New Jersey Legislators Send Weak Eminent Domain Reform to the Governor

This week, New Jersey lawmakers sent legislation to Governor Chris Christie that would reform the state’s eminent domain laws. If Christie signs, New Jersey would become the 45th state to pass reforms since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against homeowners in Kelo v. New London in 2005.

Unfortunately, the legislation provides scant protections for property owners. The companion bills (S-2447 and A-3615) each allow local officials wide latitude to declare property blighted, which authorizes the use of eminent domain for private redevelopment projects.

The bills do provide for “non-condemnation redevelopment areas,” which allow developers to access the subsidies that come with a redevelopment designation—without granting eminent domain. That option is very much in demand; property owners often don’t oppose redevelopment if the power of eminent domain is removed.

But, weirdly, the bills allow for turning a non-condemnation area into a condemnation area when a property owner is unwilling to sell to officials’ preferred developer. Sort of negates the whole point.  

The legislation purports to codify a 2007 state Supreme Court ruling that made it more difficult to declare property blighted. Paulsboro officials had argued that their belief that a piece of land was not being put to the best and highest use was enough to warrant a blight designation. The judges disagreed.   

But it will remain very easy for officials to label an area blighted. If an unstated number of properties in a neighborhood exhibit “faulty arrangement or design,” “excessive land coverage,” “obsolete layouts,” “diverse ownership,” or other criteria that have nothing to do with public health and safety, officials can create a condemnation area.   

Until a few years ago, New Jersey cities were some of the most zealous abusers of eminent domain in the country. Drive up the turnpike 10 years ago and practically every city you passed was seizing private property for redevelopment. (Camden? Check. Carteret? Check. Newark? Check. Jersey City? Englewood? Lawnside? Highland Park? Check check check check.)

Some combination of the 2007 ruling, the recession, and public disgust with the practice seems to have dampened enthusiasm for condemnation, however. Officials in Atlantic City are mulling over the only active plan I could find: replacing 62 homes with luxury condos and high-end retail to complement Revel, a casino that emerged from bankruptcy last month.

The new legislation does not protect those homeowners. Perhaps the courts will.

In other New Jersey eminent domain news, the U.S. Supreme Court decided this week to consider whether officials in Mount Holly discriminated against the residents of a mostly minority neighborhood now mostly demolished via eminent domain.

The Pacific Legal Foundation, which filed an amicus brief in the case, has a good write-up of the legal issues at play here.   

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  • Hyperion||

    Well, since I am the only one here...

    This guy is amazing. Look at Odumbo, he has no answer for this, he looks like a fucking moron, and he is, next to this guy.

    Ben Carson

    Rand should consider this guy for VP if he can get the GOP nomination. Imagine going from Biden to a Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon for VP. A giant leap would be an understatement.

  • John C. Randolph||

    I remember when Carson gave that speech. The leftards had a field day hurling racist epithets at him for daring to criticize The One.

    -jcr

  • Sevo||

    Hyperion| 6.22.13 @ 9:23PM |#
    "Well, since I am the only one here..."

    Yeah, I know. I comment on 24/7 and talk about lonely!
    Not even shreek....

  • Hyperion||

    Hopefully, not shreek. When I said anyone, I wasn't including non-intelligent humanoids.

  • Ted S.||

    Wouldn't it be easier to nuke the entire state and start from scratch?

    So what if Gillespie comes from Joisey.

  • Hyperion||

    Nuke it, now.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Nuclear weapons for urban renewal! Yes, yes, yes! Side benefits: No need for street lights, the streets will glow at night! No need to brush your teeth, they will all “fall out”! No need to comb your hair; all your hairs will “fall out” to the nearest fall-out shelter!

  • Warrren||

    It's a good thing we have government to keep keep people from stealing our land.

  • Warrren||

    If I go see White House Down who should I root for?

    Ha, there's no way I'm seeing that turd pie.

  • Redmanfms||

    There have been two White House attack movies in the last few months.

