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NJ Governor Candidates Response to Eminent Domain
The Governor believes that instead of using eminent domain, the
Government should attempt to use more narrowly focused legislative
initiatives to achieve its goals on matters like open space
As for the role of the Public Advocate, the Governor believes that
through legal advocacy, policy research and reform, investigation of
abuse and neglect, community partnerships, legislative and regulatory
action, education, and outreach, the Office of the Public Advocate acts
as a voice for the people on a range of critical issues.
Mr. Christie believes in the use of eminent domain in some
circumstances, but it should not be abused and for the benefit of
private companies. He spoke to the NJ Realtors on this issue.
The Office of the Public Advocate: State government should have the
authority to use its funds efficiently, including fraud investigations.
There are interests of inside and outside litigation.
Mr. Daggett won¹t rule out the use of eminent domain, but it should be
applied with a structured standard. There is a definite situation of
abuse when properties are taken but nothing is built. Some cases are
clear and others are not. He would develop legislation, but thinks
eminent domain must be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Important N.J.Case Decisions:
MTOTSA vs Long Branch, September 2009
reached between homeowners and city. Click here to read about the
victory for the property owners.
Gallenthin vs Paulsboro, June 2007
New Jersey Supreme Court decided Gallenthin v. Paulsboro, which prevents
cities from seizing land solely because it is underutilized. The
decision also contains a minimum standard for the “substantial
evidence” test, required to designate “blight.”
DeRose vs Harrison/Amaral vs Harrison, February 2008
court ruled that the 45-day limit to file suit against a municipality's
effort to blight property for redevelopment is constitutional only if
the owner received notice that the action contemplated by the
redevelopment may result in the condemnation of their property.
The court also found that if a
property owner withdraws all or part of the funds the municipality sets
as the value at time of condemnation, the property owner does not
forfeit his/her rights to contest the value nor the blight designation.
Long Branch Homeowners(MTOTSA) vs City of Long Branch
three-judge panel of the New Jersey Appellate Division unanimously
reversed the June 2006 decision of Superior Court Judge Lawrence Lawson,
which allowed the city of Long Branch, N.J., to condemn a charming
seaside neighborhood known as MTOTSA for a luxury condominium
development. This is the latest in a series of major decisions from New
Jersey courts, including the Supreme Court, recognizing that state law
and the New Jersey Constitution place real limits on the power of
government to condemn property for private development.
After explaining how the lower court misapplied the law, the court of
appeals found that the city did not provide "substantial
evidence" to support its findings of blight.
"The Court basically told the
city that if that's all it has, it can't take these homes," said
Scott Bullock, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, which
represents many of the homeowners along with Peter Wegener of Bathgate,
Wegener & Wolf in Lakewood, N.J. "It's too late for the city to
manufacture more evidence, so the Court's ruling is a fatal blow to the
city. We are confident the owners will prevail on remand." The
owners will also have the opportunity to show that changing the plan to
use eminent domain was illegal.
This ruling builds on, and
reinforces, last summer's landmark New Jersey Supreme Court decision in
Gallenthin Realty Development, Inc. v. Borough of Paulsboro, 191 N.J.
344 (2007), in which the state's high court held that the government
cannot declare an area "blighted" and seize property simply
because the government wants to engage in economic development.
The entire three-judge panel
joined in the decision and wrote, "We agree with appellants that,
in light of the principles laid down in Gallenthin, the City did not
find actual blight under any subsection of N.J.S.A. 40A:12A-5, that the
record lacked substantial evidence that could have supported the New
Jersey Constitution's standard for finding blight, and that the absence
of substantial evidence of blight compels reversal."
The next step in the case will
take place in the trial court, where Judge Lawson will hold a hearing.
Under today's ruling, unless the city can produce a secret file
containing substantial evidence of blight in the neighborhood, its
efforts to bulldoze modest homes for a private developer must fail.
"This victory for the Long
Branch homeowners is a victory for property owners across the Garden
State, sending a clear message that abusers of eminent domain will be
held accountable," said Bullock.
