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May 30, 2007

EMINENT DOMAINIA

NEWS FROM THE NJ PUBLIC ADVOCATE:
The NY Times, New Jersey Public Advocate Seeks Stronger Eminent Domain Protections for Property Owners

The New Jersey public advocate urged the Legislature on Tuesday to adopt a law that would make the use of eminent domain more equitable, while preserving it as a valuable redevelopment tool for many hard-pressed cities.

Ronald Chen, the state’s public advocate, renewed his nearly year-old call for changes in the state’s redevelopment law in a report detailing some abuses of the taking of private property by municipalities. The report also highlighted several court cases in which his office filed legal briefs supporting challenges to the eminent domain process as it now functions.

The Bergen Record, Report details eminent domain abuse

A "jaw-dropping" case in Passaic and a controversial proposal to seize two trailer parks in Lodi were cited by the state's public advocate Tuesday as classic examples of governmental abuse of eminent domain.

"People can lose their homes without real evidence that their neighborhood is blighted, without adequate notice or hearings and without fair compensation," Ronald K. Chen -- who first issued a statewide eminent domain analysis last May -- declared in his 31-page follow-up report.

The Newark Star-Ledger, Report lists abuses in land seizures

In releasing a second report on New Jersey's eminent domain statute, Public Advocate Ronald Chen said towns officials have exploited the law to include desirable properties in so-called blighted areas, seize land without notice, low-ball landowners being pushed out and rubber-stamp projects where they have a personal interest.

"The findings in this report crystallize the urgent need for our Legislature to change the state redevelopment law," Chen said. A proposal has been stuck in committee in the Senate for a year.

The public advocate's report focused on eight civil lawsuits that it said highlight abuses of eminent domain. In those cases, either judges or attorneys with the Department of the Public Advocate established a factual basis for the property owner's claim.

NoLandGrab: In case you're wondering what NYC Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum has done about eminent domain abuse in NYC, "Ms. Gotbaum stated that she is against the use of eminent domain but supports the Ratner project as it's her understanding eminent domain won't be used. She did say that if she learns otherwise, she would not support the Ratner project." (link)

OTHER LOCAL EMINENT DOMAIN NEWS:
NY Daily News, City says it may use eminent domain to acquire 911 backup site

Fed-up city officials are preparing to launch eminent-domain proceedings to acquire a privately owned site for a long-awaited 911 backup system.

According to officials involved in the dispute, interests representing the Simone Development Cos., based in New Rochelle, have stonewalled the city's various offers for a large parcel of land in the vicinity of the state-run Bronx Psychiatric Center near the Hutchinson River Parkway.

A backup 911 system - officially known as Public Safety Answering Center 2 - had been sought even before the 9/11 terrorist attacks destroyed the World Trade Center. City efforts intensified after 9/11, but ran into obstacles.

The existing 911 system, based at the MetroTech Center in downtown Brooklyn, fields more than 12 million calls a year. On several occasions in recent years, it has experienced temporary disruptions, including a three-hour system failure in parts of Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island in March 2004.

NoLandGrab: The irony is that eminent domain was used for Bruce Ratner's MetroTech, which was billed at the time as a job-creation-and-retention program. MetroTech was unable to live up to the original billing, so the City of New York moved its own agencies into the complex, becoming the development's largest tenant.

ELSEWHERE IN THE COUNTRY:
Rocky Mountain Telegram, Property rights

North Carolina voters will be asked to decide whether the government can invoke eminent domain to condemn private property to make way for economic development projects under a measure approved last week in the N.C. House.

If the N.C. Senate signs off on the proposed constitutional amendment, the referendum could go before voters as early as this fall.

The Cincinnati Post, Widow opposes taking of home

The bright yellow solarium is Florence Matthews' favorite room in her house, which stands at the corner of Lafayette and Eden in Bellevue, where she's lived virtually all her life.

The little room on the north side is where she sews, finishing the patchwork quilts begun by her late mother and making dresses for her granddaughter. It's where she spends time with her pug Peggy and gazes out to see boats move past on the Ohio River, and view a slice of city skyline.

It's where the 79-year-old widow remembers most everything in her life and where she wants to spend the rest of it - even if that means fighting the city of Bellevue all the way to the Supreme Court.

KATC3, Redevelopment board seeks direction in post-Katrina New Orleans

Complicating NORA's [New Orleans Redevelopment Authority] work are constitutional amendments passed by voters last September that limit seizure of property.

One amendment bans the seizure of property except for certain "public purposes," such as roads, levees or parks. Eminent domain conjures images of retirees having their homes seized for shopping malls, but that's not the case in hurricane-damaged New Orleans, said NORA executive director Joe Williams.

"We're looking at properties that are blighted and abandoned and an imminent health and public safety issue," he said.

Frank S. Alexander, a law professor at Emory University in Atlanta who has worked with NORA, said that while most urban redevelopment is done without expropriation, the scope of the two amendments will need to be resolved or "it will be an impediment to New Orleans' redevelopment activities."

The language, NORA says, needs clarification to determine how far the agency can go in turning over property for private redevelopment.

Posted by lumi at May 30, 2007 11:00 AM