Out of Control Policy Blog

Eminent Domain "Perfect Storm" in NJ

From the Weekly Standard comes a fascinating tale of eminent domain abuse in Long Branch, New Jersey. It details the plight of a well-kept, middle class, oceanfront neighborhood deemed by the city to be "blighted" and set for redevelopment:

In many ways, Long Branch is the perfect storm of the Kelo era: a misleading master plan, an unprecedented exception from state environmental regulation, shifting redevelopment zones, a developer jailed for corruption, a lawyer working both sides of the deal. New Jersey residents are particularly vulnerable to this kind of forced redevelopment. As the Institute for Justice's Scott Bullock explains, the prime targets for developers are typically low to middle-income communities with waterfront homes within commuting distance of a major city. New Jersey is essentially two giant suburbs--of New York and Philadelphia--with an enormous coastline, as well as numerous interior rivers. That's why there are redevelopment clashes shaping up all along Ocean Avenue--in Belmar, Neptune, Asbury Park, and other towns. Currently 64 municipalities in New Jersey are pursuing redevelopment through the power of eminent domain, with developers trying to seize homes everywhere from Camden to Stanhope.

When Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote in her Kelo dissent that "the specter of condemnation hangs over all property," she wasn't scaremongering. No one wants to use eminent domain to redevelop the parts of Long Branch that are actually blighted--such as, for instance, the abandoned building across from city hall. The logic of Kelo-style takings is to redevelop attractive land--regardless of who lives there.

Full article here. It's a long, detailed piece that's well worth a read.

Leonard Gilroy is Director of Government Reform


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