April 22, 2014

Why buy the land when you can get it for free?

By Mark Miller Senior Attorney

Parkway_EntranceWhy local governments fail to understand the Fifth Amendment takings clause, I will never know. It’s only been the law for 220 years or so, after all. It is rare that I can open the paper – or read a news site – and not discover a new example of an old problem: the government taking property without paying for the taking.

We see this happen in New Jersey quite often — in fact, Jonathan Wood just blogged about another case in NJ just yesterday. And we filed an amicus brief supporting a different New Jersey property owner yesterday, as well.

Thomas and Carol Griepenburg own property alongside the Garden State Parkway – right by Exit 69, in fact. The Griepenburgs hoped to develop that property, entertaining offers from a variety of developers, but the township’s leaders had a better idea: they decided the Griepenburgs should keep their property as undeveloped open space in the interest of the rest of the community. The Griepenburgs may have agreed to that if the township paid them for their property, but the township apparently preferred an involuntary donation, instead.

Although the trial judge in New Jersey did not have a problem with the town taking the Griepenburgs’ property without compensation, the appellate court did. It told the township that it had to pay the Griepenburgs if the town wanted the property.

The township would prefer to take the property for free, and thus it has appealed the case to the New Jersey Supreme Court. We filed an amicus brief supporting the decision of the appellate court, and these property owners.

If the town wants the Griepenburgs’ property, it must pay for it. So says the Constitution, and so says Pacific Legal Foundation.

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