[JURIST] The New Jersey Supreme Court [official website] Wednesday ruled [PDF text] that for the state to constitutionally take private property, it must show that the property is blighted. The high court's unanimous ruling eliminates the use of eminent domain [JURIST news archive] to take property that is merely "not fully productive." In Gallenthin Realty Development, Inc. v. Borough of Paulsboro, the town of Paulsboro had attempted to obtain and redevelop, by eminent domain, largely unused property that had been identified as wetlands. The court held:
Because the New Jersey Constitution authorizes government redevelopment of only "blighted" areas, the Legislature did not intend to apply [eminent domain] where the sole basis for redevelopment is that the property is "not fully productive." Rather, [eminent domain] applies only to areas that, as a whole, are stagnant and unproductive.AP has more.
Eminent domain has been a hot issue in state and federal politics since the US Supreme Court ruled in 2005 [opinion text; JURIST news archive] that the city of New London, CT could expropriate private property for private redevelopment when the taking would economically benefit the community. The ruling ended a year-long property rights battle between private citizen Susan Kelo and the government. Earlier this month, the Connecticut House of Representatives approved a bill [JURIST report] that prohibited the state from from taking property solely to boost property taxes, reflecting a compromise between the state and its homeowners. Voters in nine US states [JURIST report] reacted strongly against the Supreme Court's decision by approving ballot initiatives in last year's mid-term elections that restrict the use of eminent domain.