, due to the hearing, according to City Council Clerk Gerald Dendinger.

Eminent domain for Southwyck is the topic for the Environmental, Utilities and Public Service Committee meeting scheduled for 4 p.m. Sept. 24 in City Council chambers. The public is invited to attend and voice its opinion on the proposed use of eminent domain.

City Council member Rob Ludeman said eminent domain is a tool the City of Toledo can use to get Bill Dillard and Buddy Hering, who own parcels at Southwyck, to complete the deal with Larry Dillin, president of Dillin Corporation.

“Dillin's offer to them is above fair-market value for the property so Larry has gone as far as he can,” Ludeman said. “The city would have to pay them fair-market value,” if it purchased the property through eminent domain.

Ludeman said he has attended meetings with Dillard and Hering, and they are aware of the city's possible use of eminent domain and they did not react well to it. Ludeman said he believes they may be dragging their feet to avoid the issue until Dillard's opens its new store at Fallen Timbers.

“I don't want the city to own that property, but I want to do what's necessary to move forward with this project,” Ludeman said, referring to the redevelopment of Southwyck.

Councilman Frank Szolosi said he has “a fundamental opposition to the city's use of eminent domain.” He cited situations where the city's collaborative efforts with the owners and developers of Westfield Center and Westgate resulted in positive results.

“They [the owners of Southwyck] have a history of not cooperating and running Southwyck Mall into the ground. Those uncooperative owners are the reason we have to look at eminent domain. We can't let them hold us hostage,” Councilman George Sarantou said.

Dillin said his firm is attempting to purchase the parcel that includes Dillard's store and parking lot from the private investor to whom Dillard's sold it. They are also trying to buy Dillard's' 50-percent interest in the 50-50 partnership that owns the other two parcels at Southwyck.

“There's a lot of misconception about what's going on and who's responsible for what,” Dillin said.

“I think the city is frustrated just as I am that we have received no response to the offer we made in May. We made an offer in excess of what the market value would be with no response to our offer,” he said.

With the purchase of the one parcel and 50-percent interest in the other two, Dillin would have controlling interest of the property. Dillin declined to disclose their offers for buying interest in those properties.

Three of the four parcels that comprise the Southwyck Mall site are the target of the city and Dillin for redevelopment of the site. A McDonald's restaurant is located on the smallest and fourth parcel on the total site of Southwyck Mall.

The three parcels the city and Dillin wish to purchase have a total assessed market value of $13.95 million for 2007 taxes, according to the Lucas County Auditor's Office. The total taxable value or 35 percent of those parcels is nearly $4.9 million.

A total of $383,742 in net general taxes was paid on the properties in 2007. The City of Toledo's share, based on the 5.99 millage rate, was $46,206, according to the county auditor.

If the city proceeds with purchasing the property through eminent domain, it could issue bonds for economic development through the Port Authority, Sarantou said. The city hopes Dillin would then purchase the property from the city, he added.

Dillin's firm is ready to move forward with its plans for redevelopment of the Southwyck property once it gains controlling interest in it.

“We feel very strongly about our plans to rejuvenate the Southwyck property and want to move forward with them,” said Bill Thomas, director of real estate services for Dillin Corp.

Dillin's plans for the Village at Southwyck presented to the City of Toledo, involved demolishing most of the larger buildings of the existing Southwyck Mall, Thomas said.

At press time, Thomas was unsure whether anyone from Dillin would attend the Sept. 24 meeting. They have attended meetings in the past when the city has asked them.

“If the city asks us to attend, Larry [Dillin] or I would attend the meeting,” Thomas said.

Thomas said the Dillin firm had nothing to do with the city's latest plans for a connecting road through the Southwyck property. If the city has plans that show a connecting road, “We were not involved in them,” he said.

