Supreme Court Rules Cities May Seize Homes for development
Yahoo News on the Kelo vs City of New London decision
Cities may bulldoze people’s homes to make way for shopping malls or other private development, a divided Supreme Court ruled Thursday, giving local governments broad power to seize private property to generate tax revenue.
The Justices voting in favor of this ruling are John Paul Stevens, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer.
Last February I was saying it can happen anywhere. Could it happen here? Certainly. They way the local and state government have been spending money, it makes perfect sense that they’d raze down homes paying $10,000/yr in taxes to put up homes or businesses that pay a minimum of $50,000+/yr in taxes. Say, for instance, in the Witherspoon Street/Hospital neighborhood.
DynamoBuzz explains in NJ terms,
And what does this mean in New Jersey?? This state is full of wealthy land developers and business interests, from Donald Trump and George Norcross down to the local land developers. You know the names, just look in the Sunday real estate listings. All they need to do is go a local town planning board and propose some development project that has the net effect of increasing tax revenue. Like perhaps tear down three or four older ranch houses and replace them with townhouses. Or maybe a property with a motel that could instead have a hotel/conference center. Of course, these developers have already contributed thousands of dollars to the local politicians, and I’m sure the politicians will get even more if the land deal goes through. This is pay to play on steroids, state sponsored kick backs.
This ruling gives local governments unlimited power over your personal property.
The NJ blogss reaction:
In the biggest blow to those who would save the businesses in downtown Bloomfield from the wrecking ball, the Supreme Court today handed down its decision in Kelo v. New London — and gave local governments the right to use eminent domain, even to make way for private business development.
This follows a NJ superior court decision in late May in favor of the township, and against the fighting merchants.
NJ Eminent Domain (emphasis mine)
In far too many instances, such as Long Branch and Asbury Park, the blight declarations go back ten years or more. This is an unconscionable burden to the property owners within the affected area. They cannot sell, except at a discount; they are reluctant to invest in their properties because of the fear of Eminent Domain; and many municipalities neglect to enforce their building codes once the areas have been determined to be blighted. This only exacerbates the impacts on the property owners.
We’ve had many inquiries today concerning what the property owner can do. The only answer is for the property owner to be vigilant regarding proposed municipal action and to participate in and contest the blight studies when they are presented to the municipal Planning Board. If the property owner sits on their rights and does not do this, they will have a very difficult time filing a Prerogative Writ suit contesting the municipal action.
The SCOTUS decision is wrong, and it makes me angry. As Mark Leon Goldberg put it,
Loose interpretations of a government’s right of eminent domain is the sort of thing we expect in Harare — not New London
The potential for abuse in this ruling is obvious, and the fact that governments cannot be trusted to do the right thing is exactly the reason why the Michigan Supreme Court reversed Poletown earlier this year. And Justice Thomas hits the nail on the head when he observes that it won’t be (and historically hasn’t been) the rich and powerful who are finding their homes condemned and given to corporations, Wal-Mart, or simply someone who will build a bigger house and promise to pay more property taxes (as Will Wilkinson observes, “That is, if you have something somebody richer than you wants, watch out.”).
The SCOTUS has spoken and there’s not a darn thing you can do about it.
This is a bad decision.
More at SCOTUS blog.