Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Luxury Condos - At What Price?

From Atlanticville (Long Branch):

Redevelopment puts life, business on hold

Resident becomes activist as eminent domain looms

Long Branch resident James Keelen thought he was living the American dream.

Keelen, 49, began operating his business, Keelen Bus Co., at 142 Belmont Ave., in 1992 and just seven years later, purchased a home next door to his company where he is raising his family.

Keelen found his American dream was short-lived when he learned that both his business and home are located in the city's Broadway redevelopment zone and could be slated for eminent domain like homes in other zones.

"This is my whole life," said Keelen in an interview Monday. "Everything I have ever worked for is here, sitting on this property that could be taken from me.

"What if I wanted to give [my company] to my children or sell it and retire?" he asked. "I can't do it. It is all on hold. They have my life on hold."
Keelen said he is not ready to turn his business and home over to the city and has decided to get involved to protect the property he owns from the prospect of eminent domain abuse.
The hardest part for Keelen, though, is planning his future, he said.

"I just want to know what is going to happen," Keelen said. "I don't want to wake up everyday and ask if I still have a home and a job."

While a developer has not yet been designated for the redevelopment area where Keelen's home and business are located, the city has designated Broadway Arts Center (BAC) as the developer for the first nine acres of the entire Broadway redevelopment zone which extends from Second to Memorial Avenues and from Union Avenue to the north and Belmont Avenue to the south.
Redevelopment underway in the Beachfront North, phase II area, known as MTOTSA for Marine and Ocean Terraces and Seaview Avenue, calls for the properties, some of which are slated for eminent domain, to be razed and replaced with luxury condominiums.

Members of the MTOTSA alliance have filed a motion in Superior Court to dismiss condemnation complaints served by the city on 20 residents in the zone and residents are currently awaiting a decision by Judge Lawrence M. Lawson.

In Beachfront South, plans also call for razing the neighborhood and replacing it with luxury condominiums.

The developers of the zone are negotiating with the property owners for the purchase prices of their homes which could result in eminent domain if an agreement is not reached by the July 1 deadline.

These stories about eminent domain abuses are becoming much too commonplace in New Jersey. Why bother even owning property in New Jersey? Property 'ownership' doesn't mean much when local governments can take that property away on a whim.

Caveat Emptor!


Blogger Roadtripboy said...

Grim, I agree with you that Eminent domain is being abused. While I generally support the concept, I see it being best used to condemn a dilapidated warehouse that the owner is not using or maintaining when the city could use it for other useful purposes.

These cases of eminent domain described in the cover story sound more like sweetheart deals that developers concoct with their friends "in high places". I don't support that at all.

6/21/2006 11:37:00 PM  
Blogger minutesfromNYC said...

I know where the bus company is on Belmont Ave. It is in no way a "blighted" area in need of redevelopment. It is actually a very nice area with modest sized houses, right next to a university

6/22/2006 06:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Long Branch is very ham-handed in its use of eminent domain and the city is reaping what it has sowed.

Collapsing real estate prices will do in the latest land grab if the residents/owners can keep the fight going long enough.

The downtown fight is far enough away that Keelen et. al. are probably going to be safe, but the people of MTOTSA are going to have to fight hard to keep their homes. They are really being screwed.

6/22/2006 09:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

People need to vote. The problem is the low voting ratio in these towns.

One swift kick-out of every politician involved in land grabbing, and you better believe the next town wouldn't do it.

These people in Long Branch are toast, and are wasting their money trying to fight it this year (they might as well take their hush money), so soon after the Supreme Court fried property owners in New London, CT.

Until we keep the Federal Court out of state politics, by voting for supporters of property rights, we're all at risk.


6/22/2006 10:01:00 AM  

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