Thursday, June 29, 2006

Article by one of the attorneys who argued the Kelo case before the Supreme Court

Click here for an article by Scott Bullock, an attorney with the Institute for Justice.

"Protect Our Homes Act" to appear on California's ballot

Voters can act to 'Save Our Homes'

By Timothy Sandefur

Californians worried about local governments abusing their powers of eminent domain can rejoice in the news that the Protect Our Homes Act has officially qualified to appear on this November's ballot.

The Secretary of State's office announced Tuesday that it had verified 683,712 of about 1 million signatures for the initiative, which would protect individuals and small-business owners from having their land seized and transferred to other private holders.

Click here for the rest of the article

An interesting observation from the House J-3 Committee's vote to kill the Eminent Domain amendment...

Click here to read an interesting observation from Daren Bakst of the John Locke Foundation.

Forsyth County's Joyce Krawiec writes about the 1-year anniversary of the Kelo debacle

Click here to read Joyce's commentary.

Fayetteville Observer editorial blasts legislature's failure to protect private property rights

Click below to read an EXCELLENT editorial on the legislature's failure to protect the property rights of North Carolinians:

The Fayetteville Observer's View: Cheap legislative tricks won’t assuage the public’s anger

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Civitas: Eminent Domain Amendment Evicted

From the John William Pope Civitas Institute:

Eminent Domain Amendment Evicted

The House leadership revealed their position on the issue of eminent domain on Tuesday. After giving committee members and bill sponsors 15 minutes notice, the Judiciary III Committee re-referred House Bill 2213 to the Rules Committee on a party line vote. Representative Paul Stam (R-Wake) discovered his bill was on the committee’s agenda just minutes before the meeting.

Long considered by many legislative watchers as bill purgatory, the Rules Committee is not expected to take action on the constitutional amendment this session. Representative Stam had given notice to the House of his intention to invoke House Rule 39 in order to discharge his bill from committee. His request required a notice of four legislative days before proceeding. Tuesday was the first eligible day to use his Rule 39 motion.

Read the entire article here:

N.C. Property Rights Coalition Chairman Kieran Shanahan criticizes legislature’s move to kill eminent domain amendment

RALEIGH – Kieran Shanahan, Chairman of the N. C. Property Rights Coalition, commented on yesterday’s meeting of the N.C. House Judiciary 3 Committee. The committee refused to hear a bill calling for an amendment to the state constitution to prevent governments from using eminent domain authority to take land for private economic development projects. The bill, which was sent to the House Rules Committee to die without fair consideration, was introduced by Representative Paul Stam.

“The legislators who voted to send House Bill 2213 to the Rules Committee are ignoring and undermining the will of the vast majority of North Carolinians and jeopardizing our private property rights,” said Shanahan. “Make no mistake: this important bill was sent to the Rules Committee to die.”

“The legislators who voted to kill this important amendment would have you believe that legislation passed earlier in this session ensures that our private property is safe from the long arm of eminent domain,” Shanahan added. “Nothing could be further from the truth. The legislation passed by the House earlier during this session is a mere band-aid. Legislatures come and go, and laws can easily be changed. That’s why we need a state Constitutional amendment to ensure that North Carolinians’ private property is safe from eminent domain abuse. A Constitutional amendment will give us protection that stands the test of time.”

“On behalf of all North Carolinians, I challenge the legislative leadership to allow this bill to be heard,” Shanahan concluded.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Update on HB 2213

The following was distributed by the Civitas Institute last week:

The issue of eminent domain was brought up on the floor of the House of Representatives during Wednesday’s session. The U.S. Supreme Court, in the now infamous Kelo v The City of New London case, has upheld the seizure of private land by government for economic development purposes.

Representative Paul Stam (R-Wake) filed House Bill 2213 on May 17 to amend North Carolina’s Constitution to only allow eminent domain for expressly public purposes. On the next day, it was referred to the Judiciary III Committee where it has been ever since.

On Wednesday, Representative Stam gave notice of his intention to invoke House rule 39, which allows bills referred to committee and not acted on within 10 legislative days to be recalled to the floor with a three-fifths vote. Immediate opposition came from Rules Co-Chair Mickey Michaux (D-Durham). After several minutes of private consultation with Speaker Jim Black (D-Mecklenburg), Michaux was unable to have Stam’s request ruled out of order.


