http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2005/10/17/145458.shtmlEminent Domain in N.J. - Now They Just Steal Land
Monday, Oct. 17, 2005
Union Township, N.J. -- Carol Segal has a problem: He wants to build townhouses on the six acres of land he owns in New Jersey's Union Township and has contracted with a developer to build 100 townhouses there.
But the township government wants to develop the property themselves, and - incredibly - they have voted to take his land through the eminent domain process and let a local developer with political connections do the job.
"They want to steal my land," Segal told the Newark Star-Ledger. "What right do they have when I intend to do the exact same thing they want to do with my property?"
According to the Star-Ledger, Segal, a 65-year-old retired electrical engineer, has spent about $1.5 million to acquire the property over the past 10 years and has been dickering with township officials over the past five years about his development plans. He claims negotiations fell apart after he refused to use the developers that township officials wanted him to use.
At that point, on May 24, the five-member township committee voted unanimously to authorize the municipality to seize Segal's land through eminent domain and name its own developer, AMJM Development, paving the way for the developer to build 90 or so townhouses on Segal's land, according to the Star Ledger.
After that vote, Segal sued the township, and on Sept. 7 a Superior Court judge in Union County issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the township from hiring its own developer. Six days later, the township committee unanimously voted to start negotiating - but not sign a contract - with AMJM Development.
In the meantime, Segal signed a contract last week to sell his property to Centex Homes for about $13 million, contingent upon local approval. The Star-Ledger described Centex as a nationally known developer with projects in New Jersey's Middlesex, Morris and Monmouth counties. Centex plans to build 100 townhouses on Segal's property, and expects to earn some $15 million to $20 million, Segal told the newspaper.
Township Mayor Joseph Florio and Deputy Mayor Peter Capodice, both members of the township committee, told the Star Ledger they were unaware of Segal's involvement with Centex when they voted Sept. 13 to negotiate with the Mauti family, who own AMJM Development. But a proposal Centex submitted to the township committee on Sept. 1 said the company "has been in negotiations with (Segal) for quite some time."
When the item came up at the Sept. 13 meeting, the committee did not allow Segal's attorney to speak before the vote was taken.
Florio and Capodice told the newspaper they preferred AMJM because it is a local company. "I've never heard of Centex," Capodice said. "They're not Union County people."