Magazine article Reason

Trump Change

Magazine article Reason

Trump Change

Article excerpt

Mention "eminent domain," and most people think of the government obtaining land to build such public works as roads or bridges. But authorities in New Jersey have moved well beyond the boundaries set in the U.S. Constitution - "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation" - to establish a process that lets the owners of gambling casinos scarf up land adjacent to their properties at fire-sale prices.

Soon after casino gambling was legalized there in 1979, New Jersey established the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and gave it the power of eminent domain to help casino investors buy private property. Once a developer finds the land he wants to acquire and a city planning board approves the project, the CRDA simply makes a purchase offer and, if the owner demurs, asks a state court to condemn the property.

Arguing that the CRDA's actions violate the U.S. and New Jersey constitutions, the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Justice is representing Vera Coking, a widow who owns a boarding house in Atlantic City that has attracted the attention of millionaire developer Donald Trump. Trump wants to buy the property, raze the house, and use the land as a staging area for limousines at his adjacent Trump Plaza hotel and casino.

Back in 1983, Coking rejected a $1 million offer by Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione, who wanted to build a casino. But after Trump Plaza was approved in 1994, the CRDA notified her that the "appraised" value of her land was a mere $251,250. …

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