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Imminently concerned: A local view of eminent domain
Cupertino's land use shot heard far and wide
Eminent Domain Project at Standstill Despite Ruling
Blight Makes Right: October 26, San Diego
Eminent Domain in N.J. - Now They Just Steal Land
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November 30, 2005
Imminently concerned: A local view of eminent domain
Blue Grass Institute for Public Policy Solutions
Eminent domain is becoming an abusive power that should be restrained to perpetuate a civil society founded on voluntary exchange.
Our nation’s founding fathers believed not only in limiting the taking of private property for “public use,” but also in the vigorous protection of private-property rights, which they considered sacred. John Adams said: “The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the law of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence.”
A firm belief in the sacredness of property rights makes our society different than virtually all others. Frederick Bastiat wrote: “Life, liberty and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.”
Put another way, that inimitable philosopher Frank Zappa said: “Communism doesn’t work because people like to own stuff.”
Stealing Most of us learned in kindergarten that taking something belonging to one person and giving it to another is stealing. In civil dealings, when a buyer demands something that a seller won’t give up, it’s the same thing – stealing. And just because he throws down $5 as he’s running out the door doesn’t mean that it’s not stealing.
The Supreme Court’s recent Kelo v. New London decision indicates a growing disrespect for – and lack of knowledge concerning – private-property rights, especially at the state and local levels of government.
Too many local government officials’ economic-development policies consist of plans to eliminate successful businesses to make room for other companies they hope will succeed. Not only does such a scheme bear little resemblance to any kind of reasonableness, it’s also actually the same approach used in the planned economies of the now-defunct Soviet system.
Eminent-domain abuse often occurs when government decides it wants someone else’s property without paying for it. It ends up acting as a form of real-estate agent for people who want to buy what others don’t want to sell. Actually, a more accurate description would be: When you buy something that somebody wants to sell, you go to a Realtor; when you buy something somebody doesn’t want to sell, you go to government.
The founders were so concerned about such coercion when it came to the taking of property that they placed strict limitations on the use of eminent domain in the Constitution. They said private property could only be taken for public use – and then with “just compensation.”
“Just compensation” does not consist of a local government’s cursory analysis followed by the oft-repeated conclusion: “After all we can only pay fair-market value.” Our Constitution does not state “fair-market value.” It specifies “just compensation.”
Ultimately, the debate centers on what constitutes “just compensation.” Ordinarily, this should be an easy debate to win – or at least it should be in America. Owners determine the value – and the amount of just compensation – of their properties. The market price is the intersection of what a buyer is willing to pay and the owner is willing to take. Our Constitution guarantees that government purchases must adhere to that same formula.
Saving taxpayers’ dollars … after the fact
It’s almost humorous to hear local politicians talk – usually with dripping insincerity – about how they are limited in what they can pay because they want to protect taxpayers. Puhlllleeezzzeee…
If they are genuine in their desire to protect taxpayers, they should reject most of the projects for which they want to use eminent domain in the first place! Such ventures are usually unnecessary and ultimately wasteful of taxpayers’ monies.
Talking about saving taxpayers money by paying a private-property owner less than the value of their property amounts to after-the-fact nonsense for which no possible justification exists.
It is troublesome to hear policymakers oppose attempts to broaden a local government’s use of eminent domain because “they just don’t want to tie government’s hands.” Such proclamations convey a lack of understanding of our Constitution’s intent to restrain government and protect our property rights. When the ties that bind government’s grasp are loosened, that is when taxpayers must hold on to their wallets, homes and businesses with both hands.
Too many local policymakers don’t seem to have a clue about the importance of private-property rights. Too often they applaud decisions in light of the economic benefits of development projects that are firmly promised – but rarely fulfilled.
Susette Kelo did not want to give up her home in New London, Connecticut, but her local elected officials demanded she abandon her property so they could build a parking lot adjacent to a new Pfizer research facility. If this isn’t equivalent to public theft, what does it take to commit thievery? Worse, the Supreme Court upheld such pilfering.