Lori Vendetti, a longtime MTOTSA
homeowner and a leader in the fight to save the neighborhood, said,
"This obviously shows that something wasn't done right. It's
vindication." Long Branch's MTOTSA neighborhood is an acronym for
the streets Marine Terrace, Ocean Terrace and Seaview Avenue.
"New Jersey courts understand
that 'blight' and 'redevelopment' are often merely smokescreens for
taking valuable property from people of modest means and giving it to
rich and powerful developers," said Jeff Rowes, a staff attorney
with the Institute for Justice. He added, "Our long-awaited trial
will expose the City's eminent domain abuse as the sham it is."
Wins for Property Rights in NJ:
Linwood Inn in Linden removed from redevelopment
September 22, 2008
John Neshimka feels the
imaginary chains around his South Wood Avenue business have finally been
That's due to City Council action on Tuesday, Sept. 16, which removed
the Linwood Inn at 19 S. Wood Ave., which Neshimka and his wife own,
from designation within the city's South Wood Avenue Redevelopment Area.
The measure, which spared the historic building from possible
condemnation and demolition, was unanimously approved by the council
"It's over, thank God.," John Neshimka said Tuesday after the
meeting. "It's a big relief. It's been a long time. It's like the
chains are taken off."
Both he and his wife, Lori Neshimka, noted they have been fighting the
city and the Union County Improvement Authority since before their
children, Bobbie, 5 and Jenna, 3, were born.
Mayor Richard Gerbounka said the city was able to remove the inn from
the redevelopment designation after a recent court ruling terminated the
city's contract with Verge Properties to redevelop the South Wood Avenue
area. The ruling allows the city to rethink which properties will be
included in the redevelopment plan.
He said it would have been too
expensive for the city to acquire the inn property and relocate the
boarders and tenants living above the first-floor restaurant.
"From an economic standpoint
it was not feasible," said Gerbounka, who estimated the cost would
have been about $1.2 million. Gerbounka said he knows the ruling and the
council's actions have taken a lot of weight off the Neshimkas'
"We appreciate the action
taken tonight by the City Council, Council President Robert Bunk and
Mayor Richard Gerbounka. Their passing of a resolution removing the
Linwood Inn from the South Wood Avenue Redevelopment Area finally undid
the wrongful labeling of the Linwood Inn as "neglected property in
need of redevelopment," the couple said in a written statement in
which they thanked Beatrice Bernzott, the Tremley Point Alliance, the
Linden Historical Society, their attorney Peter Dickson, friends and
neighbors for their help.
"We now look forward to the
renaissance of Wood Avenue, which is historically the heart of Linden.
We don't know what the future holds but we have paved the way for the
Linwood Inn to stay, and be surrounded by the new "transit
village," they said.
The Linwood Inn, which dates back
to 1882, houses a restaurant on the first floor, a boarding house on the
second floor and apartments on the third floor. The building also houses
the Linden Historical Society's displays of artifacts, memorabilia, and
Several years ago the Planning
Board designated the inn as part of an "area in need of
redevelopment" within the four-block South Wood Avenue
Redevelopment Project Area. The designation allows the city to acquire
properties through condemnation, if the owners refuse to sell.
With upgrades such as brick face,
vinyl siding and more than $500,000 worth of improvements, the couple
said their building did not resemble the deteriorating structures in the
area. Nonetheless, their building was included in the redevelopment
project area because its location, at the intersection of Wood and
Linden avenues. The site intersected with a planned Transit Village ‹
a planned development of housing, retail and commercial uses based
around the Linden Train Station.
The couple said one of the key
reason the redevelopment designation was dropped was because they were
never properly information of the inn's inclusion in the redevelopment
area. Instead the inn's previous owner was notified.
Both the couple and their attorney
have always maintained that the building should not have been classified
as a property in need of redevelopment because it was not substandard,
functionally obsolete and did not exert an adverse influence on the
Gerbounka said the city plans to
proceed with redevelopment but at a slower pace and on a more piecemeal
basis. The city plans to seek mixed use development proposals in
December for the vacant tract on South Wood Avenue, across from the
Linwood Inn, before proceeding with redevelopment of other tracts in the
"We want to try to work with
the property owners," said Gerbounka adding the city will only look
to exercise eminent domain if necessary.
Judge orders halt to Harrison work
Thursday, April 03, 2008
By MAURA McDERMOTT
NEWHOUSE NEWS SERVICE
HARRISON - Redevelopment work in downtown Harrison was at a
standstill today after a Superior Court judge issued an order halting
The work cannot resume until it is clear whether the Harrison
Redevelopment Agency had the right to condemn properties there, Judge
Maurice Gallipoli ruled in Jersey City.
Gallipoli's stop-work order affects properties near the Harrison PATH
train station, where Steve Adler owned parking lots and industrial
buildings, said Anthony Della Pelle, Adler's attorney.
The redevelopers are spending $15 million to clean up contamination
at Adler's properties, said Paul Fernicola, an attorney for Harrison
Commons, which is building nearly 500 residences north of the PATH
Adler and three other landowners have been fighting Harrison's
condemnation of their properties, saying the town did not give them
enough warning that their land could be seized.
In February, a state appeals court ruled in the property owners'
favor and sent the case back to the lower court. Gallipoli, who ruled in
favor of the town more than a year ago, has scheduled another hearing in
May, Della Pelle said. A new trial could begin after that, he said.
Judge rules city failed to prove that the 14-acre site on Mulberry
Street is 'blighted'
Friday, July 20, 2007
BY KATIE WANG
A Superior Court judge in Essex County has dealt a major blow to a
plan to build 2,000 condominiums in downtown Newark, saying the city
failed to prove the area in question is deteriorating and in need of
The 71-page decision, issued yesterday, cites the watershed state
Supreme Court decision, Gallenthin Realty Development Inc. vs. Borough
of Paulsboro, handed down earlier this year that limits the government's
power to seize land.
In the Newark case, Judge Marie P. Simonelli said the city cannot
designate the 14-acre Mulberry Street area "blighted" simply
because the property could be used for better purposes. Property owners
fought the designation, saying the area was still thriving and that they
did not want their land to be seized through eminent domain.
"The court finds that the city declared the entire Mulberry
Street area as an area in need of redevelopment solely because it is not
properly utilized and fully productive," Simonelli said in her
decision. "Under the Gallenthin holding, this declaration does not
meet the constitutional requirement of blight and must be invalidated
and set aside."
The decision puts the future of the condo project in jeopardy, though
all parties involved disagreed on whether the project is dead or viable
in an amended form. The Mulberry Street condo project, which was to be
developed by the Newark Redevelopment Corp., is slated for a prime tract
one block from the Prudential Center arena, scheduled to open in
Stefan Pryor, the deputy mayor in charge of economic development,
said the Booker administration is analyzing the judge's decision and
refused to say whether it will appeal.
"The outcome of the case will not affect the arena
project," he said.
John Buonocore, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, declared
the condo project dead.
"We are delighted that the court saw through this pre-arranged
land grab on behalf of politically favored developers," Buonocore
said. "The ruling sends a message to politicians across the state
that the courts will not sustain economic development takings under the
guise of the redevelopment laws."
Bruce J. Wishnia, one of the principals of Newark Redevelopment
Corp., said the decision is a sad day for the city and the state. He
said he is not sure what this means for the overall project.
"If the Mulberry Street area is not in need of redevelopment,
then the court needs to tell us what kind of area would be,"
Wishnia said. "If this decision if not reversed, it will
effectively shut the door on urban redevelopment in our state."
The Mulberry decision comes at a time when land and redevelopment
issues are under intense public scrutiny in a city that has struggled
for decades to rebuild itself.
One week ago, Sharpe James, who served as mayor for two decades, was
indicted on charges he steered lucrative land deals to companion Tamika
Riley. The property owners in the Mulberry case have long alleged
political contributions from the developers swayed council members to
vote in favor of declaring the area in need of redevelopment.
The judge concluded her opinion with a tart reference to James'
"This evidence certainly provides cause to question the results
and validity of the redevelopment investigation," she said.
"However, the court mentions it for historical purposes only and
makes no determination of the merits of plaintiff's corruption claim. It
appears that such a determination may be made in the recently initiated
criminal proceedings involving former Mayor James."
The Mulberry Street Redevelopment project made its debut five years
ago during James' administration. In November 2002, Wishnia and his
partner, Emile Farina, a former aide to then Councilwoman Bessie Walker,
pitched the idea to Nathan Allen, director of the city's Department of
Economic and Housing Development.
Plans called for the Newark Redevelopment Corp. to negotiate with
property owners for their land. If negotiations failed, the developers
planned to ask the city to use its condemnation powers to seize those
According to Simonelli's ruling, there is no evidence any
negotiations took place.
Instead, she said, the city pursued an investigation into declaring
the area in need of redevelopment, paving the way for condemnation.
In her decision, Simonelli leveled stinging criticism at the snug
relationship between developers and officials in the city. Attorneys,
relatives and consultants affiliated with Wishnia and Farina donated an
additional $53,325 to some council members when they were making
critical decisions about the project, according to the plaintiffs.
"There is evidence in the present case that the Mulberry Street
Redevelopment project and NRC's role as its developer was "a done
deal," a fait accompli, before the required statutory redevelopment
process began," Simonelli said.
City-hired planner David Roberts issued a report in April 2004
declaring the area in need of redevelopment because the parking lots,
storage yards and businesses in the area "consumes land that could
otherwise be available for much more productive uses."
But Simonelli faulted Roberts' report, saying it lacked empirical
evidence to support his conclusions.
On Oct. 14, 2004, the planning board passed a resolution recommending
the city declare the Mulberry Street area in need of redevelopment. The
city council agreed and on Nov. 3, 2004, it passed a resolution
declaring the area in need of redevelopment.
Katie Wang may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (973) 392-1504.
|Lodi trailer park
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
LODI -- Ceding victory to residents and owners of two trailer
parks in a five-year legal
battle over eminent domain, the Borough Council has dropped its
attempt to seize the
privately owned property.
The council voted unanimously Monday night to forgo an appeal
of a lower court decision
that found the borough had no grounds to seize about 20 acres at
the trailer parks.
Borough officials had argued the area along heavily traveled
Route 46 was blighted and that
allowing a private developer to redevelop the sites was in the
public interest because it
would boost tax revenues.
But members of the newly installed five-member council, which
took office July 1, said they
decided to withdraw the appeal after concluding the borough
would lose the court fight.
"It's a no-win situation and we put these people through
hell," said Mayor Karen Viscana,
who succeeded Gary Paparozzi. "We didn't want to waste any
Viscana, who had voted in favor of the land seizure as a
member of the Planning Board and
later on the council, said she had been advised the council
"would look foolish if we didn't
continue" with the eminent domain appeal, but that new
borough attorney Scott Sproveiro
indicated the trailer park owners and residents were likely to
win the case.
More than 200 residents live at Brown's Trailer Park and
Costa Trailer Court. Members
of Save Our Homes, a tenants' rights group they formed to fight
the borough's contention
that the area was "in need of redevelopment," rejoiced
on Tuesday at the council's
decision not to appeal.
"We're all thrilled," said Mildred Samuels, 80, who
lives at Costa Trailer Court. "We're
having a fundraiser September 16 to pay our lawyers. Now it's
going to be a celebration."
"I believe that a lot of people in town found this
repugnant on a lot of levels," said Kendall
Kardt, president of Save Our Homes. "They felt threatened
themselves by the idea that
eminent domain could be used to put people out of their
Robert Bonanno, owner of Brown's Trailer Park, said he hoped
the council's action will
put trailer park residents' minds "at ease."
"We felt we were going to come out winners, but I'm glad
the new council and mayor
have changed the direction. We appreciate it very much," he
In October 2005, a state Superior Court judge ruled the
borough had not provided
sufficient evidence that the trailer parks were in a condition
meeting the definition of blight.
The borough then appealed that decision, and the case was heard
in Hackensack before
the state Appellate Division of state Superior Court in January.
Paparozzi, who lost in the May elections, said he believed
the current council bowed to
public pressure in voting to withdraw the appeal. Paparozzi aid
he stands by the
borough's earlier contention that the trailer parks are blighted
In a 2005 case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in Kelo vs.
New London, Conn., which
concerned the use of eminent domain to transfer land from one
private owner to another
for economic development, the court determined in a 5-4 decision
that the benefits a
community received from economic growth qualified redevelopment
plans as a
permissible "public use" under the Takings Clause of
the Fifth Amendment.
Nevertheless, the court's decision has been roundly
criticized by public officials and
property owners, as a violation of property rights and as a
misinterpretation of the Fifth
The Lodi case, and an eminent domain case in Long Branch,
have garnered attention
statewide as examples in which local governments have attempted
to seize private land
for private redevelopment rather than for public use, such as a
Last month, the state Supreme Court ruled that local
governments can use eminent
domain to seize only lands that are "blighted" after
the town of Paulsboro attempted to
acquire a 63-acre tract for redevelopment through eminent domain
by arguing the land
NJ SUPREME COURT GIVES EMINENT DOMAIN
ABUSE FIGHTERS A BIG VICTORY
Below is a Press Release from the Institute for Justice issued June 13,
New Jersey Supreme Court Limits Bogus Blight Designations
Arlington, Va.-Today, the New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously struck
down an attempt by the Borough of Paulsboro to "blight" a
vacant piece of property, holding that the fact that a piece of land is
"not fully productive" cannot be used as a basis for including
the property in a redevelopment area.
"This decision is very important for the hundreds of property
owners in New Jersey fighting to save their homes and small businesses
from eminent domain abuse," said Scott Bullock, an Institute for
Justice senior attorney who argued the Kelo v. City of New London case
before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 and who is representing homeowners
in Long Branch, N.J., in an eminent domain case currently before New
Jersey’s appellate court. "The Court made it absolutely clear
that the judiciary must play a vital role in reviewing bogus blight
declarations by tax-hungry municipalities throughout the state."
The Institute filed an amicus curiae brief in the Gallenthin v. Borough
of Paulsboro case on the side of the property owner.
In its opinion, the Court warned of the danger of open-ended blight
designations used by the Borough in this case and by many other
municipalities throughout New Jersey: "Under [the Borough’s]
approach, any property that is operated in a less than optimal manner is
arguably ‘blighted.’ If such an all-encompassing definition of
‘blight’ were adopted, most property in the State would be eligible
The opinion also contains some very helpful language to the homeowners
fighting the condemnation of their properties in Long Branch. In
discussing the level of proof needed by governments in redevelopment
cases, the Court declared: "[A] municipality must establish a
record that contains more than a bland recitation of applicable
statutory criteria and a declaration that those criteria are met.
Because a redevelopment designation carries serious implications for
property owners, the net opinion of an expert is simply too slender a
reed on which to rest that determination."
"In declaring a perfectly fine neighborhood ‘blighted,’ the
City of Long Branch relied on the very type of bland, conclusory
evidence that the Supreme Court in this case declares inadequate,"
said Jeff Rowes, an Institute for Justice staff attorney who authored
the Institute’s amicus brief in the Gallenthin case and who represents
the Long Branch homeowners. "The Court’s decision definitely
strengthens our argument that Long Branch violated New Jersey law in
taking the homes of long-time residents."
"The New Jersey Supreme Court joins other state high courts,
including Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Maryland, and Missouri, in
starting to cut back on the abuse of eminent domain and redevelopment
powers by local municpalities," said Dana Berliner, an IJ senior
attorney who argued the case at the Ohio Supreme Court. In the wake of
the Kelo decision, many state supreme courts are visiting these issues
for the first time in decades and increasing judicial oversight of
Institute for Justice
Cramer Hill Plan Won't take Houses
By JIM WALSH Courier-Post Staff
A city official on Wednesday outlined a sharply scaled-back
redevelopment strategy for Cramer Hill that would not force any residents
from their homes.
The $423 million proposal, which would replace a $1.2 billion plan
struck down by a judge last year, calls for development of almost 1,200
new homes and renovation of 1,000 existing residences, said Charles E.
Lyons Jr., the city's chief of planning.
The first plan called for construction of 5,000 to 6,000 houses, but
was challenged in courts by residents concerned about the loss of homes
through eminent domain, or an involuntary sale to the government.
"We are not acquiring any occupied residential housing,"
Lyons said of the new approach. "Whether it's a house or an
apartment, we're not buying."
Among other changes, the new plan also is expected to preserve the
formerly threatened Ablett Village and Centennial Village housing
projects. Instead of being demolished, those complexes would be upgraded,
He said the city also does not plan to force the sale of any commercial
or institutional properties in Cramer Hill.
"This is a major, major, major victory for the people," said
Carmen Ubarry-Rivera, head of the Cramer Hill Residents Association.
"They were going to displace 5,000 people (under the original plan)
and now they won't displace anyone."
She expressed regret that the city will seek to acquire 13 industrial
properties, but added "they're big boys and they have to handle that
William Hargrove, the owner of an industrial site that would hold a new
school under the revised plan, vowed to fight the proposal.
"I have no intention of giving our rights up," he said.
Lyons said the new plan will focus on construction of new homes and
apartments on some 730 vacant lots in Cramer Hill, a largely Hispanic
neighborhood along the Delaware River. The strategy calls for about 470 of
the new units to be sold at market prices, he said.
Renovations would take place predominantly in the areas of Cramer Hill
that are most densely populated, Lyons said. He noted the city's decision
not to use eminent domain will likely impede efforts to reduce density in
some areas that are considered overcrowded.
Lyons said the city's decision to avoid displacement of current
residents will extend to every neighborhood.
Lyons said a list of sites to be acquired does not yet exist, but would
be part of a proposal that would go before the city planning board in July
or August. If approved by the planning board, the proposal then would go
before the City Council in September or October.
The city's Economic Redevelopment Agency then would designate a
developer for the plan, he said.
The original redevelopment plan for Cramer Hill collapsed in May 2006
when a Superior Court judge ruled the city had failed to swear in
witnesses before its adoption.
The original proposal was unveiled in 2004 by Cherokee Investment
Partners, a North Carolina firm, when Camden's redevelopment was being
guided by Randy Primas, then the city's chief operating officer.
Primas has since left that post, which is being held on an interim
basis by Theodore Z. Davis, a former judge.
Cherokee would still like to have a role in Cramer Hill's
redevelopment, said Lyons. But Cherokee would work at reclaiming
environmentally damaged land rather than construction of new homes, he
The revised proposal, which was reached after a series of meetings with
Cramer Hill residents, still calls for a golf course on the site of a
former landfill off Harrison Avenue.
It also calls for a number of institutional, open space and retail
projects, including a 300,000-square-foot shopping center at River and
Reach Jim Walsh at (856) 486-2646 or email@example.com
Public Advocate Ronald Chen meets with StopEDA
New Jersey’s Public Advocate Ronald K. Chen Addressed Eminent Domain
Before Large Audience on Sunday
Written by Bernice Roberts
ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS HERALD
Tuesday, 16 January 2007
NEPTUNE, NJ - Ronald K. Chen raised hope for relief to New
Jersey residents in their struggle against eminent domain abuse. At
the January14, meeting of STOPEDA (a statewide organization devoted to
stopping eminent domain abuse), Ronald K. Chen brought his message to a
full house in the Redeemer Lutheran Church, Neptune.
An affable, eminently approachable man, Chen’s smile was as
reassuring as his informative talk. His delivery made for easy
listening. Changing the eminent domain practices now rampant
throughout the state is a formidable job, but it is clear that Ronald Chen
has the respect and confidence of the majority in New Jersey behind
him. He also brings his experience as Associate Dean for
Academic Affairs at Rutgers University School of Law, a position he held
when named Public Advocate.
It was on March 27, 2006, that Governor Jon Corzine appointed Chen
New Jersey State Public Advocate. Very soon after, on May 18, 2006,
Ronald K. Chen issued his report to the governor and Legislature on
eminent domain. Carlin and Ward’s New Jersey Law Blog,
had this to say of Chen’s outstanding achievement: "The
report addresses the Local Redevelopment Housing Law (LRHL, N.J.S.A. 40A
12-1 et seq.) In so doing, Chen goes right to the epicenter of the eminent
domain controversy: most of the debate surrounding eminent domain abuse
arises in the context of redevelopment projects undertaken by
municipalities pursuant to the LRHL.
Chen gives the history of blight in New Jersey from its inclusion in the
1947 Constitution to its metamorphosis into an "area in need of
redevelopment" as contained in the present version of the LRHL,
N.J.S.A. 40A: 12-5 (a.-h.)."
Chen filed his Amicus Curiae brief on Thursday, January 11, on
behalf of the Anzalone family in the Long Branch Eminent
Domain case, a brief which Long Branch Mayor Adam Schneider and Attorney
James Aaron had unsuccessfully sought to block. The case will be
heard by the appellate court.
Superior Court Judge Lawrence M. Lawson had written into his
decision in favor of the City of Long Branch and against the
homeowners the denial of the right to appeal his decision. It was
through the granted appeal of the 'taking of the Anzalone home' that
Attorney William Ward effected a stay for all of MTOTSA homes and thus
this contested abuse of eminent domain can be heard by the appellate
The Public Advocate was asked to comment on the Asbury Park Press
story of January 12, in which Mayor Adam Schneider, a harsh critic of
Chen, complained that when he asked Chen "whether he had even read
Lawson’s opinion, Chen said he couldn’t remember." Chen
recounted the circumstances surrounding Schneider’s question to him,
then graciously and good-naturedly offered the reason for the mayor’s
apparent misperception as such: Mayor Schneider had hastened upon
him during the rush of meetings at the League of Municipalities’
Convention in Atlantic City. "He was speaking very quickly so I
couldn’t make out what he was saying. Not hearing very well midst
the noise of the convention, I wasn’t even sure who it was that was
speaking to me, and I was due to give a presentation within the next few
minutes." In fact, Chen assured, "We read Judge Lawson’s
decision the moment it appeared."
The City of Long Branch will respond to the
appeal by April 9, while the Institute for Justice, co-representing the
homeowners, will file by February 5.
Long Branch "ground zero'' in battle over eminent
COASTAL MONMOUTH BUREAU
LONG BRANCH - State Public Advocate Ronald K. Chen this
morning said he will participate in an appeal filed by some
residents of the Marine Terrace, Ocean Terrace, Seaview
Avenue area who are opposing the city's efforts to take
their properties by eminent domain.
Chen, who visited Long Branch when he was preparing his May
18 report that recommended reforms in the use of the
government's right to take properties for a public purpose,
joined in a press conference convened by the property owners
and the Institute for Justice, the nonprofit law firm based
The institute, which has handled some of the landmark
eminent domain cases in the nation, has announced it will
formally join the case as co-counsel to Peter H. Wegener,
who represents most of the 20 or so property owners who are
fighting the city's redevelopment plans.
Chip Mellor, institute president, said Long Branch was now
"ground zero'' for the nationwide fight against what he
called eminent domain abuse.
Chen said he would file a "friend of the court'' brief
in support of MTOTSA's position.
"Eminent domain is an awesome power that should be used
only in narrow and rare circumstances,'' he said in a press
release. "The New Jersey Constitution appropriately
imposes stringent limitations on the ability of local
governments to use it for private redevelopment. The facts
in this case raise serious concerns regarding whether these
homeowners received fair treatment throughout this process,
and I believe it is appropriate for the Appellate Division
to review this
Chen was referring, in part, to Superior Court Judge
Lawrence M. Lawson's decision not to allow the homeowners to
have a hearing to demonstrate their position that their
properties are not blighted.
Chen also said early in the process, the residents received
conflicting information about whether their homes would be
Halpers scheduled for eviction from their
farm in Piscataway on July 10, 2006
After the famous "Machiavelli" phrase uttered by resigned
Governor Jim McGreevey-
it's hard to imagine the Halpers farm is still being taken from them by
Who does Piscataway and Middlesex County officials think they are
fooling? The Halpers
74 acre farm is prime real estate. Already surrounded by new housing,
Rutgers University, and big box retailers and restaurants. It is being
taken for "open space", but how long before we see housing and
more being constructed by the politically connected?