An engineer from the city's Department of Public Utilities unveiled the design for the proposed access road that would connect Brownstone Boulevard. on one end and Cheyenne Boulevard on the side of Southwyck Mall. Those plans were presented to City Council with no participation from Dillin's firm.

Dillin said their site plans for the redevelopment have remained the same as what has been shown to the city and general public during the past few years.

“Our plans for Southwyck never called for a road through the middle,” Szolosi said. “I'm just not sure it's good policy to act in this manner.”

“It appears that the city is using the necessity for the road to justify the use of eminent domain,” said Linde Hurst Webb, a local attorney with experience in eminent domain cases and study. “If they have appropriation for the road, the Ohio constitution allows government to take property for the road without proof of necessity [for it].”

Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner did not respond to requests for comment.

Toledo OH Free Press: http://www.toledofreepress.com

City property owners treated unfairly: Ithaca NY Journal, 9/21/07

Guest column

By Robert Andree and Angelo DiGiacomo

We represent two businesses located in the west end of the City of Ithaca. Andree Petroleum has been located on Third Street since 1952 and Instant Printing Service on West Buffalo Street since 1972. Collectively, our multi-generational businesses have been rooted in this area of the city for 90 years. We care deeply about our community and are proud to provide continuous service to area residents and businesses.

As you know, the City of Ithaca, prior to 2002, had a vision for a waterfront trail, commonly known as the Cayuga Waterfront Trail (CWFT), which is being implemented in three phases. It would create a trail linking Cass Park to the Farmers' Market and eventually Stewart Park and the Chamber of Commerce. Phase 1 of this trail was created a few years back, paving a trail connecting Treman Marina to Cass Park.

The City of Ithaca created a phasing plan dated June 10, 2002. Based on this date, one can reasonably conclude this plan was in the works for at least six months to a year prior to being officially drawn up. During that time, the city had obtained federal and state grant monies to implement construction and planning of all three phases.

On Oct. 22, 2003, nearly 16 months after the plan was conceived, the City of Ithaca presented their plan to the property owners along the corridor of the proposed Phase 2 of the CWFT. This is the first time we were made aware of this plan, despite having a mayor and administration that prides themselves on creating numerous committees and receiving public input.

Essentially, we were deprived, both as property owners and as large property and sales tax contributors, from giving input and having our concerns addressed. The city and Tim Logue, transportation engineer and planner, gave us little choice but to accept or deny the plan. If we denied the plan, the city threatened to use eminent domain, a process of taking our land and forcing us to accept their (the city's) appraised value for it. In our opinion, the use of eminent domain to obtain private property for use as a “recreational trail” does not meet the threshold for the use of this power.

On Jan. 6, 2006, a letter was received from Logue stating “I am writing to notify you that the City of Ithaca's Board of Planning and Development will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 24 at 6 p.m. ... for the purpose of prescribing and soliciting public comment on a proposal for the City of Ithaca to acquire right-of-way, pursuant to Eminent Domain Procedure Law on a portion of your land at 684 Third Street......” (see the entire letter on our Web site at www.cayugawaterfronttraffic.com)

We have genuine concerns regarding the CWFT Phase 2. First, Phase 2 would eliminate the extreme right-hand lane of traffic on the Route 96 bridge, going over the flood control channel. Traffic has been a major concern with those who have to deal with it every day — motorists. Over 20,000 cars a day pass over that bridge, according to a state Department of Transportation study, and some 8,500 trips are made to Cayuga Medical Center each year through ambulance service, according to Bangs Ambulance. We have close to unanimous support from emergency care providers, concerned about getting fire and ambulance equipment to needed emergencies on Route 96.