Of course, the silver lining around this dark cloud is the blatant outlandishness of the decision. The ruling itself has scraped back the thin veneer on government’s so-called “benevolence.” What lies underneath is anything but generous.
Few eminent-domain proceedings actually move to the final stages in Kentucky. Yet the threat of eminent domain by local bureaucrats who salivate at the prospect of using government’s iron fist – no matter the issue – presents a real danger to property owners.
Just the threat of condemnation can tie up a piece of property and reduce the incentive for its owner to invest in – and improve – it. Moreover, potential buyers evaporate when the cloud of eminent domain hangs over a property.
Traditionally, purveyors of eminent domain have limited its use to those types of projects that are clearly designed for public use – right-of-ways, interstates and bridges. But in recent years, our judicial system has opened the door for state and local governments to argue the possibility of a property yielding increased “tax revenue” as a justification for public condemn of private properties.
The prospects of increased tax revenues seduce too many local governments. Like drug addicts, policymakers often end up willing to do almost anything to satisfy their addiction to spending other people’s money.
Local governments in Kentucky increasingly act like drug addicts who will do almost anything to satisfy their addiction to spending other peoples’ money. What started out as an occasional hit is now an addiction to using government’s iron fist at will for a nebulously defined “public use.”
In her blistering Kelo dissent, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor warned that: “The specter of condemnation hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory.”
A misconception exists here in Kentucky that private-property owners have more protection because state law limits the taking of private property to the traditional uses of eminent domain and blighted properties.
Because “blighted” has come to mean everything, it now means nothing to an increasing number of elected officials. Incidents of eminent-domain use in the state in recent years reinforce the fact that local policymakers are willing to overuse eminent domain – particularly to satisfy profit-seeking developers.
Perhaps that quote by Frank Zappa was more appropriate than one might initially think. The Kelo case demonstrates that local governments can be just as tyrannical as centralized ones. Communism’s founder Karl Marx insisted: “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.” In the twisted logic of today’s jurisprudence, perceived general economic needs are considered justification for subjugating individual property owners’ rights.
Unless our state policymakers proactively clarify and restrict the use of the term “blighted,” teams of local politicians and developers appear coiled and ready to use – and abuse – the Kelo Supreme Court ruling for their mutual benefits.
In light of the Kelo decision, some questions for Kentucky policymakers seem appropriate:
• If a development project you plan holds such great promise, why shouldn’t you pay property owners their asking price?
• If paying this “market price” is too steep, shouldn’t you reconsider the economic viability of a particular project?
• Isn’t the question of misappropriating property from citizens really about your inability to decide which programs should be funded and which ones should not?
• Whose home is safe? Whose church is safe? Whose business is safe?
• Whose interests are best served by expanding the use of eminent domain?
Legislators should keep in mind that the communities most affected by eminent-domain abuse are often those least capable of successfully fighting it. It’s the poor and disenfranchised who live in areas most affected by Kelo’s new definition of “public use.”
• Is it a proper role of government to engineer today’s society just so it can extract more and more tax receipts?
Posted by Coalition Webbies at 10:33 AM
Cupertino's land use shot heard far and wide
Regional affordable housing advocates, environmentalists, officials in
If they had passed, the measures would have governed only Cupertino's 11
So why the intense interest in thwarting them? The answer lies in fear
In the balance is the future of Silicon Valley. Land-use is clearly the
The Cupertino story contains all of the debate's narrative threads. It
It shows the increasing tension between homeowners trying to protect
The Cupertino fight also magnifies the inherent conflict of interest
The Cupertino fight also shows with great clarity that state and local
They have not convinced the electorate that density is the only way to
Land-use fights akin to Cupertino's have played out in recent years in
At the same time, San Jose's Coyote Valley, 3,500 acres now being
Tellingly, the Cupertino measures were defeated by relatively slim
Saratoga Mayor Kathleen King, who watched the town's battle with intense
Morgan Hill City Councilman Greg Sellers, who also watched the Cupertino
"It's incumbent on all of us (elected leaders) to talk about what a
Angst about the future of land use is evident in every Bay Area
As recently as 15 years ago, his firm was still designing low-density,
But, he argues, there is no going back to that kind of development, not
Still, implementing new high-density urban-planning principals will
"Urbanism is not natural to the United States," concludes Mr. Tang.
