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Can the Government Take Your Property Just to Increase Taxes and Create Jobs?

By Stuart Lieberman, Esq.

Our home is supposed to be our castle. And we don't expect anyone to remove us from our home unless we fail to pay the mortgage or pay taxes.

Some readers may have heard of the concept of eminent domain: the power of the government to take property for public use. Usually, this has meant to create roads, airports, schools and parks.

As long the use has been public and the property owners have been fairly compensated, that has been an acceptable process.

In the past few decades, our courts have permitted condemnation in blighted areas. You know: slums, crack houses, and high crime areas. Generally, that has had little opposition as well.

But, can you imagine the government condemning wonderful, thriving neighborhoods to replace them with high tax paying industrial uses? It has been happening a lot recently.

I hate this process and think it is stealing. Now, thank heavens, the U.S. Supreme Court is going to look at this process. And many of us are hoping that it declares that what happened was an illegal abuse.

In Kelo v. City of New London, the Court has agreed to review a Connecticut Supreme Court ruling that "economic' condemnations, in other words condemnation where the sole purpose is to raise more taxes or create more jobs, is legal.

At issue is a city redevelopment proposal that will destroy an entire older, but viable community to permit private developers to install newer, more productive uses. At least more productive from the government's standpoint.

People who have lived in this community for years, in once case since 1918, will be tossed from their homes as if they are landfill-able trash.

Keep in mind that industrial uses will usually produce more jobs and pay more taxes than residential uses. Which means that if this horrible decision is allowed to stand, all of us who live anywhere but under rocks are at risk. I hope that these people get relief.

This is far from a Connecticut only issue. Papers filed with the Supreme Court allege that since 1998 over 10,000 condemnation actions have been brought or threatened involving similar private-to-private real estate transactions. 60 Minutes did a report on this in the last year. I believe this is nothing more than stealing.

Condemnation represents one of the government's most awesome powers. Connecticut has gone too far, as have many other states.

Yes, I can clearly see condemnation for traditional purposes. But condemnation for purely economic purposes is not just illegal, but it is also immoral.

The information provided in this column is written by Stuart Lieberman,a practicing environmental attorney, and is for general information purposes only. It is not legal advice and should not be used in place of legal advice.

Stuart Lieberman, Esq., and IRED.Com, Inc., will not accept any responsibilty for any reliance on the information in this column or any damages whatsoever resulting from reading this column.