As of June 23, 2005, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 there was no private property in America. In Kelo versus the City of New London, the Court decided that economic development is considered a “public use” under the Fifth Amendment’s Taking Clause.
The City of New London wanted some private land for a private developer (Pfizer Corp.) so they took it using eminent domain saying the property was “blighted” because they would get more taxes from the company than the homeowners who lived on the property.
The ruling allowed the Connecticut city to condemn property owned by Susette Kelo and her neighbors, and give the property to the Pfizer Corporation to build a new research facility and for the construction of a hotel and condos.
The Court ruling, in essense, allowed the taking of private property to give, not to the state or government of any kind, but to another private entity, which could pay more taxes, create jobs, or simply make better economic use of the land.
As a result of this ruling, the federal government’s power of eminent domain has become almost limitless, providing citizens with few means to protect their property.
That is until last Tuesday, when a bipartisan bill was passed in the House that would cause state and local governments that use eminent domain to seize private property for economic development to lose federal funding for two years. The bill needs to pass the Senate and be signed by the president.
Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) co-sponsor of the bill said, “Uncle Sam can condemn one family’s home only because another private entity would pay more tax revenue,” and the House bill would “protect every homeowner and non-profit from being bulldozed in the interest of for-profit land grabs.”
Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who also co-sponsored the bill said, “The founders cannot have intended this perverse result – using economic development as a justification for using its power of eminent domain at the expense of the poor and politically weak,”
BTW, the City of New London and state spent $78 million to bulldoze the Kelo’s and their neighbors’ property, but the new Pfizer development never materialized due to the recession and the property now sits vacant with all the homes and people’s memories removed forever!