WE NEED TO SHOW SOLIDARITY AND BE THERE FOR THE HALPERS ON
JULY 10TH ! The
eviction is scheduled for 3pm. AN IMPRESSIVE SHOWING WILL SEND AN
IMPORTANT MESSAGE TO TRENTON- WE WILL NOT STAND IDLY BY WHILE PROPERTY IS
BEING SEIZED FOR THE WRONG REASONS BY OUR CORRUPTED GOVERNMENT
Critics maintain eminent domain bill inadequate
Say protections lacking. Lawmaker defends proposal, says it addresses
most of the issues.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
By TERRENCE DOPP
TRENTON | An eminent domain reform bill pending in the Assembly offers
little in the way of protection or compensation for the owners of homes in
governments' sights, a critic said Wednesday.
Assemblyman John Burzichelli introduced the legislation after leading
months of hearings into potential reforms to the system used to seize
Jeff Tittel, state director of the Sierra Club, said Burzichelli and
Sen. Ronald Rice -- a Newark Democrat pushing a separate plan -- have
closed citizens out of the process.
Burzichelli has denied the claims, saying he addressed many of the
issues raised by the groups in his bill.
Those panning the proposals have said they have more problems with the
less-strident Senate legislation than that pushed by Burzichelli. Both are
up for committee hearings today.
"The concern is that they are in a hurry-up process," said
Tittel, who added he feared the major bills could be lost among 100 pieces
of legislation voted on in the final days of the session.
"It's not how you do things. That's not how the public is best
served. They need to slow down."
Joining the Sierra Club on Wednesday was the New Jersey Environmental
Federation, Coalition to Stop Eminent Domain Abuse and the Coalition of
Tittel said he wants a public referendum to be required anytime eminent
domain is used to wrest land from a private owner to foster private
"The ability to take someone's property is clearly one of the most
awesome powers the state has. So the question is after the state is done
with that, will the people be better off," asked Paul Chrystie,
executive director of COAH.
Supporters of the Assembly bill said it would mandate more generous,
fair replacement compensations and require that those displaced be found
new residences within a "reasonable distance."
The issue became the topic of discussion last year after the U.S.
Supreme Court's decision in the case of Kelo v. City of New London,
upholding the Connecticut city's right to use the condemnation process for
Revisions to New Jersey's 1949 condemnation laws have allowed
government to take land deemed "underutilized" and in "need
of redevelopment" and convey it to a private developer.
Terrence Dopp is Trenton correspondent for The Express-Times. He can be
reached at 609-292-5154.
June 6, North Arlington - A seismic shock was sent
through the New Jersey political world on June 6 when a group of business owners,
property rights advocates and a dissident councilman, combined to oust an entrenched Democrat Mayor in North
Arlington who was caving in to developer pressures to use eminent domain to help
advance a massive housing project in the NJ Meadowlands known as EnCap.
The North Arlington Property Rights Coalition,
guided by consultants Thom Ammirato and Rick Shaftan, led the effort to beat Mayor Russ Pitman in
the borough’s Democrat Primary. Pitman lost the election that centered on the abuse of property
rights for a housing project by Cherokee Investment Partners and Democrat Party insiders like
Attorney Robert DeCotiis. Pitman received significant financial backing and support from Cherokee
and other key Bergen Democrats, including the firm that employs Democrat state Sen.
Paul Sarlo – Bishop Sanzari, Inc – which funneled $14,400 to Pitman late in the campaign
Councilman Peter Massa who opposed the EnCap plan
because of its use of eminent domain and the development’s impact on schools and the community
said after his victory “For too long New Jersey politics and government has been marred by
the big money, developer interests who exploit communities. In town after town
developers and politicians have been conspiring to saddle towns with unwanted
development, while abusing the awesome power of eminent domain to take what does not
belong to them. In their wake, they have left people without homes and businesses and
towns and school districts in chaos. They have left taxpayers holding a bag of empty
promises and a fistful of bills.”