Eminent Domain: You’re taking my land to build a what?!: Eminent Domain: You’re taking my land to build a what ?! By: Kyla Ehrisman What is Eminent Domain?: What is Eminent D omain? Eminent domain is the power of the state to seize private property without the property owner’s consent. Historically, eminent domain was used to acquire land for highways, railroads, or public facilities. The use of eminent domain is limited by the Fifth Amendment. Fifth Amendment: Fifth Amendment “…nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” The United States Supreme Court has consistently said that it is the right of the individual states to determine what constitutes ‘public use.’ The Eminent Domain Process: The Eminent Domain Process The legal process of eminent domain is referred to as condemnation. Although the particulars vary from state to state, the general principles of condemnation are the same. When the government decides it wants or needs a certain piece of land, the first step is to contact the land owner and attempt to negotiate a sale. Process, cont’d: Process, cont’d The property owner may agree to sell the land at the price offered, and a simple sale takes place. The property owner may disagree with the price being offered, in which case a fair market value hearing will take place. The property owner may refuse any sale whatsoever. If this happens, the government will file a court action. Berman v. Parker: Berman v. Parker The District of Colombia had a proposed plan to take title to land that was considered blighted. The plan was to tear down the structures and transfer the land to private developers who would construct condos, a shopping center, and private office buildings. The goal of the plan was to eradicate the slums that existed at the time in south Washington, D.C. Berman v. Parker, cont’d: Berman v. Parker, cont’d Some of the property was not considered blighted, and those owners objected to the plan. The Supreme Court ruled against the land owners, saying that when land was being taken to further economic development of an area, the project should be judged as a whole, not on a lot-by-lot basis. Kelo v. City of New London: Kelo v. City of New London The city developed a plan to take land through eminent domain, and then lease it to a private developer for one dollar per year. Many of the businesses and homes in the area were non-blighted, and their owners refused to sell their land. The purpose of the plan was to increase tax revenues by allowing the private developer to build a business complex. Kelo v. City of New London, cont’d: Kelo v. City of New London, cont’d The Supreme Court decision was 5-4. “The Court declines to second-guess the wisdom of the means the city has selected to effectuate its plan.” Eminent Domain Abuse: Eminent Domain Abuse New York is one of the worst offenders when it comes to using eminent domain for private gain, according to the Institute for Justice. In one case, The New York Times wanted to build a new headquarters. The newspaper convinced the city to declare the block “blighted” and transfer the property to them. The owner was forced out of the building his family had owned for more than 100 years. Goldstein v. New York State Urban Development Corporation: Goldstein v. New York State Urban Development Corporation Goldstein v. New York State Urban Development Corporation, cont’d: Goldstein v. New York State Urban Development Corporation, cont’d Daniel Goldstein bought his condo for $590,000 in 2003. Soon after moving in, Forest City Ratner, a developer, bought out all the other condo owners in Daniel’s building. The developer was planning a mixed-use development, the crown jewel of which was a new arena for the New Jersey Nets. Goldstein v. New York State Urban Development Corporation, cont’d: Goldstein v. New York State Urban Development Corporation, cont’d The developer’s plan would raze about 140 apartment buildings to make way for the arena and 16 skyscrapers which would include office space and new apartment towers; all in all, a $4.9 billion development. Goldstein and others formed Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn and garnered over 12,000 signatures in protest to the proposed development. Goldstein v. New York State Urban Development Corporation, cont’d: Goldstein v. New York State Urban Development Corporation, cont’d A developer-politician alliance was in place: major politicians including Mayor Bloomberg, a US senator, and the president of the borough all spoke in support of the plan. Other groups researched the proposed development and found that better alternatives existed, based on traffic impacts and the amount of political subsidies that would go into the project. The city instituted formal condemnation proceedings to force Goldstein and residents of other nearby buildings out of their properties. Goldstein v. New York State Urban Development Corporation, cont’d: Goldstein v. New York State Urban Development Corporation, cont’d Through court hearings and appeals, Goldstein managed to stay in his condo for seven years before finally being forced out in 2010, after his case made its way all the way to the New York Supreme Court, who upheld the lower court’s ruling that the area was indeed ‘blighted’. "You've got to wonder whether there are any limits on eminent domain in New York. Today, it looks like there are not." Ethical Issues: Ethical Issues The developer promised affordable housing and the creation of 10,000 jobs. So far, none of the housing has been completed, and the project is only employing around 400 people, much of which is non-local labor. The project was supposed to be privately funded, but has already cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. Residents who sold their homes to the developer were forced to sign gag orders barring them from engaging in opposition to the project. Development rights to the area were appraised at $245 million. The developer was awarded the rights even though their bid was less than half the appraised price and there was another bidder who bid higher. Private Property Rights Protection Act of 2012 (H.R. 1433): Private Property Rights Protection Act of 2012 (H.R. 1433) The U.S. Congress is considering a bill to discourage the abuse of eminent domain powers. This bill prohibits states and municipalities from using eminent domain for private development if they have received federal economic development funds.