[Homestead] Eminent Domain in Supreme Court, damages for denying radio tower permit

Tvoivozhd tvoivozd at infionline.net
Tue Sep 28 16:46:29 EDT 2004

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Tuesday, September 28

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Supreme Court Will Determine When Cities May Seize Private Land

*By Hope Yen* Associated Press Writer
Published: Sep 28, 2004


WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to decide when 
governments may seize people's homes and businesses for economic 
development projects, a key question as cash-strapped cities seek ways 
to generate tax revenue.

At issue is the scope of the Fifth Amendment, which allows governments 
to take private property through eminent domain, provided the owner is 
given "just compensation" and the land is for "public use."

Susette Kelo and several other homeowners in a working-class 
neighborhood in New London, Conn., filed a lawsuit after city officials 
announced plans to raze their homes to clear the way for a riverfront 
hotel, health club and offices. The residents refused to budge, arguing 
it was an unjustified taking of their property.

They argued the taking would be proper only if it served to revitalize 
slums or blighted areas dangerous to the public.

"I'm not willing to give up what I have just because someone else can 
generate more taxes here," said homeowner Matthew Dery, whose family has 
lived in the neighborhood known as Fort Trumbull for more than 100 years.

New London contends the condemnations are proper because the development 
plans serving a "public purpose" - such as boosting economic growth - 
are valid "public use" projects that outweigh the property rights of the 

The Connecticut Supreme Court agreed with New London, ruling 4-3 in 
March that the mere promise of additional tax revenue justified the 

Nationwide, more than 10,000 properties were threatened or condemned 
between 1998 and 2002, according to the Institute for Justice, a 
Washington public interest law firm representing the New London homeowners.

In many cases, according to the group, cities are pushing the limits of 
their power to accommodate wealthy developers. Courts, meanwhile, are 
divided over the extent of city power, with seven states saying economic 
development can justify a taking and eight states allowing a taking only 
if it eliminates blight.

In New London, city officials envision replacing a stagnant enclave with 
commercial development that would attract tourists to the Thames 
riverfront, complementing an adjoining Pfizer Corp. research center and 
a proposed Coast Guard museum.

"The record is clear that New London was a city desperate for economic 
rejuvenation," the city's legal filing states, in asking the high court 
to defer to local governments in deciding what constitutes "public use."

According to the residents' filing, the seven states that allow 
condemnations for private business development alone are Connecticut, 
Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and North Dakota.

Eight states forbid the use of eminent domain when the economic purpose 
is not to eliminate blight; they are Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, 
Kentucky, Maine, Montana, South Carolina and Washington.

Another three - Delaware, New Hampshire and Massachusetts - have 
indicated they probably will find condemnations for economic development 
alone unconstitutional, while the remaining states have not addressed or 
spoken clearly to the question.

The case is Kelo et al v. City of New London, 04-108.

In other action Tuesday, the high court agreed to hear an appeal 
involving an amateur radio operator who says the city of Rancho Palos 
Verdes, Calif., unjustly denied him a permit to use a radio antenna for 
commercial purposes.

At issue is whether the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 provides 
for money damages from city officials in cases of violations, or simply 
a court order requiring the city's compliance. The 9th U.S. Circuit 
Court of Appeals ruled the radio operator was entitled to compensation.

The case is City of Rancho Palos Verdes et al v. Abrams, 03-1601.


On the Net:

Institute for Justice: http://www.ij.org/

New London Development Corp.: http://www.nldc.org/

Supreme Court: http://www.supremecourtus.gov/

AP-ES-09-28-04 1216EDT


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