Support Mt. Holly Homeowners July 14

Mount Holly Gardens homeowners are still on the chopping block and need your help! This Thursday, July 14, oral arguments will be heard on whether or not the township’s plan to bulldoze their homes violate their civil rights.

While the case does not focus on eminent domain, the homes of these residents are at stake. Please show your support for private property rights by attending the argument.

Here are the details:

Thursday, July 14, 2011
Arguments begin at 10:00am

3rd Circuit Court of Appeals  
601 Market Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

We hope to see you there.

Eminent Domain Through the Backdoor in Montgomery

This June 23rd marks the sixth anniversary of the infamous Kelo v. New London decision in which the Supreme Court declared that government commands the authority to seize land through eminent domain using nearly any allegation of public benefit; this includes taking land from one private owner and transferring it to another under the guise of economic development.

The popular backlash against this decision has since spurred 43 state legislatures to enact protection against eminent domain abuse. In some cases, however, the practice continues through loopholes and backdoors. One of the most egregious and persisting perversions transpires in Montgomery, Alabama.

While Alabama’s state legislature has forbidden government condemnation of land through eminent domain except in the case of publicly-funded projects, Montgomery has enacted the convention of eminent domain through the backdoor. That is, by invoking a local blight ordinance, the city of Montgomery has the legal authority to deem a residence a public nuisance under the vague standard of poor design, obsolescence, or neglect and thereafter demolish it against the will of the owner.

David Beito, charged with investigating this practice on behalf of the Alabama State Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, has denounced this practice: “We have good evidence that these homes are not in fact blighted,” he says. “Property owners are losing their land and I think that there is good reason to believe it often ends up in the hands of wealthy developers.”[1]

In August 2010 citizens of Montgomery gathered at a town hall meeting to condemn this practice as a violation of their rights that must stop. But their vociferous protests have gone unheeded. Since the town hall meeting at least 35 houses have been demolished, an estimated 25 of which were once called home by residents forced to abandon their property.

Click here and here to see pictures of two Montgomery homes that have been approved for demolition via public nuisance laws.

[1] David Lewkowict, “Montgeomery’s New Civil Rights Struggle,” Fox News, August 3, 2010.

TAKE ACTION to "Stop the Money Pit" in California

The California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights has launched “Stop the Money Pit,” a website and effort dedicated to supporting Governor Brown’s proposal to abolish California’s redevelopment agencies.  As you know, these agencies are the some of the worst perpetrators of eminent domain abuse in the nation.

TAKE ACTION by joining their growing coalition TODAY!

The website busts popular myths behind redevelopment, and details the incredible slush funds these government agencies have become. Don’t let your tax dollars be wasted by the over 400 redevelopment agencies in California—get involved now!

Trinty River Vision Authority Votes to Seize Private Property

“You’ve got to go. You’ve got to sell to us. Eminent Domain.”  This is how Bob Lukeman, owner of a small business in Fort Worth, Texas who is soon to be thrown off his land, recounts the treatment he has received from his local government.  “You have no idea how insidious [this] is and how horrible it feels,” he laments.  “You know, all the plans we’ve made seem to be in direct conflict with all the plans that they’ve made [for us].” [1]

Local police officer and former serviceman in the US Army Gary Bucy shares Lukeman’s disgust: “[This] is an abuse of eminent domain.”  He continues, “If you look historically at the use of eminent domain it’s been used to build highways, schools, hospitals, things that the public can use.  [But] with the Trinity River Vision we’re seeing private property development coming in [and] things that benefit special interests.” [2]

They are not alone in their outrage.  Groups such as Citizens Who Care, the Trinity River Improvement Partnership, and 912 Project Fort Worth have rallied against the current scheme, protesting the government’s reprehensible abuse of its power of eminent domain and the project’s ever-escalating price tag, which currently stands in excess of $900 million.

While for these citizens this situation constitutes an appalling exploitation of government authority, there appears to be little opposition in the political arena.  On June 18, Fort Worth will hold a run-off election between candidates Betsy Price and Jim Lane for mayor, and neither candidate has expressed any misgivings regarding the project.  Moreover, on June 2 the Trinity River Vision Authority board recommended the seizing of five parcels of land to the Tarrant Regional Water District where the issue is expected to be taken up on June 21. The five parcels of land are as follows:

(1)    6.875 acres, owner the MMM Group Llc.
(2)    5.005 acres, owner the Louise McKinley Trust
(3)    0.688 acre, owner the J.W. Pierce Family L.P.
(4)    0.55 acre, owner Red Bird Highland Ltd
(5)    0.5739 acre, owner Taos Holdings.

