Merged Bill Would Tighten The Use & End The Abuse of Eminent Domain
TRENTON – Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem, today released the following statement on his efforts along with Senator Ronald L. Rice to protect property owners from abuse of the power of eminent domain by government.
The measure, SCS-559/757, is a collaborative effort of Senator Sweeney and Senator Rice, D-Essex and is the result of a merger of their two separate bills. It would incorporate into law recent court decisions that toughen standards that govern the ability of towns and cities to take private property. It enhances notice requirements for property owners and renters subject to eminent domain, while increasing transparency. The compromise measure greatly increases financial assistance provided to displaced tenants and businesses. And, it would “sunset” the authority for a municipality or redevelopment agency to exercise eminent domain after five years unless the municipality acts to extend this authority.
“The New Jersey Constitution provides government with the ability to take private property so long as ‘just compensation’ is provided. This is an awesome power and responsibility that must be limited to the most extreme circumstances. At the same time, eminent domain is an important tool necessary to revitalize blighted areas and redevelop communities. We have struck a critical balance in this bill between protecting property owners and ensuring that eminent domain remains a viable, but limited, option.
“People of limited means and seniors are frequently caught in the middle when redevelopment leads to taking of private property. We’re fighting to protect them by making sure that there is better notice about the consequences of their property being subject to condemnation. They’ll have more tools at their disposal to make sure they’re getting ‘just compensation’. We’re also updating the law governing relocation and rental assistance to make sure they have the opportunity to relocate to comparable housing without taking a hit to their pocketbooks. Businesses will benefit from this bill because we make sure that they are properly compensated if their properties are taken under eminent domain. They’d receive payment for loss of a location with high pedestrian traffic or for capital improvements they can’t take to a new location.
“The taking of private property can no longer be available to government simply as a convenient option. The courts have made it clear that those days are over, and we’re making it clear that the Legislature agrees.”