In 1997, Donald Trump made headlines and 20/20 when he tried to take private homes and businesses for a limo staging area and parking lot for one of his Atlantic City casinos. The New Jersey Supreme Court told him to park on someone else’s property, despite the support of the city. Now, the Institute for Justice reports Trump has just completed negotiations to voluntarily purchase one of the properties. Has The Donald turned over a new leaf? Vincent and Clare Sabatini, owners of a small Italian restaurant, report they have completed negotiations to sell Trump their property. They are ready to retire. Clare Sabatini, 73, said, “The time is right. It’s right for us, and it’s right for Mr. Trump. We’re happy and they’re happy.” This is more than just a happy ending scenario. It points to a critical element of economic development that is almost always ignored during eminent domain proceedings–with time, circumstances change. An unwilling seller today may become a willing seller tomorrow. Too often, cities let themselves be bamboozled by big developers who convince them they need all the land now, as if their project were going to be built overnight, even though their own proposals anticipate a build out of 10, 15, or 20 years. With a little creativity and patience, the so-called “hold outs” can often become satisfied sellers tomorrow. With a little tact, sometimes small property owners can be incorporated into the development plan itself. Unfortunately, elected officials too often take the easy way out–why negotiate when you can take the land by simply getting they city attorney to file a few papers? If you want to read more about eminent domain and economic deveopment, check out the Reason Foundation policy study here. Our Amicus Brief filed in support of homeowners in Norwood, Ohio can be found here.
Samuel R. Staley, Ph.D. is a senior research fellow at Reason Foundation and managing director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University in Tallahassee where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in urban planning, regulation, and urban economics. Prior to joining Florida State, Staley was director of urban growth and land-use policy for Reason Foundation where he helped establish its urban policy program in 1997.