Bridgeton Delays Vote on Eminent Domain

Property owners in Bridgeton, N.J., seem to be following the example of property owners in San Pablo, Calif., who recently fought off attempts by the city to place their homes and businesses in redevelopment areas.

The Bridgeton planning board is considering a proposal on whether or not to recommend the city council deem 11 blocks of downtown Bridgeton “in need of redevelopment.” [1] Alarmed residents have packed public hearings on the issue to voice their opposition, knowing that a “blight” designation would mean their properties could be seized by eminent domain.

Planning board Solicitor James Maley acknowledged during a public hearing in March that well-maintained properties were included in the proposed redevelopment area.[2] When pressed by property owners as to why, Maley asserted that addressing individual properties is a time-consuming process. He also claimed that placing the entire 11 blocks in a redevelopment area would provide more flexibility in attracting potential developers, and “allows governing bodies to act like a business rather than a government.”[3]

Despite the board’s attempt to assure residents that eminent domain would only be used as a “last resort,” property owners have not been fooled by empty promises. Bureaucrats all over New Jersey have made the same claim, only to use eminent domain later as a “tool” by which they can replace existing homes and businesses with new homes and businesses they like better.

The planning board has continued to postpone a decision on the issue. Were it not for property owners applying heaps of public pressure on officials, the bulldozers might already be in Bridgeton.

[1] Joe Green, “Fearful Bridgeton residents blast planning board on proposed redevelopment areas,” The Star-Ledger, January 27, 2010.

[2] Joe Green, “Redevelopment has questions to be answered,” The Star-Ledger, March 26, 2010.

[3] Ibid.