Negotiating with the threat of eminent domain: You might as well condemn


By Jared Blanchard, Institute for Justice Maffucci Fellow

Local governments many times justify a redevelopment plan that involves eminent domain by arguing that most properties in redevelopment zones are acquired through “negotiation.” While this may sound reassuring, the truth of the matter is that quite often these so-called “negotiations” are coerced arrangements forced on property owners by the local governments. Can these dealings really be called “negotiations” if the government and its developer friends are guaranteed to get what they want? Case in point: for officials in Millville, N.J., “negotiate” is just another word for “threaten.”

When Millville officials decided they wanted Millville Gardens, a 102-unit apartment complex, demolished and under city ownership in order to entice a developer to build a mixed-use facility on the six-acre property, they wasted no time setting the tone for negotiations.

In a letter sent to the lawyer representing the owners of the complex, the city immediately threatened to seize the property through eminent domain if the owners did not take the city’s “fair market value” offer of $2.7 million.

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