Monday, July 17, 2006

EMINENT DOMAIN DEBATE TURNS UGLIER

UPDATE -- July 22
The Halper family has left the property.
--
"(Clara) Halper expressed frustration with Judge James P. Hurley, whom she said called for the Halpers to leave peacefully today to reduce the chances of someone being harmed. Sheriff's officers will be on hand today to enforce the eviction order, if necessary.
'Do I take that as a threat when he says someone is going to get hurt?" she said. "Can you imagine a judge telling you this?'" ...From The Asbury Park Press.


Now, whether Hurley actually said that or not is utterly beside the point. The fact remains that it is a wonder that with all the eminent domain abuse nationwide that nobody (That I'm aware of.) has been hurt or killed. When I try to put myself in the shoes of the homeowner facing loss of their property, sometimes after being in a family for generations, for the purpose of a developer making money, I can't even fathom the horror they must be going through. When I try to put myself in the shoes of the developers, politicians and judges who steal people's homes and property, I would think that they would have to spend their lives looking over their shoulder and sleeping with one eye open. The Monmouth County Republican Blog in no way shape or form advocates turning to violence in this or any other issue. There are legitimate groups like The Castle Coalition which were formed to protect private property.

Eminent domain was set up for very limited purposes; for public uses. The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution states: "...nor to be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." That's public use, not some ethereal public so-called benefit as the eminent domain skells say.

The Founders worded this very carefully. Public use specifically meant roads, bridges, parks and public buildings. It did not mean taking a farmer's land and modest home so a wealthy planter could build a plantation, no matter how well-connected the planter. The Founders specifically wanted to protect the private property owner from siezure by government for the benefit of some lord or baron, as was a problem under the British regime.

Here in Monmouth County, the City of Long Branch under the administration of Mayor Adam Schneider (D) is the number 1 poster child for eminent domain abuse, but the issue has reared its ugly head in other towns as well. That list can grow much longer when you include such below-the-radar abuses as using the threat of eminent domain to force an owner to negotiate. With such a sword of Damocles hanging over their heads, many owners feel they have no choice but to sell.

Thirteen months after the U. S. Supreme Court's diabolical Kelo decision, some states have enacted reforms; New Jersey's reforms so far have languished in the Legislature.

Many bills have been introduced; Monmouth County's Assembly members Jen Beck and Sean Kean are among the leaders in eminent domain reform in New Jersey. Former State Senator and Assemblyman Joe Azzolina has also weighed in on this.

One theory given as to why reform has been held up is that with Democratic majorities in both houses of the State Legislature, policies are weighted towards the cities, which are largely under the control of Democratic bosses. A number of these cities have redevelopment programs with just the kind of eminent domain abuse that needs to be reformed. Delaying enactment of reforms only buys time for these projects and the players involved.

The Halper family farm in Piscataway Township, may actually be considered a legitimate use of the eminent domain process as the township wants the land for open space, however the issue runs a lot deeper than that. This is the very property which became embroiled in the "Machiavelli" scandal, which involved none other than former Governor James Edward Hyde McGreevey himself. It might not be a bad idea for Piscataway to just drop it.

15 comments:

JIM_PURCELL said...

The Halper family farm in Piscataway...it's a good example of what is wrong with eminent domain abuse...and Jack Morris as a responsible developer.

Mayor Schneider did something monstrous in his town, in my opinion, with a lot of help. But, today, in Middletown, in River Plaza and in the case of the DeFelice property (a family farm of several generations) more harm is being visited on not only the private property of families but also the principles of private property our country was founded on and it is a shame to say the very least.

Honest Abe said...

I will point out that this Judge Hurley is very eager to accomodate these Middlesex County municipalities with their eminent domain activity.
Now, Hurley may be only ruling on the law as it is written, in that case the problem is with the law. We are talking Middlesex County here though, so anything's possible.

JIM_PURCELL said...

Yeah...I wouldn't term Middlesex as a model anyone would aspire to... unless one is more than a little shady. THEN it's great to that point of view, I suppose.

If they DIDN'T film a Sopranos there then they SHOULD have.

Honest Abe said...

Well, the professor thinks Middlesex is just wonderful.

William H Seward said...

Honest Abe said...
Well, the professor thinks Middlesex is just wonderful.

