NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Abuse Of Eminent Domain

October 5, 2000

The Institute for Justice in Washington, D.C., is trying to curb the broad powers of local governments to take private property for public projects. It is filing suits in several cases around the country on behalf of property owners hit with eminent domain proceedings.

In one case, it is challenging in federal court in Manhattan New York's decades-old Eminent Domain Procedures Law.

  • The suit alleges that notification procedures in the law violate owners' rights to due process under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.
  • Those procedures require property owners to respond within 30 days to a published legal notice of a potential condemnation -- or lose their rights.
  • A lawyer for the institute says that even owners who try their best to respond end up missing the deadline.
  • While the Constitution allows the taking of private property for "public use," with compensation, many communities have so stretched the meaning of "public use" in recent years that it has been used to justify taking property for privately owned shopping malls and other businesses.

Plaintiffs in the New York case include the owners of a cabinet making company whose property the state wants to condemn for a development that includes a Home Depot and other commercial stores.

Other plaintiffs include a property owner seeking to stop the Village of Port Chester from condemning four buildings to make way for a shopping center and a church seeking to stop a community association from taking the church as part of an urban renewal project.

Source: Dean Starkman, "Group Fights a New York Property Law," Wall Street Journal, October 5, 2000.

 

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