[permaculture] [Fwd: Re: [SANET-MG] Supreme Court Rules Cities May Seize Homes]
Lawrence F. London, Jr.
lfl at intrex.net
Sat Jul 2 11:26:11 EDT 2005
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: [SANET-MG] Supreme Court Rules Cities May Seize Homes
Date: Sat, 2 Jul 2005 08:49:48 -0400
From: Patrick Druhan <druhanp at HOTMAIL.COM>
Reply-To: Sustainable Agriculture Network Discussion Group
<SANET-MG at LISTS.IFAS.UFL.EDU>
To: SANET-MG at LISTS.IFAS.UFL.EDU
Here is an example of a local farmer's fight against emminent domain. I have
reprinted the front page and included the web link. It is, perhaps useful
information for anyone needing to fight a similar action
Stop Coatesville's Condemnation of family farm to build a Golf Course
When Mr. and Mrs. Saha purchased the farm, back in 1971, there was no
plumbing, electricity or heat. Today, their home is a beautifully
farmhouse that they painstakingly restored themselves. They chose to move to
this location with their five children and make the sacrifices necessary
during the lengthy period of restoration and renovation to fulfill their
American Dream. Two of their daughters and their families live on adjacent
property. Today, the Saha’s and their grandchildren enjoy the beauty and
open space that their farm provides. It would be devastating for Mr. and
Mrs. Saha to be forced to move away from their daughters and grandchildren.
It would be impossible to replace their way of life, full of family values
and 30 years of sentimental memories, at any price.
It has not been an easy fight. The City of Coatesville has been relentless
and ruthless in their determination to take the Saha farm. It has been
extremely stressful for the Sahas, now in their seventies, living with the
fear that they may lose their home and the life they cherish with their
children and grandchildren.
The City of Coatesville has a large legal team to support their effort.
Coatesville has spent over $2,000,000 and the project to build the
recreation center hasn't even started.
Here is a list of events in chronological order regarding the use (or
misuse) of Eminent Domain.
On April 12, 1999, the City of Coatesville notified Dick Saha at his
business in Coatesville, that they intended to condemn their 38.2 acre farm
including house, barn and other outbuildings to build a golf course. They
never informed them that there was a public meeting that very evening to
vote on the Ordinance to condemn. Several days later the ordinance was
hand-delivered to the residence by Paul Janssen.
On April 21, 1999, the Sahas received via registered mail a letter from the
City Solicitor telling them officially of the condemnation and providing
them with the Ordinance for Condemnation which described the seven
properties involved including their own "38.2 acres with house and
In the subsequent weeks, the Sahas joined Mr. & Mrs. Christopher Snyder
(also losing their house and property) and launched a political and legal
The Sahas secured the only feasibility study that had been completed on the
project. The feasibility study's cost & revenue numbers came directly from a
brochure published by the American Society of Golf Course Architects. The
scope of the feasibility study was for a municipal golf course on the city
landfill (110 acres) and some surrounding properties. The Saha property was
not even included in the study. The Snyder property was identified as
optional. At some point, Paul Janssen (by his own admission) penciled in the
Saha's Valley Township property, not realizing that some of the property was
in West Caln Township.
The City of Coatesville decided arbitrarily (without feasibility study or
real cost/benefit analysis) to condemn the Saha & Snyder properties along
with five other properties (totaling approximately 100 acres).
Five properties are in Valley and West Caln Township, without the benefit of
voting rights in the City of Coatesville.
We have secured 1800 petition signatures of citizens who are against the
Condemnation Ordinance. 571 signatures are from registered voters in the
City of Coatesville who voted in the last election. The City Officials have
ignored the petition.
At the time, the Sahas appealed to State Representatives for support. They
received positive responses from Curt Schroder, Carol Rubley and Art
Hershey. Their own State Representative, Tim Hennessey choose to be neutral.
The City of Coatesville has held numerous meetings describing their
revitalization program for Coatesville. The Recreation Center which is
planned for Valley Township (outside the city limits) has a very dynamic
scope. Initially the project was described as an 18-hole golf course,
executive par-3 course, miniature golf, driving range, batting cages,
fishing, boating, hiking trail, tennis courts and a clubhouse. In the last
presentation, the City Manager added a bowling alley and go-carts.
At the time, there was absolutely no supporting cash flow, ROI or Cost
/Benefit Analysis. As I mentioned earlier, the cost benefit numbers that the
city has included in their presentations were lifted directly out of the
American Society of Golf Course Architects brochure depicting industry
The landfill that is being considered for this project, has a greater than
30% slope, close proximity to Brandywine Creek, a gas pipeline running
through it and a 30 year landfill that would need to be capped. All these
characteristics translate into higher than normal costs to meet
There are 77 golf courses within 25 miles of Coatesville, 31 are public with
at least one new golf course, being built 3 miles from the proposed site.
Since the initial ordinance was issued, the City of Coatesville has backed
off from condemning the Snyder and Saha 200 year old restored houses. They
have indicated that the property owners can keep their houses and a
negotiable lot around the proximity of their houses. They are still pursuing
condemnation of the rest of the Saha property, approximately 34 acres to
build a racquetball facility and pitch & putt (although, the Coatesville
City Manager admits that no plans have been finalized as to what would
really be put there).
