JUNE 2: Wisconsin Rally to Protest Eminent Domain Abuse

Earl Giefer is the proud owner of a 25-acre farm that has been in his family since the Civil War.  The 94-year-old already has plans to ensure his family continues their rich history with the land by handing it down to his niece once he passes away. [1]

The city of Oak Creek, Wis., however, has other plans for Mr. Giefer’s farm.  It wants to seize his farm by eminent domain.  Why?  Because the city says the farm is “inconsistent with development strategies” and is preventing Oak Creek from increasing its tax base. [2]

The Oak Creek Development Authority says they have the right to seize his farm because it meets their definition of blight—Wisconsin’s prerequisite for seizing property by eminent domain. This supposedly “blighted” farm does not have a paved driveway, and is “underused”—both sure signs of “blight” according to the study commissioned by the city. [3]

Giefer’s neighbors and community are standing behind him in this fight to keep what is rightfully his.  The Oak Creek Community Development Authority has scheduled a hearing at City Hall for June 2nd at 7 p.m.  The community will be holding a rally against eminent domain abuse at 6:30 p.m. just before the hearing. [4]  The fight for the Giefer farm is the front line of the eminent domain battle in Wisconsin.  Citizens in the Dairy State should head to Oak Creek next Wednesday to show their support.

 

 

[1] Mark Schaaf, “City tries hard to land an old farm,” Oak Creek Now, May 25, 2010.
[2] Sean Ryan, “Blight ruling hangs over Oak Creek farm,” The Daily Reporter, May 6, 2010.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Mark Schaaf, “City tries hard to land an old farm,” Oak Creek Now, May 25, 2010.

Martinez Property Owners Vow to Keep Up the Fight

The City of Martinez, Calif., is at it again.

Despite local property owners having passed a referendum in 2004 to prevent the city from creating a redevelopment agency in Martinez, Vice Mayor Lara DeLaney is once again trying to force one through the city council.[1] And once again, is facing stiff opposition.

The State of California recently announced they will be taking billions of dollars from local redevelopment agencies to help plug the state’s budget deficit. Yet DeLaney continues her enthusiasm for creating such an agency in Martinez.[2]

Earlier in May, the city council held a meeting to discuss the creation of a redevelopment agency. Property owners that attended the meeting were decidedly against the council’s proposal because of concerns about eminent domain abuse. City officials have tried to convince residents their concerns are unwarranted because the council would not include residential property within future redevelopment areas. But residents know this puts their livelihoods on the chopping block.[3]

OPEN Martinez, the same group of concerned property owners who fought the agency’s formation in 2004, has vowed to fight the city council again. IJ’s Christina Walsh, director of activism and coalitions, traveled to Martinez in March to train them to be effective advocates against eminent domain abuse. A month later, State Assemblyman Chris Norby spoke at the group’s community meeting, where he explained how Proposition 99 fails to protect private property like the city alleges.[4] He pointed out that state law has multiple loopholes that allow redevelopment agencies to use eminent domain to seize homes, even if council members claim they will not use it.

Be sure to visit the OPEN Martinez website for more information on their ongoing efforts.

[1] Lisa P. White, “Same players, same debate at redevelopment kickoff,” Contra Costa Times, March 31, 2010.
[2] Lisa P. White, “Martinez slows push for redevelopment,” Contra Costa Times, May 6, 2010.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Lisa P. White, “State representative blasts redevelopment,” Contra Costa Times, April 20, 2010.

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.

Victory in San Pablo

The San Pablo City Council voted Monday night to ban the use of eminent domain in San Pablo! The city was considering a proposal to re-authorize the use of eminent domain within two giant redevelopment areas covering an estimated 95% of the city.

San Pablo Against Eminent Domain, the group of local property owners opposed to eminent domain abuse, have held rallies before the last two public hearings urging the council to reject the proposal that would put their homes, businesses and churches on the chopping block. Members of the group also presented their objections against eminent domain and the blighting of their properties at the hearings (a critical step in California that ensures the owners maintain some of their rights in court).

