Defending her property and those of her neighbors

Last year, local officials in Newton, N.J., tried pushing through a redevelopment plan for the neighborhood around Hicks Avenue, where local resident–now activist–Connie Sutton lives. She found the Castle Coalition’s Survival Guide and DVD and used both to help her organize her efforts to oppose the threat of eminent domain inherent in the redevelopment plan. A few months later, she is now helping her fellow residents face down the threat of eminent domain in another part of Newton.

The local paper, the New Jersey Herald, featured Sutton in the Sunday paper:

Connie Sutton’s Hicks Avenue home was among the 26 houses originally included in a plan to redevelop one of three areas in Newton.

It was her fear that the town would take her home through a legal process known as “eminent domain” that she began attending Planning Board hearings, appealing to local officials to have her home and others removed from the plan.

“I think that even the threat of eminent domain sends a chill down homeowners’ spines,” she said.

Sutton and others succeeded in having their homes removed from the plan after hearings in December. But after meeting other residents who shared her concerns, Sutton decided to continue attending hearings for the proposed Railroad District redevelopment area around Diller Avenue, and she helped found the grassroots organization Derail Abusive Redevelopment in Newton.

Connie Sutton did exactly what concerned citizens should do once they hear of a potential threat of eminent domain: get information and attend public meetings. D.A.R.N. has just begun its efforts to oppose the Railroad District redevelopment area. So far, local officials, recognizing Connie Sutton’s dedication to protecting private property rights in Newton, have tried to make it more difficult for her to get her view on the record during public meetings. However, Sutton and her fellow members of D.A.R.N. have succeeded in getting local officials to come clean on where each one of them stands on the issue of eminent domain. Knowing the positions of local officials will help members of D.A.R.N. focus their efforts as they prepare for future public meetings in Newton.

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