Agency in Kelo Case to Change Name

What do you do when too much bad publicity hinders your company from doing any legitimate business? Well, change your name of course! The New London Development Corporation, the agency involved in the Kelo v. City of New London land-grab is seeking to do just that - change it's name to whitewash the bad rep.

Name changes are nothing new in the world of bad publicity. Some of us may remember when the now popular company "Nissan" went by "Datsun" in the U.S. during WWII to avoid public resentment that came with association of military manufacturing. Altria, formerly known as "Philip Morris Companies Inc." changed it's name to avoid the often negative image associated with previous tobacco endeavors. It wasn't so long ago that the Blackwater scandal was all over the news about possible criminal activities and abuses of its connections with the military. Blackwater quickly adopted a name change from "Blackwater Worldwide" to Xe Services.

The New London Development Corporation (NLDC) seeks to change its name to Renaissance City Development Association (RCDA). The real question is, will this name change allow NLDC to recover its business and prosper as a company? Most of those affected by eminent domain (as in the case of Susette Kelo) will most likely never forget the real identity of RCDA, however I have this gut feeling that the public will care less about the history of the company as time passes by.

Perhaps it would be less insulting if the name change didn't provoke comments by the NLDC's president Michael Joplin such as "Everyone in this room knows we’ve got baggage, and it’s spelled K-E-L-O", yet we just couldn't be spared the self-pitty. Perhaps it is better to let the past be just that - the past, but try convincing a homeowner who has lost his or her house to eminent domain.



Mining Companies Could Use Eminent Domain in Minnesota

Source: Patch.com

A handful of northern Minnesota landowners are worried that mining companies may use eminent domain to take over land in order to mine minerals. 

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources owns the mineral rights which are now being offered for lease without notification to the property owners. Even though the residents who built cabins on their land own the surface rights, they are worried that the mining companies may ultimately seize land entirely through eminent domain.

Minnesota law prohibits the sale of mineral rights, however leasing them is perfectly legal, according to the DNR Factsheet.

To protect themselves against the possibility of mining companies using eminent domain, the landowners have  requested assistance from Rep. Nora Slawik to sponsor a bill that would prohibit the use of condemnation to take land if no agreement is reached.

Residents like Gus Axelson, who own land that could be effected by rights leasing are pushing for a change in then 2006 law. Mr. Axelson appealed to the state’s Executive Council which oversees approval of mineral rights sales. For now, the Council has delayed the sale of leases, giving land owners an opportunity to push for changes in state law.

“These mineral leases are very scary,” Axelson said. “We didn’t know the extent to which the mining companies dominate and control the landowners.". Mr. Axelson also pointed out that the cabins are cultural icons in Minnesota and to take them away at will destroys the whole idea of what it means to own a cabin, thus ruining the cultural icon.

Slawik said that the bill didn't get a hearing because there was no companion bill in the Senate, and will most likely be handled by the Executive Council.

It is unclear whether the land owners at one point or another had an opportunity to purchase mineral rights and the reasons behind not taking such precautions.


Almost a Year Later, Man Waits for $2.8M Eminent Domain Money

Almost a year later, a Queens man is still waiting for payment for his appropriated property via eminent domain by the state of New York.

More than $2.8 million is owned to the business man who had to give up his rental property so that the Maspeth community could redevelop the Kosciuszko Bridge. The man claims to be facing hardships and is now suing for his money.

Married and with four children, Sass Sheena has had no income since his building was taken last June. “Obviously you want the money from your property so you can reinvest or go into another business,” said Sheena.

The money is being held in a comptroller’s account, but why it’s being held is the question Sheena posed to his attorney when he hired him to sue. According to the attorney, the state can place the funds in such account only if there is a conflict, however no such conflict exists in his opinion.
Sheena’s attorney has contacted Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senator Chuck Shumer and the attorney general to no avail. Apparently this type of behavior is common in eminent domain appropriation cases in New York and Sheena’s attorney is outraged, stating “It is incredible how they’ve gotten away with what they been doing, it’s extortion.”

Just how long will it take to figure out what's going on with the funds and whether another lawsuit will have to be filed is yet unclear.


Eminent Domain Considered in Peekskill, NY

Photo Credit: Art Cusano, The Daily Peekskill

What happens when a city can't come to an agreement in the purchase of properties needed to build a new firehouse? The residents of Peekskill, NY will soon find out. The city is considering eminent domain action to acquire two properties adjacent to the already owned land plot because an agreement cannot be reached.

Negotiations have been under way with a shopping center which houses 14 businesses and another property - a house containing 2 businesses and 2 apartments. So far there hasn't been any agreements due to low appraisals on the properties. 

When the city made an offer to acquire part of the shopping center, the owner replied with disgust at the lack of research on the city's behalf, stating - "I basically told them our family is insulted with their inadequate research," and proclaiming that the city has not "acted in good faith".  The owner of the house on 1141 Main St. received two appraisals by the city - both over $160,000 short of owner's expectations. The city estimated the property's worth at $390,000 with the second appraisal, while the owner claims he paid $490,000 for the property six years ago and now estimates the value to be at $550,000 with additional renovations.

Business owners were not the only ones outraged with the city's behavior. At the  notice of scoping hearing residents made clear that they were not happy with current course of action, expressing outrage at the proposal of eminent domain involvement. One resident says eminent domain is "unnecessary", while others point out that "Eminent domain is terrible" and "the mere thought of eminent domain is frightening." 

"To take someone's house, to put more businesses out of business, I say go back to the drawing board and work it out," said resident Leslie Lawler.

While residents agree that the firehouse is necessary, the proposed location is challenged by some. Other vacant locations have been considered by the city, however "the current site is the one that best suited the city’s needs and is the same one considered 40 years ago" - said mayor Mary Foster.

The next public hearing is scheduled in the summer, when purchasing agreements have to be reached or eminent domain will be pursued, the mayor said.


House Intends to Change Eminent Domain Law

source: CBS News

WASHINGTON - House is seeking to pass a bill that would undercut a 2005 Supreme Court ruling that allows state and local governments authority to take over private property for the purpose of economic redevelopment.

Sponsors of the bill do not agree with the Kelo v. City of New London ruling which "justified the government's taking of private property and giving it to a private business for use in the interest of creating a more lucrative tax base" - according to Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.

Proposed changes include withholding of federal aid to states or locales that exercise the eminent domain power for redevelopment purposes. The bill also aims to disallow the federal government from using eminent domain for redevelopment, and allows those affected to take legal action if the rules are broken.

Maxine Waters of California, a liberal Democrat supports the bill, claiming the eminent domain power has been abused by powerful interest groups for long enough, all at expense of the little guy.

Law makers oppose the decision, criticizing the "dangerous interpretation of the taking clause" in the Constitution's 5th Amendment that lets government seize property for public use, with just compensation.

Rep. John Conyers of Michigan also opposes the bill, pointing out that the states have done their own duties in amending eminent domain laws to prevent abuse and that Congress should not barge in and assume a "national zoning board" position. He also pointed out that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is except from eminent domain restrictions. The pipeline was rejected by President Barack Obama, however republicans have been backing its construction with vigor.

There is no indication as to the Senate's stance on this bill.

Article comments include several outbursts at the pipeline exemption, as well as support for both sides of the proposed bill.