Posted by Coalition Webbies at 10:28 AM
Eminent Domain Project at Standstill Despite Ruling
New York Times - November 21st
By WILLIAM YARDLEY
NEW LONDON, Conn. - They have still not moved out. Not Susette Kelo. Not the Derys. Not Byron Athenian or Bill Von Winkle or the others.
Five months after the United States Supreme Court set off a national debate by ruling that the City of New London could seize their property through eminent domain to make way for new private development, no one has been forced to leave.
No bulldozers have arrived to level the last houses still standing, and none are expected soon.
Even though the holdouts lost their case, and the development that would displace them finally seems free to go forward, construction has not begun, and some elements of the project have been effectively paralyzed since the court ruling prompted a political outcry.
"I felt relaxed enough to get my checkbook out and put the new roof on," said Mr. Von Winkle, who owns three buildings with a total of 12 occupied apartments in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood by the Thames River, where the city was sued for claiming 15 properties through eminent domain.
Ms. Kelo, also among the handful of holdouts, said, "We still have hope that we'll get to keep our homes."
It is not that Ms. Kelo and the others have chained themselves to their property in a final dramatic defiance of the law.
Instead, wary of public disapproval and challenges from groups like the Institute for Justice, the law firm that represented the holdouts in court, the state and the city have halted plans to evict the remaining residents. Investors are concerned about building on land that some people consider a symbol of property rights. At the same time, contract disputes and financial uncertainty have delayed construction even in areas that have been cleared.
With so many complications, some people are unsure whether the city's initial vision for the property - a mix of housing, hotel and office space intended to transform part of its riverfront and bolster a declining tax base - is even realistic anymore.
"Winning took so long," said Mayor Jane L. Glover, "that the plan may not be as viable in 2005 or 2006 or 2007."
New London, founded in the 17th century as a port city in southeastern Connecticut, has a high unemployment rate and fewer residents today than it had in 1920. Its court battle over eminent domain started five years ago, when it claimed the property of six Fort Trumbull homeowners, a two-block area within 90 acres set for development. Homeowners challenged the move, and the matter eventually made its way to the Supreme Court, which ruled 5 to 4 in June that the city had the right to take the land to improve its financial health, even though doing so would eventually transfer the property to a private developer.
But in a dissent that echoed what property rights activists were saying, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote: "The specter of condemnation hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall or any farm with a factory."
Congress and state legislatures across the country have reacted by revisiting eminent domain laws. Over the summer, the United States House of Representatives passed a resolution condemning the court decision. This month, the House voted overwhelmingly to deny federal economic development money for two years to local governments that seize private property for private development.
In September, Gov. M. Jodi Rell of Connecticut demanded that the New London Development Corporation, the city's development agency, rescind eviction orders delivered to tenants in rental units that belong to homeowners who have refused to give up their property.
The Connecticut General Assembly has asked cities to delay using eminent domain while it considers revising state law. Some city and state officials cite the difficulty in finding a balance between using eminent domain to rebuild blighted areas and preventing the potential for abuse that concerned Justice O'Connor.
"We're not writing a law to solve the New London problem," said State Representative Michael P. Lawlor, a Democrat who is co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee. "We're writing a law to fix the Sandra Day O'Connor problem."
Amid all the debate, the Fort Trumbull project has stalled.
"This lawsuit put a chill on the development of the whole 90 acres, no doubt in my mind," said Thomas J. Londregan, the city's director of law. "Any developer knew that whatever they did would most likely be appealed to the courts."
