June 23, 2005

Supreme Court Rules Cities May Seize Homes

I find this to be very troubling. I understand that there may be reason for government to acquire property, but it should be limited in its ability to do so.

WASHINGTON - A divided Supreme Court ruled Thursday that local governments may seize people's homes and businesses against their will for private development in a decision anxiously awaited in communities where economic growth often is at war with individual property rights.

The 5-4 ruling — assailed by dissenting Justice Sandra Day O'Connor as handing "disproportionate influence and power" to the well-heeled in America — was a defeat for Connecticut residents whose homes are slated for destruction to make room for an office complex. They had argued that cities have no right to take their land except for projects with a clear public use, such as roads or schools, or to revitalize blighted areas.

As a result, cities now have wide power to bulldoze residences for projects such as shopping malls and hotel complexes in order to generate tax revenue."

The majority ruling took a tack that in concept I can agree with, that of the local leadership having a better grasp upon what would benefit a particular area, but I still find this to be troubling.

Writing for the court's majority in Thursday's ruling, Justice John Paul Stevens said local officials, not federal judges, know best in deciding whether a development project will benefit the community. States are within their rights to pass additional laws restricting condemnations if residents are overly burdened, he said.

"The city has carefully formulated an economic development that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including — but by no means limited to — new jobs and increased tax revenue," Stevens wrote in an opinion joined by Justice Kennedy, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Steven Breyer.

"It is not for the courts to oversee the choice of the boundary line nor to sit in review on the size of a particular project area," he said.

O'Connor, who has often been a key swing vote at the court, issued a stinging dissent, arguing that cities should not have unlimited authority to uproot families, even if they are provided compensation, simply to accommodate wealthy developers.

"Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random," she wrote. "The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."

Homes should not be taken just for the personal gain of someone and that is my concern, that this will be abused and misused.

Some might argue that compensation for the property should help to mitigate the damage but I am not sure that there is any truth to it. In the current real estate market it is questionable whether owners would receive enough to purchase a home of equivalent value and aside from that there are things that money cannot buy.

1 comment:

Workman Chronicles said...

I was stunned by this ruling.

As the numbness wears off, it's being replaced by terror.

A country where you can be kicked out of your house just because a developer can improve the property values?


*Morris Workman