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Little Ferry Council acts to curb its own Eminent Domain power
- Categorized in: Eminent Domain
Little Ferry Council acts to curb its own power
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
LITTLE FERRY -- The Borough Council is proposing both an ordinance and a resolution to limit its authority to take private property through eminent domain.
Both moves are intended to give homeowners an added sense of security that their properties won't be seized for redevelopment.
"We want to emphasize that we have never had the intention of taking anybody's home," Borough Council President Mauro Raguseo said Monday.
In recent weeks, eminent domain has become a hot-button issue after thousands of fliers were sent to homeowners claiming that two separate plans -- one to redevelop a waterfront area and another to provide tax breaks to homeowners -- would lead to automatic seizure of property.
Raguseo said the fliers were "misleading."
Last month's flier campaign sparked a mass turnout at a joint Planning and Zoning Board meeting where homeowners criticized a plan to give tax abatements to residents to fix up their homes.
The plan was especially unpopular among residents who live near a proposed waterfront development, a project they see as an inducement to attract a developer to take advantage of the tax incentives.
Borough officials have repeatedly told residents that the two issues are unrelated.
The Borough Council will introduce a special ordinance tonight to quell homeowner's fears. The governing body will also pass a resolution on the same issue to so that the law takes effect immediately, before a public hearing is held next month, Raguseo said.
In its plan to limit its eminent domain powers, the borough would be prohibited from taking private property "against the wishes of the property owner, for private development to increase tax ratables or tax revenue from the property," the proposed law states.
The exception would be "when the property is to be opened to the public or for the public's use, or when the acquisition is necessary to eliminate an existing use of the property that inflicts an affirmative harm on society," the law also states.
Members of the homeowners group that sent out the fliers said they will be monitoring both moves and still have concerns.
Dennis Francis, the attorney for the Little Ferry Homeowners and Tenants Association, said the ordinance is "vague and ambiguous."
Francis said he is concerned about the property rights of owners of commercial business, as well as homeowners.
The Little Ferry ordinance stems from a U.S. Supreme Court decision in June. In that case, Kelo v. City of New London, the high court justices ruled in a split decision that municipalities could use the power of eminent domain to take private property for economic development.
Before the high court's decision, eminent domain could be asserted solely for public use.
This had been interpreted as something to benefit the public, such as a hospital or park or road, not a shopping center or office buildings as New London, Conn., proposed.
Similar laws have also been enacted locally in Paramus and Ridgefield.
The ordinance will be introduced tonight at Little Ferry Borough Hall, 215-217 Liberty St. at 7 p.m.
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