NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Eminent Domain or Government Land Grab?

February 26, 2004

Increasingly, cities and states are grabbing property so developers can build for-profit facilities, such as sports arenas and shopping centers. Their convoluted rationale is that the projects create jobs and generate taxes that benefit the entire community, says USA Today.

The extent of the trend has been documented for the first time by the Institute for Justice, a non-profit law group opposed to these forced "takings." It has found 10,000 such condemnation attempts across the country since 1998.

Among the biggest seizures underway:

  • More than 1,000 people could be displaced in Brooklyn, N.Y., by a developer who bought the New Jersey Nets basketball team last month; he is seeking approval from New York to build a new arena along with a giant office, residential and retail complex.
  • Wayne County, Mich., wants to condemn 1,300 acres to build a business and recreation complex next to Detroit's airport.
  • Some 100 property owners in Newark, N.J., face condemnation to make way for a 2,000-unit condominium village.

Defenders of eminent domain say it's often the only way to revive depressed areas. They say those unwilling to sell for a fair price shouldn't thwart progress for all.

But extending eminent domain from projects that serve the public to projects that feed public coffers encourages abuse. Without limits, it places too many individuals at risk of losing their property in the name of generating more tax revenue, says USA Today.

Source: Editorial, "Curtail for-profit 'land grabs'" USA Today, February 26, 2004 and Dana Berliner, "Public Power, Private Gain," Institute for Justice, April 2003.

For USA Today text


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