    If a bunch of pissed off Muslims wanted to hijack some planes and fly them into the Capitol and White House, I'd almost root them on.

    Isn't it really telling that Hollyweird is back to making jingoistic patriot porn over the last 3-4 years? All the military movies during the Bush years were about stop-loss and disillusionment. Now it's all flag-waving and patriotism. U.S. spy agencies were the bad guys in the spy thrillers of the early oughts, now they are the unsung heroes...

    I keep hearing how "conservative" the producer guild is in Hollyweird, but I'm not seeing it in the movies that get made.

  • Generic Stranger||

    If a bunch of pissed off Muslims wanted to hijack some planes and fly them into the Capitol and White House, I'd almost root them on.

    I wouldn't. Do you know how much it would cost to rebuild those buildings these days? And you damn well know most people would want them rebuilt.

  • Dweebston||

    I like that this illustrates my thinking about most things problematic to the State. Any expense borne by officialdom is perforce an expense borne by the tax base. Can't cheer for dead cops, not because it's a macabre sentiment (it is) but because it invariably means bad things for civilians. Can't cheer for scant cutbacks in government spending, because invariably it's used to demonstrate the absolute, inarguable need for even more spending on government. There's no winning this battle. I'd call it attrition, but it's the attrition of fighting a mosquito army.

  • Generic Stranger||

    Well, that and because the NSA, FBI, SS, etc will all start looking at you. More so than they are now, anyway.

  • Rrabbit||

    If I go see White House Down who should I root for?

    You should root against the criminals and their supporters, of course.

  • Dweebston||

    Screw Jersey. Let's talk New York. In two days I'll be visiting Manhattan to help a friend and recent NYU graduate move out. This is the first I'll have been a) in New York, b) on the east coast, and in fact, c) anywhere east of San Antonio. Yes, I'm that embarrassingly untraveled.

    So, as a question to any current or former residents, what sort non-touristy crap should I do while in the area? I've made a pledge not to stand in line for more than forty-five minutes to see anything, which (as I understand it) rules out the Statue and the WTC memorial. Besides, I feel like I've already seen Liberty Island.

  • Sevo||

    Brooklyn Bridge is really a piece of late 19th-century tech, and you can probably see it without any line.
    Dunno about the lines, but the major art museums are major.
    WTC? Not on your life. It's a memorial to the TSA by now.

  • Dweebston||

    That's been my impression. I figured I did what mourning I'd do in class on 2001 and the weeks thereafter, but I'm not keen on seeing what a travesty political sentiments make.

    The bridge sounds fun, and that's more my idea of seeing N'yark.

  • Sevo||

    South side of the island has views of the Jersey palisades. That'd be interesting.

  • Dweebston||

    I had to look that up. Is Jersey too proximate to New York that climbing those beasts is verboten? Not that I can bring rappelling gear.

  • Robert||

    If you like hiking, there's plenty of that within driving distance. If you can steal a bike, lots of bike trails too, from urban to rural.

  • MJGreen||

    Ditto on the Brooklyn Bridge. It's an easy walk across. I like to go from Manhattan to Brooklyn, then walk the Manhattan Bridge back to the island.

    Other than that, I dunno... check out Central Park. If you like museums there are obviously a bunch around there. If you end up way on the west side, there's the High Line, which is pretty fun. Eat at a Shake Shack.

  • Rhywun||

    - Wander around some interesting neighborhoods like Chinatown or the East Village
    - Central Park is always beautiful
    - There's generally no lines at the museums - my favorite is The Cloisters; it's like a medieval monastery on a cliffside - in Manhattan!
    - Take the subway to Coney Island and wander around there if you're feeling adventurous

    Whatever you do, stay away from Times Square and the WTC area. In general, go where the tourists aren't - or at least where they aren't outnumbering the locals.

