TRENTON – Senate Majority Leader and Budget and Appropriations Committee Chairman Bernard F. Kenny, Jr., D-Hudson, today said that he strongly objects to State Public Advocate Ronald K. Chen’s proposal that transparency in eminent domain can only be achieved by shifting the burden of proof from landowners to public entities, after the Senate Budget and Appropriations panel’s hearing with the Department of the Public Advocate.
Senator Kenny argued that shifting the burden of proof would create a “litigation nightmare” in the State that would paralyze development.
“The issue of eminent domain is a critical one, one that Public Advocate Chen has made clear that he considers a priority. Eminent domain has been used as a tool for tremendous growth in New Jersey, especially in many of the urban areas where we have seen a dramatic renaissance.
“I agree with Mr. Chen that reform is necessary in the area of compensation because now, owners are paid for the current use of the property, and no increase is given on the proposed value and use of the land post-revitalization.
“I also agree that the process should be more transparent – public and private land owners deserve to be kept abreast of issues affecting their property. Transparency procedures are in need of reforms that will make the process more open, more public and should be enhanced and improved.
“Mr. Chen argues that transparency relies on the shifting of the burden of proof to municipalities, which is a legal matter. The eminent domain process can be made more transparent without having to change the burden of proof. Changing the burden of proof has nothing to do with transparency and would have a significant negative impact on allowing municipalities to use eminent domain.”