MS Senator Cites IJ’s Research in Call for Eminent Domain Reform

Mississippi voters are set to decide on November 8 whether or not to reform the state’s eminent domain laws to better protect property owners. Only Mississippi, Arkansas, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Oklahoma have so far failed to act in the wake of Kelo. The Mississippi legislature did pass legislative reform in 2009, but it was quickly vetoed by Governor Barbour.

Mississippians have now taken the matter into their own hands, placing eminent domain reform on November’s ballot by way of Initiative 31. Read more about the initiative in State Senator Chris McDaniel’s op-ed in the Laurel Leader-Call, which cites IJ’s research on eminent domain.

CA Supreme Court to Hear Redevelopment Lawsuit on Nov. 10

The California Supreme Court announced today that they will hear oral arguments on November 10th on the lawsuit challenging legislation passed this summer that mandates California’s 398 redevelopment agencies make a collective payment of $1.7 billion the first year, and $400 million in subsequent years.  If the redevelopment agencies refuse or are unable to make the payment, they will be dissolved.

The redevelopment agencies claim the legislation authorizes money grabs, yet they have been taking money from hardworking taxpayers for boondoggle projects for decades.  Read more in the Mercury News.

Victory in Jersey City

On September 27, the Jersey City Council voted unanimously to pass the McGinley Square Rehabilitation Plan, which removed the threat of eminent domain that previously existed in the redevelopment plan. The original proposal had caused an outcry from property owners, rightly concerned that their homes and businesses were on the chopping block.

Read more about this exciting news here.

Update on California Redevelopment

The fight over redevelopment has been splashed across papers from Sacramento to San Diego this past summer.  In June, Governor Brown signed two bills into law. The first dissolved the over 400 redevelopment agencies in the Golden State. The second, however, allowed redevelopment agencies to live on as long as they agreed to make a collective payment of $1.7 billion in the first year and $400 millions in subsequent years.

Redevelopment agencies are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Not liking either of the two choices, redevelopment agencies barely waited for the ink on the bills to dry before filing a lawsuit. They claim the bills are an unconstitutional money grab of redevelopment dollars by the state. The case will be heard by California’s highest court, which established an expedited schedule to allow a decision to be made before January 15, 2012.

Read the Castle Coalition’s press release urging the legislature to eliminate redevelopment agencies here.

New London Finds "Public Use" for Fort Trumbull

New London politicians have finally found a “public use” for the land where Susette Kelo and her neighbors’ homes once stood.  The city has now designated the swath of land a lot suitable for storm debris.

More than six years after the New London Development Corporation bulldozed the Fort Trumbull neighborhood to clear the way for private development, the land remains a barren wasteland.  Most recently, the land was being used by feral cats and several bird species as nesting grounds.

New London politicians were convinced that someone else could make better use of the land than the Fort Trumbull residents.  Despite seizing these waterfront homes in 2005 for “economic development” purposes, New London has yet to attract a private developer to build the luxury condos and commercial spaces they wanted instead of the close-knit community that lived there.  Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer even closed the local production plant central to development plans put forth by the city.

Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon outcome of eminent domain abuse. The Institute for Justice has documented some of the worst redevelopment failures in Redevelopment Wrecks, available here on our website.

NY Supreme Court Scrutinizes Atlantic Yards Project

A July 13, 2011 New York Supreme Court ruling has brought further scrutiny to the unscrupulous nature of the Atlantic Yards project.

The court’s ruling declares that Forest City Ratner Companies’ Atlantic Yards plan assumes an unrealistic 10-year construction timeline. Consequently, the developer must submit a more accurate environmental impact statement followed by review proceedings on the statement, a possible public hearing and approval pursuant with the State Environmental Quality Review Act.[1]

The decision cites a December 2010 New York City government study finding it “unlikely that the [Atlantic Yards p]roject will be constructed on [the originally planned] 10-year schedule.” The study goes on to suggest that the completion date may be as late as 2035.[2]

The first phase of construction, including a basketball arena and three residential buildings, will not be halted because of “the extent to which construction of Phase I has already occurred.” Moreover, the second phase, thirteen residential buildings, was not stayed as construction is not likely to begin for years.[3]

Read coverage by The Wall Street Journal here.


[1] Develop Don’t Destroy (Brooklyn) Inc et al v. Empire State Development Corporation et al, Supreme Court of the State of New York County of New York, No. 114631/09.
[2] ibid.
[3] ibid.

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.