CWFT Phase 2 has been opposed by the Ithaca City Board of Fire Commissioners, Tompkins County Emergency Response, Bangs Ambulance, the Tompkins County Sheriff's Office and others. The Ithaca Fire Department is assessing the situation and has called for future study of traffic patterns. Secondly, CWFT Phase 2 would bring pedestrians within harm's way of traffic on that bridge, also putting pedestrians dangerously close to an alley way in back of Instant Printing and deny PuddleDockers Kayak shop the right to waterfront access. The trail would lead the public by a propane and fuel storage facility. The public would be expected to travel in close proximity to self-venting tanks posing the threat of fire or explosion. State and federal Homeland Security have issued concerns regarding this possibility and yet the city refuses to believe any incident could be possible.

The city has no plans to deal with trains or traffic issues. We repeatedly asked Logue what his plan was for resolving poorly timed lights and other traffic issues. His only response was to blame the state Department of Transportation. Taxpayers paid a substantial amount of money in the past decade for traffic devices that were to be synchronized within the city (Albany, Court, Buffalo streets and others), yet we are told software issues exist. We view this as a vote of no confidence with the city regarding traffic coordination.

One fact is also apparent: the decision made on May 3, 1989 to avoid building an overpass over the railroad tracks, thereby creating the mess we have today, was made by former Common Council members Carolyn Peterson (the current mayor) and Dan Hoffman (the current city attorney). They were part of a nine-person vote against an overpass and other improvements (options B and C) that would have alleviated today's congestive traffic. Now they want to further complicate matters by constricting traffic over the inlet.

The City of Ithaca has ignored our pleas for a viable solution that creates a safe CWFT Phase 2, where public safety and eminent domain issues are resolved. Instead, the city repeatedly tries to gain our acceptance by introducing costly “incentive programs” whereby we as landowners are encouraged to take part in low interest loans to pay for landscaping on our properties to be “in compliance” with CWFT Phase 2 plans. We do not view this as constructive dialogue.

Based on the City of Ithaca's lack of concern for public safety and the rights of private property owners, Andree Petroleum and Instant Printing Service have rejected any City of Ithaca offer to date. It is difficult to deal with a government entity that refuses to engage in constructive and meaningful dialogue in the name of public safety and rights of landowners.

We understand that the City of Ithaca has suspended its plan for use of eminent domain and is focusing on Phase 3 at this point. We believe this is an intentional ploy to delay any politically sensitive issues regarding eminent domain, until after the city council and mayoral elections in November. We call upon Mayor Carolyn Peterson, and all council members to go on official written record stating eminent domain will not be used to acquire our properties, now or at any time in the future regarding a waterfront trail or pedestrian path. We challenge the City of Ithaca to produce this written confirmation before the city elections.

If the City of Ithaca mayor and Common Council intend to sacrifice public safety and also take our properties, let them be held accountable now. We are not interested in becoming active participants in a flawed plan that puts the public in harms way.

We ask the public to decide for themselves. Our position and supporting arguments against CWFT Phase 2 can be found on our Web site, www.cayugawaterfronttraffic.com.

Ithaca NY Journal: http://www.theithacajournal.com

Robert Andree and Angelo DiGiacomo are business owners who live in the City of Ithaca. This guest column combines their perspectives on the impact the Cayuga Waterfront Trail could have on their business.


San Francisco Uses Eminent Domain to Build Pot Farm: Official News Agency (San Francisco CA), 11/1/07

By Angela Berera

They wouldn't sell at any price. Now it doesn't matter. After four generations of Davidsons owning Orchards by the Bay, one of the few farms within San Francisco city limits stands to be seized under eminent domain... because San Francisco needs a steady supply of marijuana.

Eminent domain detractors say this is one of the most outrageous examples of the abuse of this long-standing law, which allows government to seize private property for public use or in recent years, if they deem it 'for the public good'. The fact that government officials plan to grow 400 acres of pot where walnut trees once stood is simply adding insult to injury.

"Don't think for a moment that this is for public use," says Grant Dennis, director of The Private Property Front, a Los Angeles based coalition of attorneys who work pro-bono in fighting eminent domain abuse. "This is about someone pushing their pro-marijuana agenda, and using the livelihoods of innocent citizens to accomplish it."