And Money Magazine thinks that Edison and Middletown are wonderful.

ginger Hoffmeier said...

No one wants to be forced from thier home whether the end use is a hospital, highway, or condos, under the old eminent domain law or the new one. But this law is a double-edged sword and we seem to be ignoring that.

Eminent domain can now be used to take land away from one developer and given to another who will build mansions or a food court and mall instead of low-income apartments. But so far this isn't happening.

It may be a Democrat initiative but why aren't Republican mayors using it to benefit their towns by taking away land from those intent on building low-income apartments that will turn a town into a slum?

It's a chance to make lemonade from lemons...

cliffwood soccer dad said...

What about eminent domain to satisfy your COAH obligations? I think it disgusting that a municipality can eminent domain homeowners in order to satisfy their COAH. (or to make a project financially acceptable to the developer)

William H Seward said...

Didn't the Halpers get $4million?

Sue Veitengruber said...

The jury trial awarded the Halpers $18 million which according to media reports they have not seen a dime of. Poscataway is now claiming that the farm is a toxic dump because pesticideds MAY have been used on the crops, but Piscataway has not provided any proof on that claim.

The problem with condemning a farm is how does the farm owner move there orchards and other materials such as topsoil that has been cultivated and nutured over the years? There is a great deal of speculation that the Halper farm will be turned over to a developer.

And then there is the McGreavey connection and the infamous code word "Machiavelli".A representative of a Democratic campaign committee named Damiano, demanded a "contribution" in exchange for giving the Halpers a good price for the development rights. This request for a bribe was caught on tape by the FBI and lead to the resignation of Governor McGreevy. Damiano was very involved in Middlesex County politics.McGreevy using the password "machivelli" to indicate that he would get a better settlement or the condemnation reversed for the Halpers.

Honest Abe said...

Cliffwood Soccer Dad: Are you saying that your township used eminent domain to satisfy COAH? Is this tied in in any way with the developer money wheeled to the Democrats? It all sounds very interesting!

Will Seward: Yes they did get $4 million, and I believe they stand to get a lot more. They should get a lot more for 80 - odd acres in Piscataway.
As I pointed out, normally this case would be considered legitimate, but what with D'Amiano, McGreevey and Machiavelli, the whole gooey mess stinks.

Honest Abe said...

Sue Veitengruber addressed...
"There is a great deal of speculation that the Halper farm will be turned over to a developer.
"


I am beginning to hear the same speculation. Let's watch and see what happens next.
It is abuses of the eminent domain process, whether by corruption in otherwise legitimate uses, or in out-and-out efforts to make rich developers richer, that taint the process when it is actually called for in public projects like roads.
If they sincerely wanted to protect this land from development, maybe what Piscataway should have been looking at instead was Farmland Preservation.

Oi Vey! said...

When you mention the eminent domain to satisfy COAH - are you talking about Aberdeen Forge? I was told that the township submitted an open space plan that included the backyards of some plaintiffs that were suing them. And I thought that all my nightmares about tires were scary!

Honest Abe said...

Cliffwood Soccer Dad and Oi Vey!:

Looks like there's been some activity a-brewin' up your way that's been running "below the radar" so to speak. One would only hope that the media would pick up on this, but I guess they haven't, so far.

Including property of people suing the township in an open space plan? Isn't rule No. 1 in a lawsuit that you don't antagonize the people suing you? Don't they have a township attorney? Ohhhhhhhh... Wait a minute. I get it now. The township says: You drop your lawsuit, and we'll remove your land from the open space plan. Wow. Your taxpayer dollars at work.

cliffwood soccer dad said...

"Cliffwood Soccer Dad: Are you saying that your township used eminent domain to satisfy COAH?"


What COAH Abe? Aberdeen says their COAH obligation is why it is so necessary to build The Forge but no one’s seen the COAH units because they don’t exist! They are trying to take 9 acres from a guy who is clearly is not interested in selling – period.

Honest Abe said...

Cliffwood Soccer Dad: Sounds like some things are pretty messed up in your town. So it's The Forge where they want to use eminent domain, huh? That's one of the developers that they got $5,000.00 from, so I guess they'll do anything the developer wants.
I know several representatives of the print media follow this blog; guys, sharpen your pencils, go to Aberdeen and shine some light on this, 'k?