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Rice Pushes His Eminent Domain Legislation Forward

Senator Ronald L. Rice, D-Essex, presides over the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee.

TRENTON – The Chairman of the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee, Senator Ronald L. Rice today said that he is pleased to finally announce the merging of two eminent domains bill that both municipalities and residents “should be proud of,” as the panel approved a measure to stop the abuse of eminent domain in New Jersey.

“For years I have been meeting with and listening to homeowners, the business community, non-profit organizations, representatives of local governments, environmentalists, and representatives of the legal community, the League of Municipalities and others to hear their sides of the eminent domain argument,” said Senator Rice, D-Essex.

“I deliberately made this process, a slow one because I wanted to give the members of the Committee an opportunity to hear from those on all sides of the issue,” said Senator Rice. “At the beginning of the process I met with many stakeholders and we collectively analyzed approximately 12 bills that were introduced as a response to the eminent domain court decision, Kelo Vs City of New London. Finally, I feel that we have a fair and equitable bill to address the need to redevelop and the right of owners to keep their properties.”

The bill, SCS-559/757, would address redevelopment requirements and relocation assistance. The measure would also amend and supplement various parts of current redevelopment laws.

According to Senator Rice, the bill would address concerns about the definition of property in need of redevelopment, would require fair compensation if eminent domain is used in the redevelopment process, and would maintain transparency during the process from beginning to end.

“Unfortunately, eminent domain is a necessary evil and there will never be one perfect bill to please everyone,” said Senator Rice. “We need to understand that redevelopment is in the economic best interest of our State. We see that communities that used eminent domain to redevelop, in most cases, provided affordable housing and created jobs. We also found that the vast majority of redevelopment projects in the State do not rely on the use of eminent domain.”

Senator Rice stated that it would be a mistake to change the law in a way that makes the redevelopment process so cumbersome and expensive that it prevents it from being used to help communities with their economic growth and with upgrades to their infrastructure.

“This eminent domain legislation reflects the hard work of many groups and individuals who raised some very important questions,” said Senator Rice. “I want to thank everyone who participated in the process, and remind everyone that I will continue to work on any issues that may arise on the topic of eminent domain.”

The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.