The Sahas continue to fight the condemnation. They do not want to loose
their farmland to a pitch & putt, racquetball court or worse yet clubhouse,
parking lot or proposed bowling alley.
The Sahas also continue to fight the condemnation because the City has acted
irresponsibly (no thorough feasibility study and absolutely no valid
In addition the City of Coatesville has treated the Saha's unfairly and
unethically by not informing them of the public meeting when the initial
vote took place. Nor did the City Manager take the time to present the
project and the plans to the landowners and give them an opportunity to ask
questions before issuing them formal condemnation notification.
In subsequent public meetings, when 300 supporters showed up to voice their
displeasure, agendas were changed to table this issue. When the people
rebelled, an alternative meeting was scheduled that turned into a raucous
confrontation because the city brought out its police force, barricaded all
parking in proximity to the location where the meeting was to be held and
changed the agenda to be a presentation on the revitalization of
Then a third meeting was scheduled, again 300 people showed up, the room
where the meeting was held was at least 100 degrees, there were huge noisy
fans with an inaudible sound system. Again the City started the meeting with
the same hour-long presentation. Most of the presentation covers the
revitalization plan for Coatesville. This meeting was to discuss the
proposed Recreation Center in Valley Township. Many people spoke out about
their concerns, but neither the City Council nor the participants could hear
what was being said. The city ended the meeting prematurely when opponents
to the plan spoke.
Other Public Meeting agendas are structured so that discussions on this
project are tabled until after the formal lengthy agenda has been covered.
As we are bringing up our issues and concerns in regard to this project
three of the seven council members just get up and left. They quickly become
tired or bored with the situation and our rebuttals. Meanwhile, the Saha
family, especially Nancy Saha (age 68) and Richard Saha (age 70), live every
moment with the stress of this injustice and the associated legal costs. The
Saha's can't just walk out and leave.
June 14, 1999, the City voted to augment their own counsel with another
legal firm that specializes in eminent domain. In addition, they voted to
approve another feasibility and topographical study, this time to include
the Saha property.
The Sahas asked Coatesville if they intended to do a more thorough financial
study, the City Manager deferred to the Council, stating that it was up to
them and then no one answered. We do not know whether they intend to follow
up with a real Cost/Benefit Analysis.
July 2, 1999, the Sahas with Lawyer met with three Council members, City
Manager Paul Janssen and City Solicitor John Carnes for negotiations. The
Sahas offered to negotiate with the city for their property along the
railroad bed. This would allow the city to move north to south under the
route 30 bypass. The city never responded.
October 26, 1999, the city offered to purchase between 6 and 9 acres for a
cost of $13,570 per acre in addition to the railroad bed the Sahas already
offered. This property was for a driving range. The Sahas declined the offer
because they did not want to sell and the land was not necessary for the
Between April 19, 1999 and June 12, 2000, the Sahas attended all Council
meetings. The city tabled all discussions related to the use of eminent
domain. The Sahas were treated with the same indifference and stonewalling
from the beginning. The standard answer to all questions was "our lawyer
told us not to talk about it".
The Sahas could not legally prevent the city's engineering firm (Carroll
Engineering) from entering their property for surveying. Even though the
surveyors were supposed to give 24 hour notification, at least six times
they refused notification.
June 9, 2000, the Sahas found out from a legal notice in the local newspaper
the the city was introducing a second ordinance to take their property via
eminent domain. This time, the city is taking 41.5 acres, leaving them with
a 6 acre island, separating them from their two children and husbands and
five grandchildren. The change from 9 to 44 acres was suggested by the city
eminent domain lawyers and Insignia Hotel chain. According to this new plan,
the Sahas would get non-exclusive use of their own driveway. However
detailed plans on the use of their property is still not available. The
Sahas see this as a vindictive move by the city to force them to sell their
land or lose it all.
June 12, 2000, the city introduced a second ordinance to condemn property by
eminent domain. Valley supervisors presented their opposition to the
project, noting the predatory nature of Coatesville's actions.
June 13, 2000, a special session was held at 5:00 PM to pass the first
reading of the ordinance. The City Council members refused a suggestion to
put the $30 million project to referendum, in fear that it would not pass.
Coatesville residents strongly voiced their need for a foodstore in town,
before a golf course outside of town, and that recreation should be placed
inside the city.
June 19, 2000, the city held an open house to present the project. A public
relations firm was hired for $25,000 retainer by Coatesville, and the
Insignia /ESG firm was hired to plan the hotel and resort.
June 26, 2000, the city passed the second reading of the new ordinance by a
vote of 6 to 1 in favor. At all three meetings, a large number of residents
voiced their displeasure with the project, including the affected land
owners. This did not affect the Coatesville vote. The first ordinance from
April 1999 was removed.
July 22, 2000, Dick and Nancy Saha received papers from John Carnes, City
Solicitor, that Coatesville filed a "Declaration of Taking to Condemn" with
the Chester County Courthouse. Coatesville will be taking the Saha property.
This is after Paul Janssen, Coatesville City Manager said in the newspaper
that the taking was on the back burner.
The Sahas intend to continue the fight against the misuse and abuse of
eminent domain laws in the State of Pennsylvania. We will do what ever it
takes to pursue this to the point where these laws are changed to be more
specific and exclusionary to avoid the abuse of the law by local
E-mails are welcome at nrsaha at aol.com
or call Dick and Nancy Saha at 610-383-4295
More information about the permaculture