CVS, Victim and Beneficiary of Eminent Domain for Private Use
CVS, the largest pharmacy chain in the nation, has seen both sides of the coin when it comes to eminent domain abuse. In two cases over the last five years, local redevelopment agencies tried to condemn CVS store locations for the benefit of CVS competitors.
As part of a convoluted 1999 deal to condemn private property for a Nordstrom department store, Cincinnati began the process of condemning a CVS for a Walgreens (CVS’s chief regional competitor) that had been condemned for the Nordstrom, which in turn was never built. CVS sued to stop the condemnation of its store, but eventually got to keep the land under a settlement by which the City moved Walgreens to a location across the street from the CVS. In 2002, Warwick, New York, began condemning a CVS store. After the Grand Union grocery store chain went bankrupt, CVS opened up in the former Grand Union location in downtown Warwick. The town’s mayor, who is part-owner of a competing local pharmacy, operated by his brother and sister, decided to condemn the CVS, supposedly so that City officials could lure another grocery chain to open in the Grand Union location. As of early 2003, the Warwick condemnation is still under negotiation.
One would think, after these two bitterly-fought battles to keep its stores from being condemned for private use, that CVS would refrain from trying the same tactic to take others’ land for its own benefit. However, as cases from Pemberton Township, New Jersey, and Ambridge, Pennsylvania, demonstrate, CVS may want to keep its own stores but doesn’t see that other people might want that as well. At the chain’s request, Pemberton officials threatened to condemn a solo obstetrician’s medical practice and a clothing store unless the owners of the properties agreed to sell. In the Ambridge case, CVS convinced the Borough Council to condemn four homes and five businesses, none of whose owners wanted to move, and none of which were vacant or dilapidated, just because CVS wanted to have a more central location than its other store 10 blocks away.
Oh well, in the case of CVS, at least the score is even.
Sources: All of these cases appear in this report in the sections for their respective cities.