The Castle Coalition read about this controversy in the news and reached out to the property owners. Christina Walsh, IJ’s director of activism and coalitions, traveled to San Pablo to speak at a community meeting of concerned citizens, where over 60 people attended. At this meeting, the group formed San Pablo Against Eminent Domain, to present a united front against the city’s ill-conceived and over-reaching proposal. The group continued to meet, organize, make noise and grow in the ensuing weeks.

At the last hearing, the city announced it would postpone a vote on the proposal to an undetermined future date. Responding to continued pressure from the grassroots group, Councilman Morris presented a resolution calling for a ban on eminent domain on Monday, which was approved unanimously with one abstention.

Local property owner Olivia Liou said, “When Council member Paul Morris motioned to vote no to eminent domain, the crowd exploded with cheering and clapping! One after another council member agreed, leading to 4 ayes and 1 abstention. And that has made history in our little town of some 30,000+ residents, mostly blue-collar, many from a Latino background. No attorney, no lawsuits, just the people.”

Another property owner, Margaret Judkins, agreed with Ms. Liou. “It was truly a community effort that convinced the City Council to not reestablish eminent domain. Most importantly, it was our hard work in proving that the city blight survey is severely incorrect, making our city look 94% blight when it is not.”

Local property owners are relieved and overjoyed that the city will not have the power to take what they have worked so hard to own for the next four years.

San Pablo Postpones Decision on Eminent Domain

The San Pablo City Council has postponed its decision on whether to reauthorize its authority to use eminent domain in two expired redevelopment areas that cover over 90 percent of the city. Before the last public hearing, San Pablo Against Eminent Domain organized a huge rally against the proposal where hundreds of concerned property owners protested the abuse of eminent domain. Even more attended the public hearing to voice their objections. The repeated delays by the council seem to be a result of the public pressure heaped upon them by local residents.

San Pablo residents formed the new group a few months ago when the Castle Coalition reached out to property owners upon learning of the city’s plans. Christina Walsh spoke at a community meeting in March, and with her help, local property owners formed San Pablo Against Eminent Domain—a critical step in stopping the city’s plan. The group has continued to grow in numbers since then.

Be sure to check out the group’s website, sanpablotalkback.wordpress.com, for information on upcoming rallies and public hearings.

ATTENTION: Long Beach, Calif. Residents!

Do you own a home, small business or church in Long Beach?

Cities across California use eminent domain to condemn perfectly fine homes, businesses and churches to give to private developers. Eminent domain is supposed to be used for public use, things like roads and schools – not luxury condos and upscale retail.

The City of Long Beach recently renewed its power of eminent domain in North Long Beach. There are three other similar active areas (see second page of flyer, below, for maps).

Whether or not your live in one of these areas, it is critical that you learn how you can protect your home, small busienss or church.

Join Long Beach Citizens Against Eminent Domain Abuse
and the Institute for Justice this
Tuesday, March 30 @ 7pm
Glad Tidings Church • 1900 E. South Street, Long Beach

to learn how you can help change Long Beach’s law so what you’ve worked so hard to own can’t be condemned for wealthy developers.

Free refreshments and materials will be provided.

Help us spread the word and download our flyer to distribute in your community!

Questions? Contact Marilyn Arvizo at (562) 984-9244 or marilynandlupe1@verizon.net, or Christina Walsh with the Institute for Justice at (703) 682-9320 or cwalsh@ij.org.

Click here to register (not required, but requested).

Billionaires vs. Brooklyn

Freddy’s Bar, voted one of the city’s best bars by Village Voice, Esquire, and The New York Times, is in the way of Bruce Ratner’s wrecking ball.

The loyal patrons and employees of Freddy’s will not go down without a fight. Check out this latest video by Reason TV to see why!

NorthSide on Trial

NorthSide on Trial

By Jason A. Orr

The trial has begun for the lawsuit filed by Cheryl Nelson
and other property owners who are threatened by the “pie in the sky” NorthSide
mega-development in St.
Louis, Missouri. The 1,500-acre, $8.1 billion development
project casts whole neighborhoods under a “blight” designation, which allows for
eminent domain to be used to seize their perfectly fine homes and
businesses.

