Here’s another eminent domain horror story in the making. Ian T. Shearn of the Newark Star-Ledger reports:
On May 21, Albert G. Mauti Jr. and his cousin Joseph hosted a fundraiser for Assemblyman Joseph Cryan at the Westmount Country Club in Passaic County. The two developers and family members picked up the $10,400 dinner tab, donated another $8,000 and raised more than $70,000 that night for the powerful Union County Democrat, according to state election records.
Three days later, the governing body in Cryan’s hometown of Union Township — all Democrats — introduced an ordinance paving the way for the Mautis to build 90 or so townhouses on six acres of abandoned industrial land along the Conrail line in town.
There is just one problem: Union Township doesn’t own the land.
It is owned by Carol Segal, a 65-year-old retired electrical engineer. Over the past 10 years, the Union Township resident says, he has spent about $1.5 million to acquire the property, and he, too, wants to build townhouses there.
Segal said he met with Cryan, who is head of the township’s Democratic Party, and other local officials “scores of times” over the past five years to discuss the project. He claims the talks turned adversarial after he rejected proposals to work with various developers they proposed.
On May 24, the five-member township committee voted unanimously to authorize the municipality to seize Segal’s land through eminent domain and name its own developer.
“They want to steal my land,” Segal said. “What right do they have when I intend to do the exact same thing they want to do with my property?”
(Hat tip: Rory B.)
Sounds like a case for the Institute for Justice and the Castle Coalition. Segal is far from alone. Sharp as a Marble reports on Florida’s land-grabbing plans. (More at Protein Wisdom.) And the Ohio Supreme Court has just accepted an eminent domain abuse case:
“The Ohio Supreme Court is going to be concerned that the U.S. Supreme Court has dropped the ball,” said Bert Gall, a lawyer with the Institute for Justice, a civil-liberties law firm in Washington. Gall is representing holdout property owners free of charge.
The city of Norwood and developer Jeffrey Anderson successfully convinced lower courts that homes located near Edwards and Edmondson roads by Interstate 71, while not blighted, were “deteriorating” and should be demolished. All but three of the dozens of houses needed to expand the Rookwood Exchange project were razed.
“State supreme courts can and should provide more protection to homes and businesses than the U.S. Supreme Court did,” Gall said. “What Norwood did is so outrageous that if it’s allowed to stand, other cities may try to do the same thing.”
I know what Janice Rogers Brown’s views are on such matters: “Theft is theft even when the government approves of the thievery. Turning democracy into a kleptocracy does not enhance the stature of the thieves; it only diminishes the legitimacy of the government.”
But what are Harriet Miers’ views? Your guess is as good as mine.