Not true, says San Francisco city councilman Ted Brenner. Brenner claims that the Davidsons were offered fair market value for Orchards by the Bay, but refused to sell.

"They were stubborn, so they get what they get, which is half that," he says.

"This project is absolutely needed to keep San Francisco on the cutting edge of societal evolution." Brenner says, "Marijuana will be legalized, if for no other reason than the treatment of chronic pain and the after-effects of chemotherapy. Private property is the last refuge for the aristocracy in this country, and aristocrats will not stand in the way of the people's progress in San Francisco."

Brenner explains that medical marijuana outlets in San Francisco are being targeted by U.S. Drug Enforcement agents, supplies 'stolen', and that a reliable source of the drug is needed in order to keep their controversial program going.

Asked if 400 acres of marijuana might be overkill for limited medical use, he said, "I'm sure the rest will find a home."

Private Property Front has already filed for an injunction in San Francisco Federal Court to delay the seizure of the property until the legality of its future use can be determined. That may not stop the city council.

"Regardless of whatever legal remedies the Davidsons or their allies might think they have," Councilman Brenner smiled, "we're going to start clearing trees on Monday... as a fire hazard. I have the distinct feeling that by the time this issue is decided, it will already have been decided."

Dennis assures us that his group will follow this case to the Supreme Court if necessary. The Davidsons are afraid that even if they do win their fight in court, with city bulldozers already waiting in their orchards, what they'll win is 400 acres of bare dirt and holes where their life used to be.

Official News Agency (San Francisco CA): http://www.officialnewsagency.com

Official News Agency is satire - social commentary through humor and sarcasm. No story written should be taken (too) seriously.

Council set to seize Main Street property: New Britain CT Herald, 9/20/07

By Rick Guinness

[New Britain] Council members are gearing up to seize Main Street property for a new police station.

At a meeting next week, the Common Council will set a price on 121-131 Main St. in preparation for taking it, Mayor Timothy Stewart said Wednesday.

With a recent change in state law on eminent domain, the city's price could hit $1.27million.

Stewart had hoped to reach an accommodation with the owner, but after a third attempt to reach an out-of-court settlement with Garden Main Street LLC. failed last week, he said, eminent domain is the next step.

"The prospect for a compromise has been lost," Stewart said.

The council voted in May to authorize an eminent domain takeover of the property Garden Main Street, meaning the company would lose its property in exchange for a price set by the city and state, rather than negotiate with the city. LLC lawyer Michael O'Connell immediately filed for injunction to stop the takeover.

A judge tried to get the sides to reach an agreement, but three hearings later, the parties were still at an impasse. The city had a $1 million appraisal for the property, while Garden Main Street had an appraisal of nearly $2.3 million.
O'Connell could not be reached for comment.

He had said his experience with eminent-domain law would keep the city tied up in court for a long time. Nevertheless, he indicated the company was willing to work with the city on its long-range plans.

No way, Stewart said. He is going to take over the property, knock the building to the ground, and build a police station - with bipartisan support. The action will oust a check-cashing office and a Subway sandwich shop, the only businesses in the sprawling plaza.

It will cost $30 million, he said.

"But that doesn't mean we are going to have to spend it," he added, referring to the possibility that the master planner for the city, The Arete Group of New York - rather than Garden Main Street - might very well build it to gain commercial space and lease the police station space to the city.

Alderman Lou Salvio said the city would also be able to get state grant funding to offset the cost of the project.

Alderwoman and council president pro tempore Suzanne Bielinski said she is in favor of the plan, which is needed because the old police station is riddled with asbestos and therefore beyond repair.

Police officers could not even be in the building during renovations.

"Having a police station downtown would facilitate a sense of a safe downtown," she said. "This would be a visible police presence."

The garage at the D'Amato senior apartments could be used for police vehicles as well as for seniors because it is so "vacant and underutilized," she said.

