War zone. No, not Afghanistan. Mount Holly, New Jersey!


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Folks. While we can all follow the reports of US troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan to give these nations a chance to enjoy freedom, there is another war that needs to be covered by the media.

Police powers of eminent domain by city councils where African Americans, Hispanics and less affluent whites are losing their private property when they have no desire to sell. In this case we are losing our freedoms.

What we have are urban renewal war zones where existing properties, while older than others, are not blighted but are being taken to build some new luxury apartments or townhomes such as the proposed Rancocas project in the Gardens section of Mount Holly, New Jersey.

The 2.9 square mile Township of Mount Holly, with a population of around 10,000, was incorporated in 1798.  Its residents are 68% white, 22% African-American and 9% Hispanic with a medium income of $52,000.

Check out the following background and six minute video produced the Institute for Justice where you can see and hear the victims tell their story rather than my interpretation. Some of these owners and tenants have lived in the same homes raising their families  for the past 20 years.

Taking one’s property to create affluent housing for others is not a moral nor legal justification for forcing people out by condemnation when there is no evidence or claim of blight that needed to be eradicated.
As you watch the video you will hear one participant say she would not object for a school or a true public use.
Learning of another property rights fight in southern New Jersey brings back memories of 93 year old Albert Viviano in his wheel chair and Anna DeFaria, each of whom fought a similar battle in Long Branch, New Jersey. While IJ won in court each of these victims passed away before the court made its decision.

Background

Township officials in Mount Holly have been systematically dismantling the Gardens, a close-knit community of row houses that up until recently was home to more than 300 families. Since 2003, the Township bought more than 200 homes under the threat of eminent domain.

Just three days before Christmas, many of the remaining homeowners were notified that they had until January 15, 2011, to accept the fail offers made for their homes or they will be condemned through eminent domain.

The Township wants to give the land to Philadelphia developer Keating Urban Partners, which plans to build hundreds of higher-priced townhouses, apartments and a business center. According to Pulte Home’s website, some of the new town homes will sell for in the upper $200s.

Most of the homeowners in the Gardens are in theirs 70s, 80s and 90s and African-American or Hispanic. Many have faced serious health complications and family tragedies and deaths since the proposal for the demolition of their neighborhood was announced. Nearly all have lived in the Gardens for more than 30 years and are first-time home buyers.

http://www.ij.org/about/3665

If you know of anyone with a similar story, or need assistance, contact the Institute for Justice or the Castle Coalition at the above referenced link.

To learn more about eminent domain and share your stories simply sign up to attend and/or present your concerns/experience at our next MORR/CURE property rights conference being held on Saturday April 9th at the Golden Key Hotel 123 W. Colorado Blvd. in Glendale, CA.

Moderator. Fullerton Assemblyman Chris Norby. Conference cost $45 incl continental breakfast and lunch.

For additional information on MORR/CURE, Municipal Officials for Redevelopment Reform and CURE, Californians United for Redevelopment Education, call 714-981-8474


About Larry Gilbert