S.C. Legislature Takes Action, Sends Eminent Domain Reform to Voters

Last night, the South Carolina Legislature passed a proposed amendment to the State Constitution that provides home and business owners across the state with meaningful protection against eminent domain abuse. The amendment, which will appear on the November 2006 ballot, specifically prohibits municipalities from condemning private property for “the purpose or benefit of economic development, unless the condemnation is for public use.” It further requires that an individual property be a danger to public health and safety for it to be designated as “blighted,” closing a loophole that enabled local governments to use eminent domain for private use under the State’s previously broad blight definition. The amendment also removes provisions of the State Constitution that specifically allow several counties to use eminent domain for private uses.

Click here for more

Opinion: How Kelo Can You Go?

We've just had the first anniversary of the Kelo decision (your property is your property but only if, like, no one else will pay more taxes on it) and the blog Division of Labour has a listing of what those fine upstanding citizens, the local and State governments of the country, have been doing with it. My favorite was the first one listed:

"In Hercules, CA, the city council on May 23, 2006, unanimously voted to seize property acquired by Wal-Mart, in order to prevent the retail giant from opening a store in town."

Click here for more

Opinion: Eminent domain blinds bureaucrats to their duty

- Timothy Sandefur

ONE YEAR after the Supreme Court shocked Americans with its eminent-domain decision, Kelo v. New London, officials in Riviera Beach, Fla., announced their intention to seize 400 acres of land, including hundreds of homes and businesses, and transfer the property to a developer, to build stores and condominiums.

Although on May 11 Gov. Jeb Bush signed a law prohibiting such property seizures, the city had rushed to approve its plan in an emergency meeting on May 10. Asked about these shady tactics, Riviera Beach Mayor Michael Brown insisted that the city had acted legally.

"We're comfortable," he said, "with everything we've done."

Unfortunately, Brown's audacity is typical of bureaucrats who see Kelo as signaling open season on landowners. Such officials perceive themselves as sculptors of neighborhoods, who mold their ideal city from the property that people have worked hard to buy. They don't see property as a right, but as a privilege, which can be revoked or altered in the name of "progress."

Click here for more

One Year Later: Eminent domain surges after Kelo ruling

The Supreme Court's decision last year to allow cities and states to seize property for private development "opened the floodgates" to eminent domain actions nationwide, a report says.

Click here for more

Governor's Veto Endangers Iowa Private Property

Governor’s Veto Endangers Iowa Private Property
- Vilsack’s veto leaves Iowans’ doors wide open to eminent domain abuse-

WASHINGTON — Today, Property Rights Alliance (PRA) executive director Scott A. LaGanga, stated his opposition to Governor Tom Vilsack’s (D-Iowa) veto of a measure that would have limited Iowa citizens’ exposure to eminent domain abuse. Eminent domain for private profit uses government force to accommodate preferred businesses at the expense of other businesses or honest homeowners who simply do not produce the same volume of tax revenue.

The measure focused on the Iowa government’s power for private to private takings, including eminent domain authority and condemnation procedures. In a speech following the Governor’s veto, he stated that the legislation did not maintain a proper balance between protecting private property rights and encouraging economic development, stating “I am convinced that Iowa’s economy…will be negatively impacted should HF 2351 become law and place us at a competitive disadvantage with other states.”

“I am sorry to inform the Governor but economic development actually occurs when private property is protected, not left vulnerable to government’s grasp,” said Mr. LaGanga. “Families and businesses interested in moving to the Hawkeye State have a new welcome message: Congratulations on your new home…the state may be the new owner tomorrow.”

Click here for the full story

CQ Weekly: Congress's Stalled Crusade Against Eminent Domain Seizures

Congress' Stalled Crusade Against Eminent Domain Seizures

By Shawn Zeller, CQ Staff

Where’s the outrage? When the Supreme Court ruled last summer that governments could use their eminent domain powers to seize private property in the name of economic development, Congress clamored on both sides of the aisle to register its dissent.

The House quickly adopted a resolution condemning the Kelo v. City of New London decision — which doomed a working-class neighborhood in Connecticut to the wrecking ball to make way for a higher-priced residential and shopping development. The House followed that up by adding a rider to an appropriations bill that barred the use of federal funds to enforce the Supreme Court’s ruling —and finally, by passing a bill in November that would deny some federal funding to local governments that seize private property for economic development.

But the Senate hasn’t rallied nearly so briskly to the anti-Kelo cause, and a coalition of mostly conservative groups is seeking to bring fresh momentum to the bills stalled there.Click here for the full article

Thursday, June 15, 2006

House Bill 2213 to be heard in committee today

Sources tell us that House Bill 2213, which calls for a constitutional amendment to prevent eminent domain abuse in North Carolina, is scheduled to be heard in the House Judiciary III Committee at 10:00 am this morning. The bill was introduced by Rep. Paul Stam (Wake). We will keep you posted as we learn more.

Click here to view the bill

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Kelo: New London, CT proceeding with property seizures

City Votes To Proceed With Property Seizures
Another Resident of Fort Trumbull settles; Two Remain

The New London Day - June 6, 2006

New London, CT — And then there were two.

The City Council voted late Monday night to proceed with efforts to take possession of the former properties of two remaining plaintiffs in the Fort Trumbull eminent domain case.

The vote came just hours after William Von Winkle, one of seven original plaintiffs in Kelo v. City of New London, the case the U.S. Supreme Court decided last June, reached a financial settlement with the city.

Susette Kelo and Pasquale Cristofaro remain.

The motion, which instructed city Law Director Thomas Londregan “to proceed with the process to obtain possession of the properties,” also instructed him to “obtain past due taxes and rents collected from third parties and/or reasonable use and occupancy fees.”

Mayor Beth A. Sabilia, Deputy Mayor Jane Glover and Councilors Rob Pero, Kevin J. Cavanagh and Margaret M. Curtin voted in favor of the motion. Councilors William Cornish and Charles W. Frink opposed it.

“It is my strong belief that the previous City Council and this City Council have been exceedingly fair and forthright in seeking accommodations in order to move the Municipal Development Plan for Fort Trumbull forward,” Cavanagh, who made the motion, said. “We have made our intentions known, set a deadline which has expired and this is the next step that needs to take place.”

“In my own mind, in my own heart, I have a lot of difficulty doing what we're doing,” Pero said. “But ultimately, down the road, I think we're doing what's best for New London.”

Pero defended the Municipal Development Plan, which has been reviewed by numerous state agencies and upheld by the courts.

“This plan has seen more scrutiny than I think any plan anywhere has ever seen,” he said.

Frink, who called the motion “morally abhorrent,” called on the other councilors to change their minds.

“If throwing our neighbors out of their houses is immoral, and I think it's the bottom of the pit of public morality, and throwing them out of their houses with no money is unreasonable, why are these people sticking to their position?” he said. “On this issue they are stuck, and it's a mystery.”

The vote ignored the recommendation last week of Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who recommended that the council allow those plaintiffs who decline settlements to be relocated together onto a portion of the parcel known as 4A and be given titles to their homes at their new locations.

The deeds would be transferable but would carry restrictions giving the city the first opportunity to buy the properties at fair market value if their owners wished to transfer or sell them to anyone other than immediate family.

The council voted in February to allow lifetime tenancy on Parcel 4A without returning transferable deeds.

“How come we can't give a little more?” Cornish said.

The council's vote, witnessed by an audience overflowing into the hallways and by at least seven video cameras, was preceded by two hours of public comment.

Michael Cristofaro and his brother, Franco Cristofaro, sons of Pasquale Cristofaro, said their family will not settle with the city for the second property it has seized from them by eminent domain.

“If you want to see an 81-year-old man who loves this country and has never been arrested be handcuffed and hauled away along with every member of the Cristofaro family, continue along the path you are going. We won't be leaving,” Michael Cristofaro said.

“We are not going to give up. We will stand our ground,” Franco Cristofaro said. “You are here of the people, by the people and for the people. We are the people. Do your job.”