Contentiousness led to stalemate and stumbles. At one point the city severed ties with the New London Development Corporation, only to reverse itself days later under pressure from the state. A key corporation executive was forced out.
Pressure to go forward is considerable, even if momentum is not. The state has already invested $73 million on environmental cleanup and sewer and road improvements. Elegant street lamps, intended to illuminate a gentrified new riverfront, instead shine over empty lots where buildings have been leveled but not replaced.
In recent weeks the city, the state and the developer, Boston-based Corcoran Jennison, have begun discussing ways to jump-start construction in empty areas. Details are not firm.
"We are currently working our way toward what I believe will be something fruitful," said Michael Joplin, president of the New London Development Corporation.
One point of contention: Corcoran Jennison is resisting pressure from the city to build a waterfront hotel first, as was initially planned, out of concern that there is no market for one.
Corcoran Jennison says that Pfizer, which built a major research center next to the site in the late 1990's and pushed for the Fort Trumbull development, backed away from a commitment to help pay for the hotel as the lawsuit dragged on. And the prospects for a Coast Guard museum, which under one plan could be built on the holdouts' land, are also unclear.
Still, Ron Angelo, deputy commissioner of the state's Department of Economic and Community Development, insists that the project, at least in some form, will get under way soon. "I think for the first time in a number of months, if not years, we have come close to beginning with the project," he said.
If any construction begins soon, it will happen away from the area where the holdouts remain, said Marty Jones, president of Corcoran Jennison, which has been under contract on the project since 1999.
"We need to have some positive things happening so that every lender and investor I go to doesn't say, 'I want to be 100 miles away from here,' " Ms. Jones said. "Eminent domain in Fort Trumbull has been on the front page of every newspaper in the country, and it has not put New London in the most positive light."
Despite losing in court, the holdouts have gained political leverage, largely through the public relations effort led by the Institute for Justice, Mr. Joplin said.
Scott G. Bullock, a lawyer for the Institute for Justice who argued for the resistant property owners before the Supreme Court, said, "We might have lost the battle, but the overall war is really going in our favor."
"What developer is going to want to build on land that was received through probably the most universally despised Supreme Court decision in decades?" Mr. Bullock asked.
Governor Rell has hired a mediator to meet with the holdouts. The goal is to see what, if any, financial terms, beyond the outdated appraised value they have been offered, might persuade them to leave.
"I'm on the road to search for the proverbial win-win," said the mediator, Robert R. Albright. "It's an extraordinarily complex situation. It's not a two-party situation by any means. I'm not sure I can honestly give you an option set or even fully describe the obstacles."
The property owners have their critics in New London. They have been accused of delaying the city's resurgence, and even of taking payoffs from property rights advocates in order to keep up the fight. But at least a few, after seeing most of their neighborhood leveled, say they will consider coming to terms with Mr. Albright if the money is right. Others, however, have not ruled out new lawsuits.
Meanwhile, some renters are moving in, not out. Michelle Cerrato arrived from Pennsylvania in September and found her two-bedroom apartment on Walbach Street through a newspaper ad. Unaware of the fuss over eminent domain, Ms. Cerrato, a 30-year-old casino hostess with three children, soon figured out why neighbors have signs in their windows that say, "Not for Sale."
Confused and concerned that she would be evicted, she called her landlord, Sue Dery, one of the holdouts.
"She said it's not going to happen," Ms. Cerrato said. "It's been going on for eight years."
Posted by Coalition Webbies at 10:23 AM
November 11, 2005
Blight Makes Right: October 26, San Diego
“Blight Makes Right” could be the title of the 50-year story of redevelopment agency abuse in California. Under the guise of ending blight, billions in tax revenues have been bled from public services and a permanent cloud of eminent domain hangs over millions of Californians.
Did this blight really ever exist? If so, has redevelopment ended any of it? And, if so, why does continue to grow, now covering over 1 million acres, or 25% of all urbanized land in California? These are the questions we face today.
My name is Chris Norby. I’ve served on the Orange County Board of Supervisors for 3 years, and 18 years on the Fullerton City Council. I serve as State Chair of Municipal Officials for Redevelopment Reform, whose publication, “Redevelopment: The Unknown Government”, I am providing as part of the public record.
There are 4 issues with “blight” that must be addressed:
1) The definition of blight is so broad as to render it meaningless.
2) Once defined, the blight designation becomes virtually permanent.
3) The designation of blight justifies billions in tax diversions away from the public interest and into private interests.
California redevelopment law’s definition of blight is so broad as to be meaningless. Some of our richest cities have been declared blighted. Indian Wells, for example, with a median household income of $250,000 has two redevelopment areas.
Residents fear a blight designation will depress property values, but voter approval is never asked. Citizens can force a vote by gathering 10% of the signatures within 30 days of the blight designation. Where this has occurred, redevelopment typically loses by wide margins. It was rejected in Montebello by 83%, La Puente by 67%, Ventura by 57%, and Half Moon Bay by 76%, for example.
Counties and school districts fear the loss of property tax revenues. Legal challenges, however, are difficult , and long-established, debt-ridden agencies are virtually impossible to shut down
State law must more narrowly define exactly what blight is.
A blight designation lasts for the life of the project area. Redevelopment areas are supposed to sunset in 40 years, but they are easily and routinely extended. There is no monitoring as to whether the blight has been removed.
To justify their continued existence, state law must require that redevelopment agencies periodically prove—at least every 5 years—that blight still exists, and then explain why they have been unable to cure it.
Once blight is established, property tax revenues may be used to subsidize purely private development. By law, all of these projects must have the sole purpose of eliminating blight. In reality, most are corporate welfare schemes enriching big box retailers, auto dealers, corporate chains, NFL owners and even casino operators.
Statewide, over $100 million in cash, land and tax rebates have been given to Walmart. In Orange County alone, Costco has received over $30 million in public handouts. Irwindale gave Raiders owner Al Davis $7 million just to talk. Here in San Diego is the infamous $6 million annual seat guarantee to the Chargers. The Los Angeles CRA gave $98 million for the now-failing Hollywood/Highland Mall, just as Costa Mesa’s Triangle Square—built using eminent domain and lavish subsidies—now stands virtually empty.
Redevelopment agencies currently divert about $3 billion annually. $3 billion. Think of all the teachers that could hire, all the library books that could buy and all the streets that could repair. $3 billion. That’s 10% of all the property tax revenues in the state. What has any of this money done to cure blight? And if it has, let the agencies declare victory, shut down and return this $3 billion annual revenue to the counties, school districts from which it was taken.
Far from economic development or ending blight, these are a net drain on California’s economy and public treasure. The most comprehensive study of redevelopment in California was conducted by the Public Policy Institute in 1998, with veteran researcher Michael Dardia studying 114 project areas. Their report “Subsidizing Redevelopment in California” showed no net benefits compared to comparable areas without redevelopment. A similar LA Times report of January 30, 2000 reached the same conclusion.
State law must require that redevelopment funds be spent only on public projects, not private development. Current law requires 20% be spent on housing. Additionally, we could require that 20% be spent on transportation, 20% on school construction, 20% on storm water clean-up and 20% spent on libraries.
Lastly, a blight designation makes all properties within a redevelopment area subject to eminent domain for the benefit of other private interests. Your home may be given to a developer. Your business may be seized and given to a competitor. Your church may be grabbed and given to a big box chain. Your open land may be taken and handed over to a foreign auto maker.
The designation of blight has a depressive effect on local property owners. Vibrant neighborhoods are now stigmatized. Eclectic business districts with a rich mixture of locally-owned businesses are now under the shadow of eminent domain. The blight designation thus steals from our communities the diverse and unique mixtures of people, housing types and businesses that made them so special.
Do all Californians have the equal right to own and enjoy their homes and businesses? Or shall they be sacrificed at the demands of the wealthy and powerful? Is eminent domain to be used in California to serve the public? Or for private profit?