Nelson says that this blight designation has decreased the
property value of her home by 30% since developer Paul McKee announced his
grandiose plan to build a shiny new neighborhood overtop the one that was
already there.[1]

Attorneys for the plaintiffs argued that the NorthSide
project area was just fine before the developer showed up – even the report
financed by McKee that found the neighborhood to be “blighted” admits that 75%
of the structures in the area were in “fair” or “excellent” condition.[2]

The plaintiffs accuse the city of wrongly declaring their
neighborhoods as “blighted” in order to enable $390 million in tax breaks that
officials want to hand over to Paul McKee.
Aldermen Kacie Starr Triplet said that declaring a neighborhood blighted
is just a “procedural” step the city takes before granting a development project
such tax abatement.[3]

She added that eminent domain would not be used for the
project… even though the city reserves the power to use it at any time.[4]
Residents are urged to simply take her
word for it. Victims of eminent domain
abuse nationwide know not to believe these empty promises.

City aldermen, in the meantime, are looking for a quick-fix
for the economic trouble that has affected neighborhoods in the NorthSide area
in recent years. The development already
occurring without public subsidies or the threat of eminent domain is just too
slow for city officials who want to wave a magic wand and see prosperity and the
increased tax revenues that come with it.
“This was an opportunity to have a major development,” said Alderwoman
Triplet, complaining that “incremental development” was not on the same scale as
McKee’s large but financially uncertain project.[5]

Alderman Freeman Bosley Sr. does not even care that the
project is unlikely to work. “It
certainly might be a pipe dream,” he said. “Until it actually occurs, you never
know. Let’s try it. Nobody’s going to get hurt.”[6]

Nobody gets hurt, except for Cheryl Nelson and hundreds of
other homeowners who may be booted out of their communities, so that a hot-shot
developer can bulldoze their neighborhoods to build more profitable and more
expensive houses.

Whom do these Aldermen represent?



[1]
Tim Bryant, “Bosley says give McKee a chance He says NorthSide is worth
pursuing,” St. Louis Post-DispatchMissouri),
Feb. 26, 2010 at B1.

[2]
Brian Flinchpaugh, “Testimony continues in NorthSide redevelopment court case,”
St. Louis Globe-DemocratMissouri), Feb. 25,
2010.

[3]
Tim Bryant, “Bosley says give McKee a chance He says NorthSide is worth
pursuing,” St. Louis Post-DispatchMissouri),
Feb. 26, 2010 at B1.

[4] Ibid.

[5]
Brian Flinchpaugh, “Testimony continues in NorthSide redevelopment court case,”
St. Louis Globe-DemocratMissouri), Feb. 25,
2010.

[6]
Tim Bryant, “Bosley says give McKee a chance He says NorthSide is worth
pursuing,” St. Louis Post-DispatchMissouri),
Feb. 26, 2010 at B1.

San Pablo Seeks to Reauthorize

The San Pablo Redevelopment Agency in California has just announced their intentions to reauthorize their power of eminent domain for another twelve years. They argue that property owners should not be concerned because the city has no intention of using eminent domain—it is only an “important tool” to be used as a “last resort.” But if they have no intention of using this “important tool,” then why do they want it?

San Pablo also says that homeowners are protected by Proposition 99. That is misleading. Proposition 99 only protects homeowners who have lived in their homes for more than one year and whose homes have not been declared “blighted.” As the term “blight” in California is very broad, homes can be labeled “blighted” simply because officials want to replace the existing homes with something more glamorous.

San Pablo residents are absolutely right to be concerned about the city’s proposal. A majority of homes and businesses in San Pablo could be on the chopping block if the city gets their way.

Read the full story here.

Tour a

Take a tour of the North Side community with the Show Me Institute’s Dave Roland and see how developer Paul McKee’s blight study misrepresented this thriving area in St. Louis, Missouri.

Take the tour here.