Skip to comments.Eminent Domain in N.J. - Now They Just Steal Land
Posted on 10/18/2005 6:20:04 AM PDT by WmCraven_Wk
Union Township, N.J. -- Carol Segal has a problem: He wants to build townhouses on the six acres of land he owns in New Jersey's Union Township and has contracted with a developer to build 100 townhouses there.
But the township government wants to develop the property themselves, and - incredibly - they have voted to take his land through the eminent domain process and let a local developer with political connections do the job.
"They want to steal my land," Segal told the Newark Star-Ledger. "What right do they have when I intend to do the exact same thing they want to do with my property?"
According to the Star-Ledger, Segal, a 65-year-old retired electrical engineer, has spent about $1.5 million to acquire the property over the past 10 years and has been dickering with township officials over the past five years about his development plans. He claims negotiations fell apart after he refused to use the developers that township officials wanted him to use.
At that point, on May 24, the five-member township committee voted unanimously to authorize the municipality to seize Segal's land through eminent domain and name its own developer, AMJM Development, paving the way for the developer to build 90 or so townhouses on Segal's land, according to the Star Ledger.
After that vote, Segal sued the township, and on Sept. 7 a Superior Court judge in Union County issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the township from hiring its own developer. Six days later, the township committee unanimously voted to start negotiating - but not sign a contract - with AMJM Development.
In the meantime, Segal signed a contract last week to sell his property to Centex Homes for about $13 million, contingent upon local approval. The Star-Ledger described Centex as a nationally known developer with projects in New Jersey's Middlesex, Morris and Monmouth counties. Centex plans to build 100 townhouses on Segal's property, and expects to earn some $15 million to $20 million, Segal told the newspaper.
Township Mayor Joseph Florio and Deputy Mayor Peter Capodice, both members of the township committee, told the Star Ledger they were unaware of Segal's involvement with Centex when they voted Sept. 13 to negotiate with the Mauti family, who own AMJM Development. But a proposal Centex submitted to the township committee on Sept. 1 said the company "has been in negotiations with (Segal) for quite some time."
When the item came up at the Sept. 13 meeting, the committee did not allow Segal's attorney to speak before the vote was taken.
Florio and Capodice told the newspaper they preferred AMJM because it is a local company. "I've never heard of Centex," Capodice said. "They're not Union County people."
This is where it gets sticky. Segal charges that last May 21, Albert G. Mauti Jr. and his cousin Joseph hosted a fundraiser for Assemblyman Joseph Cryan at the Westmount Country Club in Passaic County. The two developers and family members picked up the $10,400 dinner tab, donated another $8,000 and raised more than $70,000 that night for Cryan, a powerful Union County Democrat, according to state election records. Three days later, the township officials -- all Democrats -- introduced their eminent domain land grab.
According to the Star-Ledger, Cryan, 44, is "a rising star in state Democratic politics." While he holds no official position in Union Township government, he has been chairman of the local Democratic Party since 1995. He told the newspaper there was no connection between the fundraiser and the committee's vote and described the Mautis simply as "good friends," insisting moreover that he had nothing to do with shaping the township's redevelopment plan.
"My involvement is zero," Cryan told the Star-Ledger. He said he met with Segal no more than five times, and it was always at his legislative office. All discussions, he said, were initiated by Segal, and insisted that at no time did he recommend developers.
He added that his message to Segal was, "I can't help you. I don't make those decisions; the governing body does." His claim was disputed by Union County GOP Chairman Philip Morin, who told the Star-Ledger "Joe Cryan is intimately involved in even the most mundane decisions in Union Township."
Moreover, both Florio and Capodice admitted to the Star-Ledger that they have discussed the development project with Cryan, but neither could recall whether he expressed an opinion on the matter. Cryan said his discussions with committee members about the property are best characterized as him asking about the project's status.
Cryan's name also surfaced in connection with a change of language in the first draft of the development proposal for Segal's property, submitted in January, which directed officials "to work with any property owner within the redevelopment area."
The Star-Ledger reports that this language was removed from the final plan introduced May 24, which authorizes the township to choose its own developer. Florio and Capodice said they don't know why the language was changed; but both versions were written by an outside engineering firm hired by the township, T&M Associates of Middletown, which contributed $1,000 to Cryan at the May fundraiser.
Stanley Slachetka, the T&M employee who wrote the plans, declined comment to the Star-Ledger. Segal told the newspaper the township first expressed interest in his property in 2000, when committee member Anthony Terrezza called to set up a meeting - the first of many over the years. Segal said that at times he met with Terrezza and Cryan together, other times separately.
During the meetings, Segal said, the two politicians would recommend people to either buy the land or develop it in partnership.