The abuses of eminent domain are as widespread as they are tragic. Cottonwood Church’s property in Cypress was condemned for a Costco. Norm Neilson’s open desert land in California City was condemned for a Hyundai test facility. Phil Gold’s 99 Cent Only store in Lancaster was condemned for a Costco. Bill Vega’s family-owned repair shop in Brea was seized for a brew-pub.
My own Orange County Health Care Agency’s facility was condemned for a Santa Ana BMW dealership expansion. Under current law, the Santa Ana redevelopment agency could declare selling expensive German cars to be a greater public good than a health facility housing over 200 county restaurant inspectors.
The CRA claims that eminent domain is a necessary tool for economic development. In fact, just the opposite is true. The most successful projects are those where cities work with local business owners, not dispossess them. Successful projects are those that enhance local neighborhoods, not destroy them.
In fact, it is the fear of eminent domain that mobilizes citizens and small property owners against revitalization efforts. Lifting that fear will usher in a new era of trust between city hall and neighborhood groups.
Look at cities in my own Fourth District of Orange County. Fullerton's historic and vibrant downtown was rehabilitated without a single use of eminent domain. Anaheim's new Platinum Triangle is a dynamic high-density mixed-use area of multiple ownerships, where Mayor Curt Pringle has told developers eminent domain will not be used for their projects.
City council members do not want to use eminent domain against their own citizens, but often feel pressured by short-sighted developers, big box retailers and auto dealers who pit city-against-city for more land and subsidies. By limiting eminent domain, the legislature will create a level playing field for all cities when dealing with developers.
In its narrow 5-4 Kelo vs. New London decision, the Supreme Court lifted all federal limits on eminent domain, but it did challenge the states to put their own limits on this awesome power. The public demands this. Polls from Orange County to San Francisco show by a 9-1 margin that voters favor protections for small property owners.
There must be clear standards to define blight and to monitor how it has been cured. If redevelopment is to succeed, it must precisely define its objectives and the means to achieve them. It must fund only public, not private, projects. It must respect the right of all Californians to own their own property.
Redevelopment agencies are state agencies that are wholly within the power of the legislature to control. Now is the time, and you are the people to do it
Posted by Coalition Webbies at 05:31 PM
November 06, 2005
Eminent Domain in N.J. - Now They Just Steal Land
Union Township, N.J. -- Carol Segal has a problem: He wants to build townhouses on the six acres of land he owns in New Jersey's Union Township and has contracted with a developer to build 100 townhouses there.
But the township government wants to develop the property themselves, and - incredibly - they have voted to take his land through the eminent domain process and let a local developer with political connections do the job.
"They want to steal my land," Segal told the Newark Star-Ledger. "What right do they have when I intend to do the exact same thing they want to do with my property?"
According to the Star-Ledger, Segal, a 65-year-old retired electrical engineer, has spent about $1.5 million to acquire the property over the past 10 years and has been dickering with township officials over the past five years about his development plans. He claims negotiations fell apart after he refused to use the developers that township officials wanted him to use.
At that point, on May 24, the five-member township committee voted unanimously to authorize the municipality to seize Segal's land through eminent domain and name its own developer, AMJM Development, paving the way for the developer to build 90 or so townhouses on Segal's land, according to the Star Ledger.
After that vote, Segal sued the township, and on Sept. 7 a Superior Court judge in Union County issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the township from hiring its own developer. Six days later, the township committee unanimously voted to start negotiating - but not sign a contract - with AMJM Development.
In the meantime, Segal signed a contract last week to sell his property to Centex Homes for about $13 million, contingent upon local approval. The Star-Ledger described Centex as a nationally known developer with projects in New Jersey's Middlesex, Morris and Monmouth counties. Centex plans to build 100 townhouses on Segal's property, and expects to earn some $15 million to $20 million, Segal told the newspaper.
Township Mayor Joseph Florio and Deputy Mayor Peter Capodice, both members of the township committee, told the Star Ledger they were unaware of Segal's involvement with Centex when they voted Sept. 13 to negotiate with the Mauti family, who own AMJM Development. But a proposal Centex submitted to the township committee on Sept. 1 said the company "has been in negotiations with (Segal) for quite some time."
When the item came up at the Sept. 13 meeting, the committee did not allow Segal's attorney to speak before the vote was taken.
Florio and Capodice told the newspaper they preferred AMJM because it is a local company. "I've never heard of Centex," Capodice said. "They're not Union County people."
This is where it gets sticky. Segal charges that last May 21, Albert G. Mauti Jr. and his cousin Joseph hosted a fundraiser for Assemblyman Joseph Cryan at the Westmount Country Club in Passaic County. The two developers and family members picked up the $10,400 dinner tab, donated another $8,000 and raised more than $70,000 that night for Cryan, a powerful Union County Democrat, according to state election records. Three days later, the township officials -- all Democrats -- introduced their eminent domain land grab.
According to the Star-Ledger, Cryan, 44, is "a rising star in state Democratic politics." While he holds no official position in Union Township government, he has been chairman of the local Democratic Party since 1995. He told the newspaper there was no connection between the fundraiser and the committee's vote and described the Mautis simply as "good friends," insisting moreover that he had nothing to do with shaping the township's redevelopment plan.
"My involvement is zero," Cryan told the Star-Ledger. He said he met with Segal no more than five times, and it was always at his legislative office. All discussions, he said, were initiated by Segal, and insisted that at no time did he recommend developers.
He added that his message to Segal was, "I can't help you. I don't make those decisions; the governing body does." His claim was disputed by Union County GOP Chairman Philip Morin, who told the Star-Ledger "Joe Cryan is intimately involved in even the most mundane decisions in Union Township."
Moreover, both Florio and Capodice admitted to the Star-Ledger that they have discussed the development project with Cryan, but neither could recall whether he expressed an opinion on the matter. Cryan said his discussions with committee members about the property are best characterized as him asking about the project's status.
Cryan's name also surfaced in connection with a change of language in the first draft of the development proposal for Segal's property, submitted in January, which directed officials "to work with any property owner within the redevelopment area."
The Star-Ledger reports that this language was removed from the final plan introduced May 24, which authorizes the township to choose its own developer. Florio and Capodice said they don't know why the language was changed; but both versions were written by an outside engineering firm hired by the township, T&M Associates of Middletown, which contributed $1,000 to Cryan at the May fundraiser.
Stanley Slachetka, the T&M employee who wrote the plans, declined comment to the Star-Ledger. Segal told the newspaper the township first expressed interest in his property in 2000, when committee member Anthony Terrezza called to set up a meeting - the first of many over the years. Segal said that at times he met with Terrezza and Cryan together, other times separately.
During the meetings, Segal said, the two politicians would recommend people to either buy the land or develop it in partnership.
"They made it clear I needed them to get it done," Segal told the newspaper, adding that he didn't like the deals they offered, and said he told them he wanted to develop the land himself. Around April, Segal said, the meetings stopped.
"At first, I thought we were working together," Segal said. "Now I realize they were trying to steal my land the whole time."
Terrezza did not return the Star-Ledger's calls for comment - nor did Committee members Brenda Restivo and Clifton People Jr.
Albert Mauti, a Staten Island resident, also denied any connection between the country club fundraiser and the committee vote; he claims he was simply supporting a local politician he likes and admires. His development plan, he said, "has nothing to do with Joe Cryan" he told the Star Ledger. But Mauti originally had told the newspaper that he never spoke to Cryan about the development.
When pressed, however, he said he may have but doesn't recall. But Cryan said he did speak to Mauti about the project, but it was just him inquiring how Mauti was progressing.
Despite the ordinance taking the property from Segal, Cryan did admit that he disagreed with the township's attempt to use eminent domain in this case: "It would be hugely unfair if they go in and use eminent domain to take his property," he said.
Posted by Coalition Webbies at 07:55 AM