Condemnation Is Used To Hand One Business Property of Another

Condemnation Is Used To Hand One Business Property of Another

When a developer decided to bring Home Depot and Costco stores to New York's East Harlem, the state of New York had a simple message for William Minic and his cabinetmaking business: Get out.

Although Mr. Minic has operated his family firm there for 20 years, a state agency has announced its intention to condemn the building if he doesn't vacate, and then resell it to the developer.

Local and state governments are now using their awesome powers of condemnation, or eminent domain, in a kind of corporate triage: grabbing property from one private business to give to another. A device used for centuries to smooth the way for public works such as roads, and later to ease urban blight, has become a marketing tool for governments seeking to lure bigger business....

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Cities Use Eminent Domain to Clear Lots for Big-Box Stores

Cities Use Eminent Domain to Clear Lots for Big-Box Stores

...Desperate for tax revenue, cities and towns across the country now routinely take property from unwilling sellers to make way for big-box retailers. Condemnation cases aren't tracked nationally, but even retailers themselves acknowledge that the explosive growth of the format in the 1990s and torrid competition for land has increasingly pushed them into increasingly problematic areas -- including sites owned by other people....

More Courts Rule Cities Misapply Eminent Domain

More Courts Rule Cities Misapply Eminent Domain

In the clash of eminent domain and private property, courts are sending cities a message: Enough.

Under the right of eminent domain, a government can take private property for "a public use," the U.S. Constitution's standard for all takings. Cities, however, have increasingly used their power of eminent domain to transfer property from one business to another in the name of redevelopment, and they have done this by stretching the definition of a public use to include everything from bridges and highways to speedways, casinos and BMW dealers.

For years, courts deferred to municipal judgment in such matters. But in more than a half-dozen recent rulings, state and federal courts have taken a harder look at what exactly constitutes a public use and begun to set new limits on cities' power. Among the cases in which courts found that cities had gone too far: