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