Monmouth County freeholder candidate discusses eminent domain

I have made an effort to educate myself about how the issue of eminent domain abuse impacts upon the citizens of Monmouth County, and I would like to share what I have learned with the public. The issue comes down to whether the law regarding redevelopment zones and use of eminent domain as it is currently being used is consistent with the New Jersey Consti-tution. Fundamentally, the question is whether the traditional concepts of eminent domain are being set aside in favor of providing profits for private entities.

At my request, friends of mine from the legal profession shared research on the 1947 Constitu-tional Convention in order for me to learn more about the original design and plan for the use of eminent domain and its interaction with the Housing Redevel-opment Act. Their results revealed that the use of the Housing Redevelopment Act and the extension of the concepts of “blight” are in direct conflict to the final vote on the adoption of the 1947 Constitution. The question of this use of eminent domain was rejected by our Constitution-al Convention.

Consequently there is a secondary issue often overlooked in this debate that needs to be addressed either by the Legislature or the judicial system. The problem is the length of time that it takes between the declaration of an area in need of redevelopment and the time that the property owners receive the money they are owed. There are currently no controls that govern that situation. This means that people who have property that will be taken are held in a state of suspension for many years while the municipal authorities work their way through the bureaucracy of having appraisals completed and making compensatory offers. If homeowners believe that they are not properly compensated, they must then file a formal complaint.

If an eminent domain complaint is filed, there is another lengthy period of time before it is resolved. The property owner’s life is put on hold for an extremely long period of time – by design – to force the homeowner to settle for the lower amount.

The Legislature must clarify the use of redevelopment law as being consistent or inconsistent with the 1947 Constitution. If it is found to be inconsistent, steps should be taken to ensure that the municipalities act in accordance with our Constitution.

The Legislature should require a relatively short period of time for action to be taken in legitimate areas of redevelopment so that the landowner does not have to wait for several years to get matters resolved.

There is a clear and definite line between the use of eminent domain for the public good and the abuse of eminent domain for private profits. In the meantime, the county Board of Freeholders is in a leadership position and needs to speak out on the serious issue of eminent domain abuse.

Barbara McMorrow

candidate for

Monmouth County freeholder

Freehold Township