Home in Atlantic City Averts Eminent Domain

     ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (CN) – The future of Atlantic City is too uncertain to justify taking a 67-year-old piano tuner’s house through eminent domain to build a tourist district, a judge ruled.
     New Jersey, through the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, sought approval from the Atlantic County Superior Court to take Charles Birnbaum’s house, located in the southern portion of New Jersey, almost literally in the shadow of the bankrupt $2 billion Revel casino, the most spectacular in a wave of casino closings that began in 2013.
     When Revel’s property sold at auction for $110 million, the CDRA eyed the area around Birnbaum’s house for a tourism district that would reignite visitation to the beleaguered town.
     Though many homeowners gladly accepted the state’s offers to buy their homes, “Birnbaum is willing to ride out this period of Atlantic City uncertainty and maintain ownership of the family property,” Judge Julio Mendez wrote Wednesday.
     The 10-page ruling acknowledges that the promotion of tourism is a reasonable and constitutional purpose to exercise eminent domain, but Judge Mendez said the state’s plan was far too much of a gambit to justify “the awesome government power to take property.”
     It is far from settled whether the state would actually end up doing anything with this property after it was acquired, according to the ruling.
     “The Legislature did not intend, and the Constitution does not permit, property to be acquired and to remain idle indefinitely, without a reasonable assurance that the proposed plan to justify the taking will be implemented,” Mendez wrote.
     In “a thriving, or even stable environment,” on the other hand, the plan would be sufficient, the court found.

%d bloggers like this: