Victory for some in fight against emi...

Victory for some in fight against eminent domain in Atlantic City

There are 7 comments on the Press of Atlantic City story from Jun 19, 2008, titled Victory for some in fight against eminent domain in Atlantic City. In it, Press of Atlantic City reports that:

Vincent Barth's efforts to avoid his property being taken through eminent domain appeared to be all but futile until Wednesday's Planning Board meeting.

Join the discussion below, or Read more at Press of Atlantic City.

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#1 Jun 19, 2008
Victory for some in fight vs. eminent domain in Atlantic City
(Published: Thursday, June 19, 2008)
ATLANTIC CITY - Vincent Barth's efforts to avoid his property being taken through eminent domain appeared to be all but futile until Wednesday's Planning Board meeting.
Over the past seven months of hearings, experts hired by Pinnacle Entertainment fought Barth's arguments. His attorney, William Potter, battled bitterly with a Planning Board frustrated with seven months of hearings.
Potter didn't even bother showing up for the board's vote Wednesday morning, assuming it would go unanimously against his client.
But at the last minute, Planning Director William Crane recommended the exemption of a few lots within the area targeted for redevelopment, designed to allow Pinnacle to expand its property for a $1.5 billion casino project. Among those excluded was Barth's Park Lane Apartment Hotel.
"This is not what I expected," he said after the hearing. "I'm safe."
However, the individual victories of Barth and others were the exception, as other owners met with disappointment.
Quang Ha, the owner of Kim Son Jewelry, was not excluded in the plan.
"Right now it looks to me like a curious attempt to carve out one of my clients but not the other," said Potter, a Princeton-based attorney representing both men. "It's definitely appropriate to carve out the Park Lane hotel, but to separate the two is arbitrary and capricious."
Ha, who speaks little English, said he plans to continue fighting the redevelopment plan.
The Planning Board's vote acts as a recommendation to City Council, which will form its own resolution to determine whether the area should be designated as blighted, and therefore in need of redevelopment. If passed, the measure would authorize the city to acquire the targeted properties, regardless of the owners' will.
Appeals would be heard in state Superior Court and would have to be filed no later than 45 days after City Council's bill was passed.
"If this case goes up to court, a judge is going to reverse the decision for the entire area," Potter said.
The vote left Pinnacle with less land than it had hoped to acquire, but left company officials reasonably content with the result.
"We're generally pleased with the Planning Board and we hope the City Council will agree," said Pinnacle spokesman Carl Zeitz, stressing what he characterized as the positive impact the casino would have on the surrounding Boardwalk properties and the city overall.
The redevelopment area originally consisted of four city blocks. The L-shaped area stretched along the beach block from Indiana Avenue to Kentucky Avenue and extended to Atlantic Avenue. However, the board exempted two separate portions along Atlantic and Pacific avenues Wednesday.
Zeitz said Pinnacle is accustomed to adapting to change and is confident with the land they have to work with.
"Building a project as big and important as this, your plans are always changing," Zeitz said. "Plans have been changing from the get-go."
One major alteration was Pinnacle's announcement in February that the credit crisis is preventing the $1.5 billion project from progressing. Pinnacle officials have since conceded that the property may be sold and the company could scrap plans to build in Atlantic City.
Among the other properties spared Wednesday were Pacific Avenue neighbors Fischer's Flowers and a business building owned by Councilman John Schultz, which formerly housed an abortion clinic before health violations led to its closing.
continued.......

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#2 Jun 19, 2008


Victory for some in fight vs. eminent domain in Atlantic City

(Published: Thursday, June 19, 2008)

ATLANTIC CITY - Vincent Barth's efforts to avoid his property being taken through eminent domain appeared to be all but futile until Wednesday's Planning Board meeting.

Over the past seven months of hearings, experts hired by Pinnacle Entertainment fought Barth's arguments. His attorney, William Potter, battled bitterly with a Planning Board frustrated with seven months of hearings.

Potter didn't even bother showing up for the board's vote Wednesday morning, assuming it would go unanimously against his client.

But at the last minute, Planning Director William Crane recommended the exemption of a few lots within the area targeted for redevelopment, designed to allow Pinnacle to expand its property for a $1.5 billion casino project. Among those excluded was Barth's Park Lane Apartment Hotel.

"This is not what I expected," he said after the hearing. "I'm safe."

However, the individual victories of Barth and others were the exception, as other owners met with disappointment.

Quang Ha, the owner of Kim Son Jewelry, was not excluded in the plan.

"Right now it looks to me like a curious attempt to carve out one of my clients but not the other," said Potter, a Princeton-based attorney representing both men. "It's definitely appropriate to carve out the Park Lane hotel, but to separate the two is arbitrary and capricious."

Ha, who speaks little English, said he plans to continue fighting the redevelopment plan.

The Planning Board's vote acts as a recommendation to City Council, which will form its own resolution to determine whether the area should be designated as blighted, and therefore in need of redevelopment. If passed, the measure would authorize the city to acquire the targeted properties, regardless of the owners' will.

Appeals would be heard in state Superior Court and would have to be filed no later than 45 days after City Council's bill was passed.

"If this case goes up to court, a judge is going to reverse the decision for the entire area," Potter said.

The vote left Pinnacle with less land than it had hoped to acquire, but left company officials reasonably content with the result.

"We're generally pleased with the Planning Board and we hope the City Council will agree," said Pinnacle spokesman Carl Zeitz, stressing what he characterized as the positive impact the casino would have on the surrounding Boardwalk properties and the city overall.

The redevelopment area originally consisted of four city blocks. The L-shaped area stretched along the beach block from Indiana Avenue to Kentucky Avenue and extended to Atlantic Avenue. However, the board exempted two separate portions along Atlantic and Pacific avenues Wednesday.

Zeitz said Pinnacle is accustomed to adapting to change and is confident with the land they have to work with.

"Building a project as big and important as this, your plans are always changing," Zeitz said. "Plans have been changing from the get-go."

One major alteration was Pinnacle's announcement in February that the credit crisis is preventing the $1.5 billion project from progressing. Pinnacle officials have since conceded that the property may be sold and the company could scrap plans to build in Atlantic City.

Among the other properties spared Wednesday were Pacific Avenue neighbors Fischer's Flowers and a business building owned by Councilman John Schultz, which formerly housed an abortion clinic before health violations led to its closing.

continued.....

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#3 Jun 19, 2008


Victory for some in fight vs. eminent domain in Atlantic City

The property of Nael Zumot, who owns Atlantic Avenue's Center City Deli, also was excluded from the plan, avoiding another forced relocation for his business. His deli was once located about two blocks east at 1503 Atlantic Ave., but the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority pushed him out with a $110,000 buyout.

Zumot was one of several business owners who stormed City Hall in March, armed with signed petitions. Audrey Anderson, owner of Ms. Audrey's Human Connection on Atlantic Avenue, led that charge and had guaranteed victory.

"I told you we'd win," Anderson said after the hearing.

Mayor Scott Evans, who pledged his support for the city's targeted business owners, entered the meeting only briefly during preliminary discussions before the vote. He then left and did not return until immediately after the vote.

Potter cited the mayor's support while claiming he is aware of three councilmen who would oppose any measure that could lead to eminent domain. However, he said he was not certain of their names.

"They need to break with the past and not do Pinnacle's bidding for them," he said of the resort's legislators. "That's what we are going to argue to City Council, and we'll argue it in court if we have to."

To e-mail Michael Clark at The Press:

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#5 Jun 19, 2008

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#6 Jun 20, 2008

Eminent domain bill advances
Friday, June 20, 2008
By Trish G. Graber
[email protected]

TRENTON A bill to reform the process of eminent domain cleared a Senate committee Thursday, breaking a two-year stalemate on the issue.

The sponsors of two competing bills Senate Majority Leader Stephen Sweeney, D-3, of West Deptford, and Sen. Ron Rice, D-Essex reached a compromise to merge their legislation. The measure cleared the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee by 3-to-1 vote.

Sens. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cumberland, Phil Haines, R-Burlington, and Rice voted in favor of the bill. Sen. Christopher Connors, R-Ocean, opposed the measure. Sen. Dana Redd, D-5, of Camden, abstained.

"It's been a long process," Rice said Thursday.

While the measures have the same goals, the lawmakers had remained stalled as they failed to reach an agreement on a number of specifics.

In the end, the sticking point for Sweeney was an environmental provision in Rice's legislation that would have prohibited government from condemning either environmentally sensitive land or contaminated land if the property owner was working under the Department of Environmental Protection to clean it.

Sweeney was concerned the environmental provision would prevent progress in municipalities embarking on redevelopment projects.

The provision was dropped from the final bill.

"I worked with my colleagues as best I could," said Rice. "There's no such thing as a perfect bill."

Sweeney recognized the lengthy negotiation on the reform measure, but said the specifics were important.

"Eminent domain is such an important issue," Sweeney said. "We have to get it right."

Other than the environmental piece of the bill, the legislators seem largely in agreement. Both pieces of legislation would alter the eminent domain process by providing greater transparency when government is seeking to use the redevelopment tool; providing additional notice to property owners that could be the subject of eminent domain; and increasing compensation to property owners.

The new bill also creates a two-tier system for redevelopment. Currently, a property must be declared an "area in need of redevelopment" to be taken through eminent domain for private redevelopment.

The bill would create a process for governing bodies to designate areas in need of redevelopment without the intent to use eminent domain. A second process would be created for redevelopment zones in which a governing body plans to use eminent domain. That process would call for additional notice to property owners among other requirements.

Rice said he expects the measure to be voted on by the full Senate in the fall.

The measure has yet to receive action in the lower house, where it is sponsored by Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-3, of Paulsboro.

© 2008 Gloucester County Times
© 2008 NJ.com All Rights Reserved.

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#7 Jun 20, 2008
EMINENT DOMAIN IN AC?
Veronica Dudo ( [email protected] )- 3/26/08 04:59 pm
Last Updated - 3/26/08 11:34 pm
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ATLANTIC CITY---"This is just abuse to me!" For almost a decade, Tracy Thompson's family, has relied on their business along Atlantic Avenue in Atlantic City, for income, but after learning that Pinnacle Entertainment could claim eminent domain, she says their livelihood would be lost! So, Wednesday she joined other business owners and officials to protest the possibility that the 24 acres around the former Sands Casino, would be up for grabs since the city, deemed it "in need of redevelopment."

Thompson said, "I'm here because I don't want Pinnacle to try to do eminent domain on my business, I don't think I should be here because they're not even building."

Also in attendance, Christina Walsh, with the Institute for Justice’s Castle Coalition said, "It's a land grab, I mean they just want to take the businesses and give them to a casino; it doesn't get anymore unjust than that!"

But many officials say they would like to make both sides happy and are currently coming up with solutions, Mayor Scoot Evans made his position very clear, "Pinnacle, they do have enough land right now to build a casino, obviously they want more land-they need to build parking garages, but if they want the land, they're going to have to pay for it, they shouldn't be trying to use eminent domain."

Steve Moore, the third ward Councilmember says, "We want to encourage the casinos to expand, we want to encourage new casinos to come in, but we also want the small businesses to flourish and to be here. There's a way to do anything, there's a way to work it out."

But, just last month Pinnacle announced that there is uncertainty about plans for their two billion dollar mega-casino project. The firm said the project may be abandoned if credit markets don't improve.

Meanwhile, these businesses owners say they're just hoping for the best.

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#8 Jun 27, 2008
Castlewatch

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Atlantic City Planning Board tries to divide and conquer

take-business.jpg…but it’s not going to work.

Last week, the Atlantic City Planning Board approved their “recommendations” for a proposed area in need of redevelopment. It’s not necessarily “in need of redevelopment” but Pinnacle Entertainment wants to build a new casino. Since casinos are pretty much synonymous with Atlantic City, it was assumed the planning board would basically rubberstamp the plan.

But they didn’t. As The Press of Atlantic City reports,“[A]t the last minute, Planning Director William Crane recommended the exemption of a few lots within the area targeted for redevelopment, designed to allow Pinnacle to expand its property for a $1.5 billion casino project. Among those excluded was Barth’s Park Lane Apartment Hotel.”

Interestingly, also among those excluded was a condo owned by Councilman John Schultz that’s located in a “business building,” which used to house an abortion clinic before it was shut down for health violations.

One of the properties not excluded was Kim Son Jewelry owned by Quang Ha. Ha is an experienced entrepreneur, having owned a bicycle tire factory in North Vietnam before he was arrested and imprisoned for his capitalistic behavior. He escaped from Vietnam, floating on a boat to China where he ended up in a refugee camp in Hong Kong. Ha learned the jewelry trade after coming to the U.S. and set up shop in Atlantic City precisely because of the opportunity to run a successful business there.

What makes the sudden decision of the Planning Board even more perplexing is that Vince Barth and Quang Ha are both represented by Princeton attorney William Potter. Potter thought the decision suspect:

“Right now it looks to me like a curious attempt to carve out one of my clients but not the other,” said Potter, a Princeton-based attorney representing both men.“It’s definitely appropriate to carve out the Park Lane hotel, but to separate the two is arbitrary and capricious.”

The plan should come before the full city council for a vote in a couple of weeks.

Now it should be added that council members are voting on a blight designation for a project that might not even happen. Again for the Press of Atlantic City’s article:

Building a project as big and important as this, your plans are always changing,” Zeitz said.“Plans have been changing from the get-go.”

One major alteration was Pinnacle’s announcement in February that the credit crisis is preventing the $1.5 billion project from progressing. Pinnacle officials have since conceded that the property may be sold and the company could scrap plans to build in Atlantic City.

So, the bottom line is: The city council will be voting to allow the city to acquire private property to hand over to a private developer who says openly not only that it might not be able to finance the proposed project, but it might close up and leave town altogether whether or not they get the property they want.

Ha intends to keep fighting to save his jewelry business, and even though Barth’s property is safe, he intends to keep on fighting for his neighbors’ property rights. So far, the property owners still affected by the plan have Mayor Scott Evans on their side and a couple of other city council members, but it’s not certain whether the city council will approve the plan or not.

Filed under: New Jersey by Chris Grodecki Date 26 June, 2008

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