Kelo, the lead plaintiff in the suit against the city that the U.S. Supreme Court decided 5-4 against the plaintiffs last year, spoke quietly before the vote from the hallway.

“I really want the best for all my neighbors. The fact they settled, I'm very grateful for all of them for standing by me,” Kelo said.

“Eminent domain is wrong. It was wrong seven or eight years ago when they started this, and it's still wrong today,” she said.

Asked about her next step, Kelo said she didn't know what the council, then in executive session, was going to do.

“I'm assuming I'm going to have to get some boxes, if things keep going the way they're going,” Kelo said.

“Do the right thing, the ethically right thing. Go beyond the law, give back the deeds,” Sandra Beachy, a city resident, said.

She was one of 18 people from around the state who spoke in favor of Rell's proposal and in support of the former property owners at Fort Trumbull during the public comment portion of the meeting. Three said they supported the city's Fort Trumbull redevelopment plan.

“I am here tonight to give vocal support to those councilors who have been working so hard to find a resolution,” said Margo Bernier of Ocean Avenue. “Once the Supreme Court made its decision, we considered it an accomplished fact, a done deal. The highest court in the land made its decision, and whether one agreed with it or not, it was time to move on.”

“Some of us have waited many years for New London to turn a corner,” Bernier said. “That opportunity is here. We don't want to lose it.”

“It's time for New London to take the land, take the rent, take the taxes and get economic development going,” said Audrey Merrill.

Word of a financial settlement with Von Winkle came minutes before the start of the council meeting.

NLDC President Michael Joplin declined to reveal the settlement amount, as he has with settlements last week between the city and plaintiffs Charles Dery, Thelma Brelesky and Richard Beyer's Pataya Construction Limited Partnership. Laura and James Guretsky settled with the city last fall.

Von Winkle's settlement includes all three houses he formerly owned at Fort Trumbull, Joplin said. In addition, the city purchased 216 Howard St., a property owned by Von Winkle and approved earlier this year by the Planning and Zoning Commission for a used car dealership.

Civitas Institute: General Assembly Must Pass Eminent Domain Legislation Now

The John William Pope Civitas Institute has released an article outlining why our legislature should take immediate action to prevent eminent domain abuse in North Carolina. The article can be found here.

The N.C. Property Rights Coalition is not affiliated with the Civitas Institute.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Column by Susette Kelo

Eminent Domain Up Close

by Susette Kelo
Published in The Washington Times -- September 20, 2005

I am the Kelo in Kelo v. City of New London -- the now-infamous U.S. Supreme Court case in which the court ruled private property, including my home, could be taken by another private party promising to create more jobs and taxes with the land. Just last week, three of my neighbors got eviction notices, giving them 30 to 90 days to leave their homes.

I received just such a notice five years ago, the day before Thanksgiving, which marked the beginning of my fight to defend what is rightfully mine. It took a gutsy demand from my state's governor to finally make the private condemning agency back down for now on its demand that I and my neighbors give up our homes so they could be bulldozed.

Click here for the full column

Mount Airy, citizens settle annexation dispute

From the Winston-Salem Journal (June 2, 2006):

Mount Airy, people settle City delays annexation; residents call off lawsuit

The city of Mount Airy and 500 residents in two affluent communities north of the city have settled a lawsuit that challenged the legality of an annexation there more than three years ago.

Last night, the board of commissioners adopted a resolution that delays the effective date of the annexation to June 30, 2008.

In exchange, the homeowners have agreed to drop their plans to pursue the case further. In February, the N.C. Court of Appeals dismissed an appeal by the residents, who say that Mount Airy officials did not follow state law in trying to make the Cross Creek and Laurel Hills areas part of the city.

Residents were prepared to keep challenging the annexation, but in the past two months, there was an opinion among the group that too much money on both sides had already been spent.

Residents have spent about $100,000 in legal fees. The city of Mount Airy has spent as much.

Click here for the full story

Winston-Salem battles annexation opponents

From the Winston-Salem Journal (June 1, 2006):

Opponents: City services not worth extra taxes
Forced annexation could change political landscape of Winston-Salem

On a front yard in Pfafftown, a white sign with red bold letters reads: No forced annexation.
The sign belongs to Libby Robbins, who has lived there since 1955, but it might as well belong to anyone on this half-mile section of Yadkinville Road.