Next week's meeting would likely involved a closed-door session before a price is set. Bielinski and alderwoman Shirley Black said they agreed the mayor and corporation counsel would handle the matter.

Alderman Paul Catanzaro had previously said the Main Street property takeover and construction of a police station would be expensive.

He wasn't alone in his assumption.

But Bielinski and Stewart said that the company's appraisal was much too high.

"That $2.3 million was for a building that does not exist," Bieinski said. "It was for a possible use."

She was referring to the passage in the $2.3 million appraisal by R.F. Hagearty & Associates Inc. that read, "This report is predicated on the extraordinary assumption that the city will approve an adaptive reuse of the property, consisting of 57 apartment units and 15,800 square feet of retail space."

The judge in the case will see the absurdity of the $2.3 million figure, Stewart believes.

"We have a legitimate appraisal," Stewart added. "I am fairly confident."

Even though there are no more hearings in court scheduled, that doesn't preclude the company and city from privately working out a deal, Stewart said.

"We were going to try to settle it," he said.

New Britain CT Herald: http://www.newbritainherald.com

Landowners threatened by eminent domain abuse: Cherry Hill NJ Courier-Post, 9/19/07


Some of what is taking place throughout the United States is surprising. Take for example, the legally authorized abuse of eminent domain.

Last week, the Courier-Post reported on problems with plans to build housing on a site previously occupied by the Pennsauken Mart.

The redevelopment project has not been carried out because of changes to the initial plan and the many setbacks in the latest vision for the site.

As a result, a lawsuit has been filed and its ensuing complications seem to indicate the project will come to a screeching halt.

What is sad and worrisome is this proposed redevelopment project caused the displacement of 100 small-business owners who operated at the Pennsauken Mart.

After researching the story of the Pennsauken Mart, one can determine not only the extent of the abuse committed by the financially and politically powerful in Camden County, but also their true purpose and complete disregard for those who are most vulnerable.

The Pennsauken Mart had been around for half a century as one of the most popular business centers in South Jersey. In early 2000, a sudden smear campaign against the Pennsauken Mart was launched - by whom was not clear.

Shortly after, the building's occupants received news that a redevelopment project had been approved for the site, ensuring they would be evicted.

Business owners began a long, legal battle and mounted protests, which intensified but, ultimately, brought no positive results. They were in despair and confused, finding all roads were closed to them.

Once again, the politicians who, during their election campaigns, promised to defend their constituents, abandoned them to side with the powerful business and public officials in the county.

By the end of 2005, all business owners, many of whom had shops in the Pennsauken Mart for 30 years to 50 years, had to leave.

These victims of an eminent domain ruling have been destroyed on behalf of a redevelopment plan, which for all purposes does not exist. All the urgency to evict these business owners from the site has so far resulted in a vacant plot of land.

Doubtlessly, the land is very valuable and the promise of money to be made is the fuel for this type of violation.

Eminent domain is a very old legal power with fair and healthy origins. It was created to guarantee common welfare to be above private interests.

In the United States, the fair application of eminent domain is so important the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution requires that just compensation is paid and that the property is taken for public use.

Public use may include military facilities, roads, railroads and government buildings.

Old are the battles of those who see eminent domain as the tool to take valuable land and thus further their riches.

Set back
However, real legal support was gained in 2005 with a decision in Kelo v. New London, Conn.

The Supreme Court decided the transfer of land from a private owner to another was constitutional as long as financial development plans were advanced.

Since then, small-property owners have suffered many tragedies by having to hand their houses, small businesses or farms to powerful developers.

A recent article by the Spanish news agency EFE found that 15 months after the Kelo decision, more than 6,000 small properties have been subject to eminent domain for private development programs.

With this kind of court decision, eminent domain poses a real danger to the once revered relationship between U.S. property owners and their private property.

Certainly, private property continues to be sacred for those with financial and political muscle, but not so for the powerless who can be stripped from their few and hard-earned possessions.

Those of us who are poor must, from now on, do what we can to get our dream house in the worst possible place so that it does not catch attention from those who advance financial development plans.

Property owners in areas that look promising are already in danger. They only need one of these developers to drive by, find the site to their liking and begin forming their plans.

Surely, the eminent domain process would conclude by favoring the developer who usually has complete support from legislators, politicians and other government officers.

This application of eminent domain begins to seriously erode two fundamental pillars of American society: private property and equality under the law.

Fight back
A victim of the abuse of eminent domain can hardly escape calls for justice and public protests. The Cramer Hill neighborhood in Camden was an exception.

The chosen victims are safe for now because they mounted an unprecedented fight and because the council treated the issue with the machine's usual arrogance.

This arrogance was cause for the council to make a few legal errors when the development plan was approved.

For this reason, lawyers representing Cramer Hill residents were able to halt redevelopment plans for the neighborhood.

However, the political machine remained intact in the last elections, and it would not be surprising if development plans for this sector are revived.

The Pennsauken Mart business Diaspora has followed several paths. Four of the eviction victims have reportedly died. Others cannot be located. But most of the merchants moved their shops into the Grand Market Place in Burlington County.

There is a sense of renewed hope among the merchants. However, the black cloud of eminent domain will always hang over their heads.

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

Flooded Oakmont Commons residents seek help: Pittsburgh PA Tribune-Review, 9/18/07

By Karen Zapf

Residents of Oakmont Commons, a townhouse development that has been flooded, implored representatives from Allegheny County Monday night to take ownership of six parcels of property that abut their homes to act as a catch basin for the water.
"It's (flooding) going to continue to happen until we do something," said Dean Hornsby, a resident of the 206-unit development and a member of the homeowners association. "We are looking for help from the borough and the county."

Oakmont Commons sustained severe flood damage from Hurricane Ivan in 2004. It nearly flooded again last month.

Six of the seven parcels of property near the development are privately owned; the borough owns one.

Borough officials said last night they are looking at a range of short- and long-term solutions, including streambank restoration, reconstruction of the flow channel and construction of flood plain debris basins.

The borough also wants to develop a park on a portion of the property.

Hornsby said before the meeting that the residents would favor the use of eminent domain to create a buffer for the flood waters from Plum Creek that have damaged their properties.

Eminent domain is the right of a government to seize private property for public use in exchange for payment of fair market value.

"We would love to see eminent domain," said Hornsby. "We want a moratorium on any use (of the seven parcels of property) so that it will become a flood reserve."

"My wife and I don't feel we are 100 percent safe," said Rich Bowman, another Oakmont Commons resident.

Nearly 50 residents attended the meeting.

Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato said he is looking at several options, including building a wall that would act like sandbags to block the water, acquiring land and building retention ponds, and buying people out and relocating them. He said the latter would be least favorable and would require a lot of tax dollars.

Onorato said the county does not have the money to purchase the property that abuts Oakmont Commons.

Hornsby stressed that residents oppose a proposal by a developer to build a cement plant on one of the parcels off Dark Hollow Road.

Anthony Folino, of HHI Trucking & Supply of Oakmont, is asking the borough for a conditional use permit to build the plant in a 3.2-acre location zoned for industrial use.

"We believe it (flooding) would be worse if the cement plant went in," said Hornsby.

Onorato said he will study the borough's report on how to solve the flooding problems and "knock off some short-term then long-term solutions so there's enough protection that exists for the next storm."

Pittsburgh PA Tribune-Review: http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib

University cleared to use eminent domain for arena: University of Oregon Daily Emerald, 9/17/07

Administrators still hope not to obtain land by force despite permission from higher education board

By Allie Grasgreen

The University is one step closer to beginning construction on the new basketball arena.