"They made it clear I needed them to get it done," Segal told the newspaper, adding that he didn't like the deals they offered, and said he told them he wanted to develop the land himself. Around April, Segal said, the meetings stopped.
"At first, I thought we were working together," Segal said. "Now I realize they were trying to steal my land the whole time."
Terrezza did not return the Star-Ledger's calls for comment - nor did Committee members Brenda Restivo and Clifton People Jr.
Albert Mauti, a Staten Island resident, also denied any connection between the country club fundraiser and the committee vote; he claims he was simply supporting a local politician he likes and admires. His development plan, he said, "has nothing to do with Joe Cryan" he told the Star Ledger. But Mauti originally had told the newspaper that he never spoke to Cryan about the development.
When pressed, however, he said he may have but doesn't recall. But Cryan said he did speak to Mauti about the project, but it was just him inquiring how Mauti was progressing.
Despite the ordinance taking the property from Segal, Cryan did admit that he disagreed with the township's attempt to use eminent domain in this case: "It would be hugely unfair if they go in and use eminent domain to take his property," he said.
I believe it is an historical truism that governments can be generally stable despite a wide variety of errors. BUT when the government starts taking the land that people own, then the government sows seeds of destruction.
And this is exactly why eminant domain is not protected by letting "elected officials" decide if it is for a "public purpose" instead of being held to the higher standard of "public use".
Segal needs to maintain a lawsuit all the way to what hopefully will be a new Supreme Court eminant domain case.
Was that the NewsMax version labeling all the corrupt politicians Democrats? I can't believe the (Red)Star Ledger would do that!
That is exactly why NJ is the home state of the Sopranos.
"Was that the NewsMax version labeling all the corrupt politicians Democrats? I can't believe the (Red)Star Ledger would do that!"
I haven't been able to trace a Star Ledger article on this yet. However, NewsMax appears to quote mostly Star Ledger references.
This sounds more like an episode of "The Sopranos" and not a real case. Ah, life imitates art...
Welcome to FR by the way. You should join the NJ State bulletin board here by clicking on your name and choosing your locality. You can edit you about page too.
The 'peasents with pitchforks' should show up on the doorsteps of the Supreme Court someday and drag the these clowns out so they can be beaten repeatedly and vigorously about the head and shoulders with blunt objects for the this ruling.
The ink isn't even dry on the Kelo decision and the abuse of power has begun.
This is even a worse case of eminent domain abuse. Both the municipality and the owner of the land want the proerty developed in the exact same manner. The only difference is that the municipality wants a local, politically connected firm to do the work instead of letting the local owner control the development. This is local politics at its worst. I just don't see how there can be a public use excuse, even for additional taxes, being an issue since the net benefit to the municipality is the same. Unless they want to press the issue that it is of greater economic impact if the local company does the development. If that is the case, the SCOTUS ruling has now dictated that municipalities can decide WHO develops the land and can use eminent domain, not just to take property for the purpose of enhancing tax revenues, but to take property strictly for the financial benefit of the developer of their choosing. No one will ever have control of development unless they have the local governments in their back pockets. Otherwise, they lose their land.
Other references to pieces of this story.
he said he may have but doesn't recall.
Shades of the beast.
OK. So it's from Oct 2nd! I didn't go back that far!
Yes, because the hue and cry from the Republicans has been so strong. They have been right out front in fighting this. Oh,,,,never mind.
>>>The 'peasents with pitchforks' should show up on the doorsteps of the Supreme Court someday and drag the these clowns out so they can be beaten repeatedly and vigorously about the head and shoulders with blunt objects for the this ruling.<<<
OMG! This makes it sound like some of the politicians in NJ are CROOKS!
SCOTUS (mostly Republican nominees) rules against "we the people" in Kelo and our Republican POTUS utters not a sound on the matter.
And some on here think those of us currently unhappy with Bush are the problem...
All the other specifics about political connectivity between the developers, the board, the fund raising...all that stuff has been going on in every local municipality for decades. I mean, it's NJ for heaven's sake...what did you expect? Democracy? When did the Star-Ledger wake up? Last week?
NJ sucks, I hate being a resident of a communist/socialist/police/nanny state.
It'll never make it that far. Union Township doesn't stand a chance here.
I know a guy who moved to a small town and opened a store, selling certain kinds of things needed by local ranchers. He was doing quite well, and his only competition was a similar store owned by a local man.
The town declared eminent domain and claimed the outsider's property, putting him out of business, ostensibly so that they could install some kind of road bypass. As far as I know the bypass was never put in. The guy who was put out of business found out that the other store was within a few months of going bankrupt until they once again became the only game in town.
This abuse of eminent domain has been going on for years. With the recent Supreme Court decision, crooked politicians know now that they can get away with anything.