Winston-Salem's plan to annex 20 square miles and at least 17,000 residents has been stalled for two years by two lawsuits, but if the city is allowed to move ahead, Robbins and her neighbors would get new benefits, such as garbage pickup - and the power to vote in city elections.

Yesterday, Robbins said she would use that power.

"Most of us along here are senior citizens, so (annexation) is going to put a hurt on us," said Robbins, 73. "I don't know how government works. All I know is that I don't like what they're doing to us."

Click here for the full article

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Moore Co. Commissioners adopt Resolution opposing forced annexation

StopNCAnnexation's web site links to a May 17 article from The Southern Pines Pilot which details a 3-2 vote in which the Moore County Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution opposing forced annexation. The article is here.

Forced Annexation in Black Creek

The following is from The Wilson Daily Times (May 24, 2006):

Link to article

BLACK CREEK — At least 50 residents of the Carr Road area packed Town Hall in protest of a proposed annexation of their neighborhood.

Most residents said the annexation would create a financial hardship, several said they would move, others said they were losing their property rights and several challenged the method and selection of homes slated for possible annexation into the town.

"I think everyone here does not want to be in the annexation," said Linda McKeel. "This is an in-your-face, the biggest discrimination I've seen."

McKeel pointed to a nearby map and said some of the Carr area properties were less than an acre of land while other, larger properties adjoining the town were much larger but not within the annexation plan.

Most of the Carr Road area homes are singlewide or doublewide modular units.

"What is that but discrimination against the people who can't buy more?" she asked. "You're singling us out. You're going around your municipality. The businesses, the big land owners, they can probably afford it."

McKeel said the Carr Road area is being singled out and questioned the town's slogan, "A small town with a big heart."

"You don't have a big heart; you have a greedy one. I don't know how you can do it. It's not fair to these people."

About half of the protesters wore T-shirts with a recent Wilson Daily Times cartoon about the annexation on the front and, on the back, said "Black Creek: the town with no heart."

McKeel wasn't the only resident who questioned why certain homes were omitted from the annexation plan and why homes near the town limits, including several along Central Street were not in the plan.

Ken Matthews asked the board why the Gooseneck cul-de-sac connected to Carr Road was omitted. Several people in the audience said the land was owned by Mack Smith, the former planning board chairman, newly appointed town commissioner and son of the late mayor, Ralph Smith.

Chris Lukasina with the Upper Coastal Plain Council of Governments, an annexation adviser to the board, said it was because the property was too large.

Matthews walked away and shook his head.

Rufus Webb presented the Town Board a petition of 131 signatures from residents in the proposed annexation area and others outside the area who are concerned they could be next.

"I was blindsided when I learned of the proposed forced annexation," Webb said, after handing the petition to commissioners.

"I have lived here for 10 years, and I've never heard a word about this until I received a letter from the town of Black Creek a month before the meeting of May 2.

"This proposed annexation says I have no vote or say-so. Annexation is wrong, but it happens to be legal. If you gentlemen vote this forced annexation in, you are voting against everything this nation stands for."

The Town Board plans — with Commissioner Roland Godwin absent — to vote on whether to annex 95 parcels of land along Carr, Akron, Frank Price Church and Yank roads during its June 13 board meeting, which begins at 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall.

Godwin was not at Tuesday's public hearing and was not at a May 2 informational meeting where the annexation proposal was presented to residents.

Godwin said this morning that he had other commitments but did not say what those were. He said he will be in Kentucky June 13.

"I don't think that was anyone's concerns why I wasn't there," Godwin said. "I have a lot of church functions. ... Since it was informational meetings and public hearings, I didn't think I needed to be there.

"I'm not trying to avoid it because that's the only way we can grow is to annex."

Twenty-one people spoke in opposition during Tuesday's meeting.

"Growth Matters" blogs about launch of N.C. Property Rights Coalition

"Growth Matters", a blog sponsored by the Triangle Community Coalition, has blogged about the launch of the N.C. Property Rights Coalition.

Click here to read the post.