I Have a Gripe

April 24, 2016

The Absurdity of Eminent Domain

I hate eminent domain.

There, I said it. In my opinion, eminent domain is the exact opposite of what this country means. Shockingly, this is part of the Fifth Amendment which gives the state of federal government or by delegation to third parties to take control of private property, who will devote it to public or civic use with “just” compensation. While Thomas Jefferson rejected its inclusion completely, James Madison included a compromise of the idea.

The concept of eminent domain is actually a “carry over” from Jolly old England. Eminent domain is a younger ancestor of English property law. As a result, Madison chose instead to require compensation explicitly, and he used the term public use rather than public purpose, interest, benefit, or some other term in an effort to establish a narrower and more objective requirement than such alternative terms might require (Jones 2000, 290). This is a very different approach from the original English concept.

Still, I think it is, to use a generally English term, bloody rubbish.

I understand the importance of sacrificing for “the greater good.” However, the concept that a government can take someone’s property just makes my blood boil.

This affects people – individuals who have no way to fight the government.

Years ago I saw a film “Greetings from Asbury Park,” highlighting Angie Hampilos’ fight to keep her home of 50 years safe from waterfront re-developer Asbury Partners. She should’ve been living out her final years enjoying her life tending to her garden. Instead she and her niece fought against her home being bulldozed. Due to health reasons, Mrs. Hampilos sold her  beloved home to the city of Asbury Park in 2014. She passed away in June of 2015. This is not how her life should’ve ended. She should’ve been able to live out her years in the home she loved and leave that house to her family.

Currently, residents of Clifton and Little Falls, New jersey are fighting against an expansion of Rt. 46. The Genardi Family is losing part of their yard and pool to eminent domain. These life-long residents of Clifton have invested thousands to improve their home. Now, the second phase of the highway improvement project includes plans for a 12-foot sound wall that will cut out 21 feet of their property line and run straight through the center of their pool.

According to the plans, about 1,900 square feet of yard will be taken from the property’s 7,800-square-foot lot.

An independent appraisal of homes on Normandy Road that are being affected determined that none of the property owners would experience enough “damage” following the project’s completion to warrant the purchase of the homes themselves. NJDOT officials confirmed the majority of the Genardi’s back yard was acquired in 2012 and that the homeowner was compensated $175,000 for land required for construction purposes.

Not enough “damage?” Really?

So living 11 feet from a sound wall isn’t damaging? Forget that they had no choice about losing their property. The property they have invested in and have been raising their children. Yes, they were “compensated,” but who will ever want to buy a house that close to a sound barrier? Given the choice, I am sure they would prefer to have their home in tact than offered money for part of their property.

The Great Notch Inn of Little Falls, NJ has been affected by this project as well. A Jersey landmark, the business has lost approximately one-third of its property under eminent domain.

Is this America?

How can people fight this level of government control?

There are organizations that support those in the eminent domain fight. But it will take a thorough understanding of the law and lots of support.

If you are fighting against eminent domain, God’s speed.

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