  • Robert||

    The Bronx Zoo and Botanical Garden are very good. There's usually plenty of off-off-B'way theater & music. It's still season for women's football, and there's minor league baseball, maybe rugby Super League or 7-a-sides. Plenty of beaches.

  • Sevo||

    OT, but hey, the Giants won.
    History: The SF bay bridge was damaged in the '89 quake and repaired. But it was decided it needed replacement. Notice the passive voice; who decided that? Who knows.
    There were and are cheap ways of doing that, but the mayoral brothers Brown (Willy and Moonbeam) didn't want cheap! How can you pay off your supporters for cheap?!
    So we get an "OMG!", "Legacy!" design, which seems to require some metallurgical tech just at the edge (or maybe a bit beyond) the commonly accepted standards for bridges.
    Now we have this oh, so lovely piece of shit which no one will certify as safe, and we have all sorts of folks taking positions, pointing fingers, and we have Willy and Moonbeam sort of standing off in the corner, staring at the ceiling and whistling tunelessly:
    "Caltrans documents tell of Bay Bridge woes"
    "Newly released Caltrans documents reveal there were quality-control problems with hundreds of the steel rods and bolts installed on the new Bay Bridge eastern span,"...
    http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/.....615826.php

  • Redmanfms||

    Hey, union-made quality bitches!!!!

    Examples like this are great for ROADZ!! shitheads though, thanks for posting it.

  • juris imprudent||

    Ha, you wish. They'll just immediately scream about the evil CORPORAYSHUNS that did the actual construction so they could have more profit than the actual construction costs.

  • Rhywun||

    Nah, those are union jobs so you won't hear a peep.

  • Almanian!||

    Fuck. Cali. Fornia.

  • juris imprudent||

    Thanks for your offer of assistance but California is a self-fucking state.

  • SweatingGin||

    I caught some about that on proletariat radio last week. They referred to it as California's biggest boondoggle(or something like that). I had to figure that's only until HSR kabooms.

    They had a bunch of bolts failing, and they're doing various quick fixes for them. Supposed to open on Labor Day.

  • Sevo||

    SweatingGin| 6.22.13 @ 10:45PM |#
    "I caught some about that on proletariat radio last week. They referred to it as California's biggest boondoggle(or something like that)"

    And the Brown Bros are pointing fingers here and there.
    The facts that they caused the delay and the fancy design are somehow less important than a company in fly-over country made the parts (to spec).

  • Rhywun||

    I have lived in NYC for 15+ years and I have yet to see anything as dysfunctional as what went in SF based on just the 1 year I lived there. That's saying something.

  • Hyperion||

    Jersey has the most obnoxious people on the planet. They are by far the worst and most obnoxious drivers, also. As bad as MD drivers are, when I spot a particularly obnoxious lane changer, I instinctively look for a NJ license plate, and I am rarely wrong about that hunch. I am totally into the NAP, but if there is ever a time to cut one of these Jersey assholes off in traffic, surround them, drag them from their car, and beat the living shit out of them, leaving them lay in the road for the vultures, I am in.

  • Almanian!||

    I visited our parts depot located in McDonough - thought the area was LOVELY.

    Newark, on the other hand? Holy. Fuck. Awful. Bonus is worst airport ever.

    But McDonough and environs were really nice.

    The not being able to pump your own gas? Fuck you, NJ - and Oregon, too. WTF?

  • Hyperion||

    You can pump your own gas in OR, as far as I know. I was actually shocked to see full service stations out there, but I could swear I also saw self serv.

    OR is fucking beautiful, at least it has that going for it. And from what I hear, chickens have their own names.

  • Generic Stranger||

    You can pump your own gas in OR, as far as I know. I was actually shocked to see full service stations out there, but I could swear I also saw self serv.

    NOPE.

    The gas station attendants get pissy if you try it.

  • Sevo||

    Hyperion| 6.22.13 @ 10:59PM |#
    "You can pump your own gas in OR, as far as I know."

    Not me. I was forbidden from doing so.