At the State Board of Higher Education meeting Friday, Sept. 7, the Board granted the University a resolution of necessity: permission to utilize eminent domain laws in order to obtain three properties on which, along with the Williams' Bakery site, the University hopes to build an arena to replace 80-year-old McArthur Court. Thus far, the University has been unable to come to voluntary sale agreements with the property owners, and should it fail to do so it may use condemnation to purchase the properties on behalf of public interest.

The Board also granted a resolution of necessity to the University in 2004 to purchase the Williams' Bakery site, although the University ultimately did not use condemnation. The site sold for approximately $22.2 million.

General Council Melinda Grier said the University does not wish to resort to condemnation, and will do so only as a last resort.

"In Oregon we have a strong preference... to try to acquire properties through voluntary means," said Grier.

Eminent domain allows the government to purchase private property for public purpose. Should the University exercise condemnation, the state of Oregon would sue on behalf of the University and the court would determine an adequate sale price.

At least two attorneys with background in condemnation law contributed at the board meeting.

"We relied extensively on that expertise in proceeding," said Jay Kenton, OUS Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration.

"We hope it makes it so that we can really move forward," Grier said. She added there are other things that need to be put into place before construction can begin, but "obviously we have to acquire the underlying property first."

This specific case may violate Measure 39 because of speculation that the UO Foundation will form a private corporation to build the arena. Measure 39 prohibits a public body from condemning private property with the intention of transferring said property to a private party. In this case, the University would own the land but not the arena, but Grier said the University will not violate Measure 39.

The University needed four properties to move forward in planning the arena. One, the site of an abandoned gas station on Franklin Boulevard, the University purchased for $570,000 after "a couple years" of negotiation, property owner Peter Kryl said. The other three are still privately owned, and one is "particularly challenging," Grier said, because of the liens placed against the property. The vacant business property owned by Eugene resident Adesina Adeniji cannot be sold or transferred until the outstanding liens have been paid or otherwise addressed.

"The value of the liens is much greater than the value of the property," Kenton said. The landowner probably won't want to sell the property for less than the value of the liens, Kenton said.

The remaining two properties are a 7-Eleven store adjacent to the abandoned gas station and an endodontic practice on Villard Street. The office's owners, Karl and Jeanne Wagenknecht, argued unsuccessfully at the Board meeting that the University's intention for the property does not justify condemnation.

University of Oregon Daily Emerald: http://media.www.dailyemerald.com

Council to vote on eminent domain: Ventura County CA Star, 9/17/07

By Anna Bakalis

On the heels of a report suggesting one-third of the properties in Moorpark's project area are blighted, the City Council is set to vote Wednesday night on reinstating eminent domain authority.

The council is expected to consider and adopt eminent domain authority over the city's project area — about 1,200 acres, including downtown High Street, Walnut Canyon Road and south to the Arroyo Simi. Extending as far east as Condor Drive and west to Gabbert Road, city officials are hoping to rehabilitate the area for more cohesive development and economic growth.

A Redevelopment Agency staff report concludes there is a significant amount of blight in the area and it cannot be eliminated without the use of eminent domain.

This week the council will consider reinstating the agency's lapsed eminent domain authority, also known as Amendment No. 2, as set by Moorpark voters in 1989. If it is adopted, the Redevelopment Agency will be able to acquire commercial and industrial properties only. Moorpark will not have authority to acquire residentially zoned property and certain other properties being used for residential purposes.

The five council members make up the Redevelopment Agency. They will be using the blight report, which details physical and economic neglect in the project area, and other documentation to reach their decision on reinstating the agency's eminent domain authority for another 12 years.

Eminent domain is the power of a public agency to forcibly acquire private property at fair market value for public use.

One of the main goals of the city's redevelopment plan includes eliminating blight. The agency's eminent domain authority expired in 2001, and city leaders have ramped up efforts to get the issue to a council vote for the past two years.

Ventura County CA Star: http://www.venturacountystar.com