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Rice Opens The Eminent Domain Debate In Senate

TRENTON – Senator Ronald L. Rice, Chair of the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee today, released the following statement regarding his eminent domain reform bill, S-1975, which would safeguard the practice against abuse while protecting an important community redevelopment tool.

“The issue of eminent domain generates a great amount of passion among individuals, especially those who face the loss of their property. Their individual passion is certainly understandable.

“While the General Assembly has had a number of public hearings, this is the first of many hearings in the Senate on the topic of eminent domain. While I am sure there are those that will argue that this bill does not go far enough, I believe it takes a balanced approach to this issue.

“One of the most fundamental tenets in our democracy is forging the proper balance between the needs of the many versus the needs of individuals. The short term debate over the use of this tool can obscure the longer term benefits of certain projects.

“Without the use of eminent domain, we would never have had either the Garden State Parkway or the World Trade Center built. The framers of our state constitution recognized that redevelopment is an important tool for turning the abandoned relics of our industrial past into productive properties.

“Our State Plan for Development recognizes the need for redevelopment in the Metropolitan and Suburban planning areas.

“Redevelopment is in the economic best interests of our State. Communities that have used the redevelopment process have provided affordable housing, created high paying jobs and generated wealth. The vast majority of redevelopment projects in the State do not rely upon the use of eminent domain.

“Municipalities often use redevelopment to exert more control over a project than they can exercise under traditional zoning. I believe it would be a mistake to change the law in a way that makes the use of the redevelopment process so cumbersome or expensive that it prevents it from being used.

“New Jersey may be the first state in the nation to run out of available land and be completely built out. Our state also expects to grow in population by nearly a million people over the next 25 years.

“We must make the most efficient use of the land we have and making good use of the redevelopment process is critical to that effort.”