Friday, August 8, 2008

Thoughts on the Eminent Domain ruling

A New Jersey Court of Appeals has ruled that the lower court ruling on eminent domain was partially flawed and partially acceptable—giving us a court decision that is as clear as mud.

The city is claiming that they can offer more proof that the area in question was blighted while the MTOTSA advocates are claiming complete and utter victory and vindication. In reality, the best thing that could happen would be a settlement of the whole matter but the worst case scenario would be an appeal to the NJ State Supreme Court—which isn’t really all that bad of a scenario.

The LBA continues to argue that eminent domain is no longer required because market forces should now be allowed to do what they do. In an earlier post, we said:

Now that the first phases of redevelopment are complete and Pier Village and
Beachfront North are now here, along with a new recession and a slumping housing
market, the real estate market (not eminent domain) should dictate what
properties are sold for and whether they are on the market in the first place.
If redevelopment was successful then the area is no longer blighted and no
longer in need of city-sponsored redevelopment.

So, in the best interests of all parties, the city should be ready to bargain at the table at current market rates if the city feels like they need to be the ones bargaining. More appropriately, however, the developers interested in the land should be the ones at the table ready to bargain at market rates. Most importantly, however, the MTOTSA people need to wake up to the realities of the situation and must be willing to bargain, be willing to sit at the table and be ready to accept current market rates for their property.

The courts did NOT rule that the city was WRONG and that eminent domain is BAD—despite the claims of MTOTSA advocates from around the globe.

If the MTOTSA folks feel like they now have a court endorsed “get out of eminent domain” card they are mistaken.

If the city feels like they can continue to force their will on the entire city for the sole purpose of forcing the successful conclusion of the full redevelopment plan they too are mistaken.

SO, lets all get on the same sheet of music.

City: Be a team player, avoid more discord, make a serious offer appropriate to 2008 market rates. But first, expect the developer to do it instead. The LBA seriously doubts developers are falling all over themselves to build housing right now.

DEVELOPERS: Remember you are dealing with a proud city of residents who deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Long after you have made your millions and have left us, the community of citizens will remain here trying to find our little piece of the American Dream.

MTOTSA: Get what you can while you can. Stonewalling is NOT a long term strategy for you. If they offer you money and a home (like they did before) TAKE IT.

In any event, the Long Branch Advocate is pretty sure we haven’t heard the end of this all yet.


Anonymous said...

The expectations of MTOTSA are unrealistic and a settlement will never happen. The city will have to take these properties by force (eminent domain).
This area is blighted, drive by there, it’s a dump. Most of the houses are rentals and run down. I have been following this story for a while now and if MTOTSA was smart they would have sold their houses when the real-estate market was infilated. We are in a down market for real-estate and they will have to sell for less now. My biggest question has always been “where was MTOTSA when they took all the properties from the people that lived in what is now known as Pier Village”. I personally know lots of people that where ripped off in that area, no one was fighting for them. Once MTOTSA realized what the value of their properties were when 80% of the development was completed then and only then MTOTSA was created, to fight four our rights. At the end of the day this is all about money and how much I am entitled to! If it wasn’t for eminent domain, MTOTSA would still be living next to crack heads and drug dealers…!

Anonymous said...

I agree the area is blighted and I am pretty sure that the city will be able to prove it was blighted in 96 when the determination was made. Rather than take the peoples homes, why not create a zone where there will be strict code enforcement so that the residents there have the choice to either bring their neighborhood up to the standards of Pier Village or be fined and have to sell out. It would be their choice and they should all have 12 years worth of upkeep money saved since they have not been maintaining their properties since 96.

NJDave said...

The power of Eminent Domain in and of itself is a necessary and legitimate tool.

MTOTSA, to my knowledge, doesn't condemn the power of ED. Just its abuse

It is the abuse of the power of ED that should be challenged everywhere and anywhere it occurs. By abuse, I mean the public taking of private property and then turning over the property to developers for private profit.

I agree, market forces could have compelled the homeowners to sell at fair market value... but were thwarted by the imposition of ED.

Developers weren't interested in paying fair market value... and they were enticed by the promise of valuable property at a bargain basement price.

The developers proceeded under the promises made by.... hmmmm.

Anonymous said...

Seems like we all agree here that progress needs to continue. I have also followed this since before the begining and the last poster is 100% right. Us supporters are not as vocal as MTOTSA, but are very happy with redevelopment. THat is why Schneider wins again and again. I can think of only 4 or 5 houses in the whole area that are owner occupied. And those houses were worth nothing before pier village started. I will testify that the area was blighted.Remember that crack hotel to the south? I admire a few of these people for fighting for their rights but the town needs to progress.

Anonymous said...

I believe most MTOTSA residents have sincere and heartfelt reasons for continuing there fight. But do I think for a minute they should continue their fight? A fight they turned vulgar with personal attacks and baseless accusations, and that went well beyond professional debate and advocacy? Not at all. It amazes me how indignant these people became after it was their homes? Where were there compassionate souls when other homes were being swiped. They probably sat back and said, better them than I. In actuality, there stubborn unwillingness to acknowledge that their homes are an eyesore have cost this city money and decreased morale at at time we should be celebrating our accomplishments. The City is at its best right now! I am once again proud to say to out of state family members, come down to our home, come visit our beautiful city. A decade ago, I could not. The Schneider Administration should be commended for holding steadfast in their desire to better this city and should rest a bit better knowing it was because they did not waiver and because of this, the majority of residents are proud. The MTOTSA area is blighted and they should have fixed their homes up long ago! Perhaps the solution the previous blogger offered was the best yet!Fix up your homes to fit in with our beautiful beachfront or take the money you were offered and move to Asbury or Keansburg, or some other city where your homes would fit nicely. Perhaps I'm being a bit harsh, but have you ever attended a council mtg? Most MTOTSA members act like blatant bullies..knowing the administartion has to walk on eggshells when they respond. You've had your 15 minutes of fame, please let our City get back to business already. Thanks

NJDave said...

A few years ago, I attended a workshoppe hosted by Institute For Justice.

My break-out group of 6 was anchored by Scott Bullock, the attorney who argued before the Supreme Court in Kelo v. New London.

I've had ocassion to read the NJ Redevelopment Act, and deep down in my gut felt confident Long Branch followed ED law to the T and its best advantage, and the MTOTSA folks (however outraged) would not prevail under the law.

I got into a discussion with Mr. Bullock and told him only two things would permit MTOTSA to prevail: 1) a downturn in the market resulting in the development's lack of financial feasibility, or 2) the laws of the land would change, and retroactively remove ED from the process.

He didn't like my position... at all.

Irrespective of the latest ruling... if the developers want to proceed, they will, in my opinion, eventually prevail.

Anonymous said...

If one reads the debates at the New Jersey Convention that yielded our current Constitution, one discovers immediately that eminent domain (then a synonym for urban renewal) was never intended to displace existing residents of the redeveloped neighborhood. Quite the contrary: the purpose was to induce existing residents -- particularly the poor and middle class -- to remain in the inner cities, by giving them nicer homes and apartments at affordable prices.

How different it is in Long Branch today. Poor and middle class residents have become the enemy. They are being forced out of their neighborhoods to make way for wealthy out-of-towners.

Thus, the intended beneficiaries of urban renewal are now the victims of "redevelopment."