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Court decision broadens 'public use'

June 25, 2005|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

TRI-STATE - Despite Thursday's U.S. Supreme Court decision giving broader powers to local government to take homes and other forms of private real estate, local officials said Friday it's unlikely that those new powers would be used here anytime soon.

The high court ruled 5-4 that the City of New London, Conn., did not violate residents' constitutional rights when it decided in 2000 to condemn property owned by those residents and to give the land to pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc., which wanted to turn the land into a research park.

The court's decision hinged on an interpretation of the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, specifically the portion that says "private property (shall not) be taken for public use, without just compensation."

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Justice John Paul Stevens, who wrote the opinion of the court, said that the Supreme Court has broadened the term "public use," substituting in its place "public purpose."

"The City (of New Haven) has carefully formulated an economic development plan that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including - but by no means limited to - new jobs and increased tax revenue," Stevens wrote, which he said satisfies the public use requirement.

Locally, there are no apparent plans to seek the use of eminent domain, and officials in Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia said they don't foresee the need to use the power, especially with respect to economic development efforts.

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