Two D.C. Council committees advanced legislation allowing for the use of eminent domain in the construction of a $300 million professional soccer stadium in Washington, D.C. The bill will now go before the full council for a vote on Tuesday. While the legislation allows for eminent domain to be used to acquire the land, Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser, chair of the economic development committee, said she remains hopeful they will be able to come to a new agreement with the city for the land.
PennDOT has shown signs that it is pursuing property acquisitions for Route 422 projects in Berks and Montgomery Counties (PA). PennDOT published a notice on September 3, 2011 in The Pottstown Mercury newspaper that it intends to acquire property in Lower Pottsgrove (PA) Township for that portion of its 422 reconstruction project. Property owners are also receiving notices of potential acquisition for various other 422 projects.
After over a decade of planning, a $5.2 billion expansion of Philadelphia International Airport was approved by the Federal Aviation Administration. The project will require a significant amount of land acquisition in Philadelphia and Delaware County.
Those properties in Philadelphia could be acquired through the City’s power of eminent domain. However, airport chief executive officer Mark Gale stated that “We do not have eminent-domain power in Delaware County. We will try to voluntarily have a transaction with a willing seller.” His statement presumably is based upon a 2006 amendment to the Pennsylvania Eminent Domain Code which generally prohibits "extraterritorial" condemnations – i.e., condemnations beyond a municipality’s borders.
If your property is being considered for acquisition – either through a condemnation proceeding or amicably – you should know your rights and potential for compensation. It appears that this project will be a reality and should not be ignored.
Pennsylvania will receive $68.8 million and New Jersey will get $46.8 million in federal stimulus funds for housing redevelopment projects. These projects will include acquiring blighted properties. It is virtually certain that many will be acquired through the power of eminent domain.
Approximately $43.9 million will go to the City of Philadelphia. However, the City was seeking $58 million. The funding for Pennsylvania also includes $5 million for the City of Reading. New Jersey’s funding includes $11.9 million for the Camden Development Authority, $14.1 million for the Camden Housing Authority and $20.8 million for the City of Newark.
The funds are included in $2 billion in grants awarded nationally by the Department of Housing and Urban Development under its Neighborhood Stabilization Program.
Los Angeles received the most of any city – $100 million. Chicago received $98 million and Phoenix $60 million.
New York’s highest court ruled on Tuesday that private property could be condemned for the “Atlantic Yards” project. That project involves, among other things, an NBA arena and 16 office and residential towers in Brooklyn. The properties were purportedly condemned to eliminate “blight.”
In Goldstein et al. v. N.Y. State Urban Development Corporation, the New York Court of Appeals upheld the condemnations in a 6 to 1 decision. The project was challenged, in part, on the basis that that since the condemned properties would ultimately be owned by private entities, they were not being condemned for a “public use.” The New York Constitution – as well as the U.S. and most state constitutions – provide that properties can only be condemned for a “public use.”
The Court rejected that claim ruling that projects eliminating blight satisfy the public use requirement and that the fact that the properties would ultimately be owned by private entities did not make the condemnations unconstitutional. This is consistent with the eminent domain law of most states and has been federal law since the 1950s.
The condemnations were also challenged on the basis that the properties were not truly blighted. The Court also rejected this argument and expressed the common belief among the judiciary that, other than in the most egregious cases, courts should not second guess the legislature’s decisions regarding the need for projects.
A copy of the opinion can be found at www.nycourts.gov/ctapps/decisions/2009/nov09/178opn09.pdf
The Battle over the taking of property for, among other things, an NBA arena and 16 office and residential towers in Brooklyn has moved to New York’s highest Court. The New York Court of Appeals decided to hear the challenge by property owners and tenants to the taking of their property. The parties are submitting briefs and the case – Goldstein et al. v. N.Y. State Urban Development Corporation – will be argued in Albany on October 14.
The properties are needed to construct the “Atlantic Yards Project” consisting of the Barclays Center Arena and 16 skyscrapers. The condemnees challenging the taking claim the use of eminent domain for Atlantic Yards violates the New York State Constitution.
Senate Majority leader Harry Reid is proposing to build power lines to carry renewable energy from remote places like solar and wind-power farms. The proposal would give the President authority to declare “renewable energy zones.”
States and the federal government would jointly develop “green” transmission plans for such areas. However, the proposal would allow the Federal government to use its power of eminent domain to take land and issue construction permits if a project were stalled or killed by state action. The proposal is expected to become part of a broader energy bill the Senate plans to take up in the coming weeks.
Planning for the last phases of the Marshalls Creek Bypass Project – which PennDOT now calls the “Marshalls Creek Traffic Relief Project” – continues. The project was put on hold in April due to funding issues. PennDOT held a public meeting in October to discuss the options for this phase of the project which can be viewed at www.marshallscreekbypass.com/index.cfm
PennDOT posted the following update on January 2, 2009 on its website:
Project Milestones Reached
• PennDOT submitted the Final Traffic Reports to FHWA on November 24, 2008.
• PennDOT submitted the Final EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) Re-Evaluation on November 26, 2008.
• The Kick-Off Meeting for Final Design was held on December 2, 2008.
• A meeting for the Section 106 Programmatic Agreement (environmental/historical compliance agreement) amendment was held on December 4, 2008, with FHWA, SHPO (State Historic Preservation Office), and PennDOT’s District and Central offices.
• The Phase III Archaeology report was delivered to FHWA and PHMC on December 30, 2008.
• A Right-of-Way review meeting was held at the PennDOT District Office on December 30, 2008.
• The Park-and-Ride project bids were reviewed and there is an apparent low bidder (Leeward Construction of Honesdale).
• Core borings have begun and will continue through February 1, 2009.
Upcoming Project Milestones
• The Environmental Review and Permitting will continue to be the challenge when trying to advance the Design/Build contract.
• Rettew Associates is scheduling a preliminary meeting with the permitting agencies for the “bypass” portion of the project.
• The Dewberry Team continues to advance the Final Design.
• The next Bi-Monthly Coordination Meeting is set for January 13, 2009.
• Park-and-Ride lot construction to begin in the spring and last one construction season.
One of the new buzzwords these days is “infrastructure.” It is likely that Congress will enact an ambitious economic stimulus package soon after President-elect Obama is inaugurated. One important component will be funds that will be spent on “infrastructure” including roads and bridges.
State officials are drawing up plans for bridge and road improvements in anticipation of funds from a federal economic stimulus package. PennDOT has stated that they are confident that Congress will make money available for replacements and repair projects early next year.
PennDOT has a number of projects that have been stalled due to lack of funding. It is very possible that PennDOT will use an influx of federal funds for these projects. It is unclear at this point the extent to which the projects will involve acquiring property through the power of eminent domain.
Montgomery County Pennsylvania’s planning commission is considering a transportation program that could cost $150 million. The Commission recently met to discuss a county program that could involve local governments and the private sector paying for an improvement program for local roadways and bridges. The Commissioners stated that there have been repeated complaints from residents and businesses about traffic congestion.
According to reports, Commissioners appear to be committed to some type of program and are considering a few options. The most popular option includes a 10-year program that would involve over 70 projects. This option would require voter approval to borrow $150 million. One project example cited was widening Route 309 in Montgomery Township to six lanes between Upper State and North Wales roads along with adding turn lanes and reconfiguring accesses to businesses.
The planning board members said they hope to finalize a recommendation at the November 12, 2008 meeting and submit a proposal to Commissioners by the end of the month.