[1] Up A Creek. Trinity River Improvement Partnership, 2011. Documentary.
[2] ibid.

Allentown Authorizes Eminent Domain for Downtown Businesses

The City of Allentown, Pennsylvania has announced they would prefer a hockey area for the Phantoms in downtown Allentown, rather than the clothing store, beauty salon, pizza parlor, and dozens of other businesses already there.

Sam Hong has owned New York Fashions on Tenth Street for over two decades.

“‘I pay taxes, wages, whatever they ask to the city. Now they tell me I don’t need you anymore. I got a greater plan and I am not in that picture,’” he said upon hearing Mayor Ed Pawlowski’s announcement that the city wants to seize his business to make way for the arena.[1] 

Patrice Sidoione has owned “All That” beauty salon on Eighth Street for 14 years. She has stated she is not willing to sell the business she has worked so hard to own, since the city would also be “…taking away my ability to earn a living.”[2] 

The city council authorized the use of eminent domain to seize the businesses in 6-1 vote on May 18, 2011.[3]  The mayor said the city would prefer to negotiate with the business owners before using eminent domain, but the city needs this important “tool” to compel the business owners to sell.[4]   

However, as hundreds of business owners across the nation know, there can be no true negotiations when the city holds the ultimate trump card.

 

 

______________________

[1] Will Lewis, “City Wants to Put Arena Downtown; Some Business Owners Unhappy,” WFMZ-TV 69 News, May 17, 2011.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Sarah Satullo, “Allentown council authorizes use of eminent domain for hockey arena if needed,” The Express-Times, May 19, 2011.

[4] Nick Falsone, “Allentown pursues negotiations, considers eminent domain where hockey arena is planned – Update,” The Express Times, May 18, 2011.

Court Expedites Mount Holly Case

Another piece of good news came out of Mount Holly on Tuesday, May 10.  The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals reiterated that eminent domain proceedings could not move forward in the Gardens until the appeal is heard and ruled upon.   The court had previously issued a stay on eminent domain until the case had its day in court, but the township asked whether it could condemn the homes that aren’t named in the lawsuit in the meantime.  The court said no.

The court also ruled the case will be expedited, meaning the case could be heard in court and decided within a few months.  Leona Wright, Nancy Lopez, Santos Cruz, and the rest of their neighbors in the Gardens will soon know the fate of the homes they love.  

Click here to read more in the Burlington County Times.

WI Considers Further Protections Against Eminent Domain Abuse

In Wisconsin, a bill introduced by Senator Mary Lazich may finally close the eminent domain loophole and put an end to the abuse of public power for private gain.  If approved, Lazich’s bill will narrow the definition of “blight,” limiting the government’s  use of eminent domain for private development to situations in which the property violates building codes and the owner has disregarded at least two orders to correct the violations.  According to Lee McGrath, executive director of Institute for Justice Minnesota Chapter and IJ’s legislative council, “This is a second step that closes the loophole so the original intent is fully realized.”

Last year IJ successfully campaigned twice against the use of eminent domain for private development in Wisconsin, sparking support to Lazich’s bill.

Read more about the bill here and here.

Fort Trumbull will cost more money to New London

When the New London Development Corporation got its Fort Trumbull Redevelopment Area approved in 2000, it boasted that the proposed development plans would line the city’s coffers with tax revenue. Over the years, the city spent a whopping $80 million acquiring and razing Susette Kelo’s home and the homes of her neighbors. Today, a decade after falling for the rosy promises of the NLDC, the city is the proud owner of 90 acres of barren land.

In addition to the money that was paid for the Fort Trumbull neighborhood, the city has received no tax revenues from the area for several years. And it looks like the taxpayers of New London shouldn’t expect to see any money start coming in anytime soon. Potential developers have asked for generous tax breaks to make their projects financially feasible. The project that was supposed to fill the city coffers with tax dollars has so far done nothing but suck them dry.

Read more here.