The town still has to pay "just compensation" for the taking, which would be the market value of the property likely established by the Centex contract, if in fact that was a bona fide deal.
Actually, this is a pretty straight forward land grab by the town and Segal will likely make out just as well either way. Typically, the town would try to depress the land value by limiting use via insidious "ordinances", then try to pay the reduced land value as just compensation only AFTER the landowner brings a case for inverse condemnation. After that is over, the would then revote the ordinances in favor of the developer.
In my opinion, that's the sort of corruption to watch out for in light of the new SC ruling.
Third World is as Third World does.
Even under the corrupt reading of the Constitution provided by the Kelo decision, the notion that there is a 'public purpose' to letting one developer rather than another provide the same increase in tax revenues is absurd.
Giving the SCOTUS the chance to revisit Kelo in an issue where the use of eminent domain is completely indefensible seems like a very good idea.
I too would rather fight; I'm born and raised here..it's my home. Three generations of my family are here.
None of this love for my home means spit when it comes to the cesspool that's been created by the Dems and RINO's in this state. The corruption goes on and on with no end in sight. I don't expect to see that change in my lifetime. I hold myself personally responsible for burdening my children with this legacy if I choose to raise them here. I'm have a hard time finding peace with that.
A pox on them and their children for generations to come.
I am from Jersey and you are dead wrong!
Some politicians in NJ are honorable
the down side is they have been dead for years
Have you ever met a republican from New Jersey? They look and act just like the democratic variety but have less vowels in their name.
You are right "Individual Rights in NJ" but it has been proved that the Constitution can no longer protect us from the Marxist infested dumborat party and their enablers the MSM. Supplied with a never ending stream of new communist molded brains, thanks to government schools, the left can and does get away with just about everything they want.
We did not win the cold war. The communist evil is here on our shores and can be seen at any dumborat meeting, mosque, journalists convention, FairyCon hate fest, Jessy Jackass ryme_a_thon, black congressional caucus, CAIR, hollyweird party, ACLU anti-american meeting, RAP/Hip Hop awards show and on and on and on.
We live in a clearly divided country and while still standing we will continue to waste energy fighting the enemy within.
The real problem is stare decisis - "it is decided", the judicial concept of respect for precedent.
The Kelo decision did not orginate from a vacumn. The unanimous, SCOTUS 1954 Berman v Parker decision opened up the "use" language of eminent domain to "purpose", for the expressed purpose of a Washington D.C. urban renewal project in a depressed slum area. Although that decision specified a restriction to urban renewal in a depressed area, the concept that SCOTUS could arbitrarily modify the term "use", on its own had been given a precedent on which the later Kelo decision was built.
In Kelo, "use" having arrived as already modified as "purpose" was further modified to "benefit", with benefit no more than a public proclamation of the politicians who chose to apply eminent domain to their politically determined purpose.
Liberals call this process the "living constitution" when in fact it is nothing other than the slow, deliberate process by which our Constitution, the Constitution of "we the people", is slowly eroded without our consent, without recourse and replaced with a Constiution dicated by SCOTUS.
It is for this reason that SCOTUS decisions and SCOTUS appointments have become so political, because the locus of our "constitutional rights" has been moved from the public, electoral, political process of amending the Constitution to a dictatorial power in SCOTUS.
Liberals neither trust nor accept the political process to advance their goals. In fact, the law-making history of liberals since the New Deal has been to keep moving policy decisions out of the democratically elected bodies and institutionalize liberal rule-making mandates into unelected regulatory bodies - courts and appointed regulatory agencies.
NJ has been pulling this type of stuff for years. Before the SCOTUS decision, they would condemn propterties to take them. Now they are just more brazen about it.
When that decision first came down I predicted that New Jersey, as the MOST corrupt state in America, would be the biggest and first abusers of people's property rights.
I'm sorry to be right.
>>> town still has to pay "just compensation" <<<
If you want to see how Gov. works. view my #11
Property Rights, Eminent Domain, and the Making of a Citizen Politician - (terrific story!)
NJ has ALWAYS been an abuser of property rights.
The only case I'm aware of that made national news before this one is 'Political bribes a la McGreevey "Machiavellian" style'
Other than that, all the other land grabs usually just stay in local news.
Gov. Maddox almost makes me want to switch parties.
Can we have him?
Sorry to hear he passed on. :(
Carol Segal will be on Hannity and Colms on Fox News Channel tonight (11/4), discussing his eminent domain case. Be sure to watch!
Maybe Souter would be interested in the property.
I heard he is going to be in the market for a new home soon.
This is New Joisey at its best. Too bad there are so many decent people back there who have to put up with this kind of crap.
Thanks. I'll post it at the NJ Locale board.
It's beyond insane to think someone won't do it eventually.