  • Dweebston||

    But what are they going to do, stop you?

    I was given a puzzled look for pre-paying gasoline in Utah.

  • Generic Stranger||

    I've never tried it, but I'd bet they'd eventually call the cops and have you trespassed, just like if you went back into the employees area of a restaurant and started making yourself a snack (or at least, that's the justification they'd use).

    It's a fucking bullshit jobs program, and the attendants guard their domain jealously.

  • Generic Stranger||

    Actually, I just looked it up. Instead of trespassing you, the cops would slap you with a $500 fine:

    ORS 480.330 Operation of gasoline dispensing device by public prohibited; aviation fuel exception. An owner, operator or employee of a filling station, service station, garage or other dispensary where Class 1 flammable liquids, except aviation fuels, are dispensed at retail may not permit any person other than the owner, operator or employee to use or manipulate any pump, hose, pipe or other device for dispensing the liquids into the fuel tank of a motor vehicle or other retail container. [Amended by 2001 c.285 §1]

    480.385 Civil penalty for gasoline dispensing law violations.
    (1) The State Fire Marshal may impose a civil penalty not to exceed $500 for each violation of any provision of ORS 480.315 to 480.385 or of any applicable rule adopted by the State Fire Marshal...

    cont...

  • Generic Stranger||

    And for some fucking reason, motorcyclists are exempted:

    ORS 480.349 Use of gasoline dispensing device by motorcycle operator. (1) As used in this section, “motorcycle” has the meaning given that term in ORS 801.365.

    (2) Notwithstanding ORS 480.330 and 480.340:

    (a) Upon the request of an operator of a motorcycle, the owner, operator or employee of a filling station, service station, garage or other dispensary where Class 1 flammable liquids are dispensed at retail shall set the fuel dispensing device and hand the discharge nozzle to the operator of the motorcycle.

    (b) An operator of a motorcycle who is handed a discharge nozzle under paragraph (a) of this subsection:

    (A) May dispense Class 1 flammable liquids into the operator’s motorcycle.

    (B) Shall, after dispensing the liquids, return the discharge nozzle to the owner, operator or employee.

    (3) The owner, operator or employee who is handed the discharge nozzle shall return the nozzle to the pump or take any other actions necessary to ensure safe completion of the fueling operation. [2001 c.344 §2]
  • Sevo||

    Dweebston| 6.23.13 @ 12:35AM |#
    "But what are they going to do, stop you?"

    Easy. They turn off the pump.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    Self Service gas stations is the norm here.

  • Rich||

    If an unstated number of properties in a neighborhood exhibit “faulty arrangement or design,” “excessive land coverage,” “obsolete layouts,” “diverse ownership,” or other criteria ..., officials can create a condemnation area.

    How can *anyone* propose, much less sign, stuff like that?

    These clowns don't even *try* to appear on the up-and-up anymore.

  • Hyperion||

    It's Jersey, dude. the people are disgruntled sheep, and the pols, totalitarian corruptocrats.

  • Rich||

    Well, apparently the sheep are sufficiently gruntled to keep voting in corruptocrats.

    Unless, of course, the pols have engineered ways to "vote" themselves in with impunity.

  • Rhywun||

    I love how "diverse ownership" is frowned upon - WTF does that even mean? An official preference for mega-projects, I guess. Ugh.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Boston Weak.

    Chicago Strong.

  • Mr Whipple||

    The local government in my town is trying to declare an area as "blighted". There are three successful businesses that they want to grab to build a giant senior citizens housing and community center. Apparently, the businesses are "eyesores". There's a cheap motel that doubles as a type of boarding house, a take-out chicken joint, and a Puerto Rican chop shop (auto customizations). The chicken and auto places are leased. They have never missed a payment. The owners are an elderly couple whose sole source of income, other than Social Security, is the profits from these properties.

    What the Hell, the government will take care of them. They don't need profitable businesses. Right? Right?

    Fuck all governments and anyone who supports them.

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