Eminent Domain needs citizen approval

ReinventTrenton.com and the Trenton Downtowner are sponsoring a quick poll to gauge public opinion on eminent domain. This is the first chance Trentonians have had to make their voice heard on this subject.

Vote on Eminent Domain

You can vote at: trentonspace.com

I’ve said many times that the use of eminent domain is a matter of principle. While I consider forcing a property owner to sell a producing property to be unprincipled, I may very well be in the minority.

The Supreme Court has found state law governing eminent domain to be constitutional but in no way does that make it right. For instance, abortion is constitutional, but many people think it’s wrong. Drilling for offshore oil could become legal but plenty of people take a principled view that its wrong as well. On both the left and right we can have principled opinions that differ with the law. This is why we vote and enact laws, otherwise the judiciary makes rules for us.

Citizens need to vote on eminent domain either directly or through their representatives. Some towns may chose to allow their government to force sales of property to developers while others may decide to more tightly restrict government power. Trenton’s citizens must make a conscious decision on the relationship between property rights and government power.

Our city council could enact an ordinance banning or limiting the practice. Or they could choose not to. Either way the people should be heard and council should actively reflect the opinion of Trentonians, not the Supreme Court or developers.

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4 Responses to “Eminent Domain needs citizen approval”

  • Oops, hit send before I wrote a note- but check out the opinions of the plan smart blog at:


  • I’ve read through Plansmart NJ’s article and their position on Eminent Domain. It looks as though they are the enemy.

    Without presenting any analysis, they have concluded that eminent domain against homeowners is necessary in order for development to occur.

    Given the drastic nature of eminent domain on the lives of its targets, I’d think Plansmart NJ would at least throw up some numbers.

    For instance in cities that have successfully revitalized (are there any?), what percentage of all investment required eminent domain? If the answer is 100% or even 50%, you could make a case. Even then we’d have to agree on the definition of revitalization.

    To argue that eminent domain is OK because a bunch of other planners said it was, is lazy. Shades of Robert Moses.

    The planning community needs to come clean on this subject. If urban planning is to stay a relevant discipline it needs to come in line with the goals and aspirations of the citizens it purportedly serves.

  • Once again, you’re right. The Founding Fathers wanted eminent domain to keep the government from just grabbing property whenever. The theory was that paying for it would ensure the “Powers That Be” would think carefully. Eminent domain was meant to correct a weakness in the British consistution – In theory, all land belongs to the crown so the crown could take property whenever without compensation. PHS

  • Deborah:

    Thought of all to voice their opinions on whether or not eminent domain is relevant and to who. For years this issue has been laying on the desks of the legislatures to no avail. Public Advocate Ronald Chen wrote a report to Governor Corzine, in 05′ requesting that the defination of eminent domain in New Jersey be clarified. It would seem that the definition is too vague and suited towards the developers whim as to which properties are viable and by what criteria. In this instance, private property owners are at the mercy of who or whatever, the decerning eye of the developer chooses to offer. Point one. property owners, who just so happen to live within an area that dains to be redeveloped or restructurd will not be considered in a reasonable manner. Point Two, a property owner must take the equivalent of what the developer wants to offer them in return for their property. Point three. many well known developers have managed over the years to structure the term “eminent domain” to their specifications which only serve to suit “their purposes”. There are many homes in Trenton and the surrounding areas that exist in what one could call blighted areas and yet rival areas in the city that sell for multiple times what the developers will offer the home owner. To the advantage of the developers their rules apply and the legislature seems to favor their cause absolutely. This stinks to high heaven of abuse and private profiteering on a grand scale.
    In letter from present Attorney General Ann Milgram, abuses of eminent domain in New Jersey, she stated that abuses would be closely watched to ensure that citizens would not be forced from their homes by way of undetermined definitions of blight. We have yet to see the result of her comments or the Ronald Chens report to Governor Corzine.
    Protect your rights, stay informed.

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