by Timothy Sandefur
The New Jersey Supreme Court has upheld the government's authority to condemn land to preserve "open space." This is an important decision, since New Jersey is the battleground of some of the most important eminent domain cases going on today. Two observations:
First, it's ironic that eminent domain is now being used to provide "open space," given that the excuse for eminent domain in many other cases is to put land to use that is otherwise lying idle. Now they're going to take land to leave it idle, instead.
Second, this outcome is probably preferable to what is going on in most "open space" cases. Usually, government simply passes a law commanding a property owner to leave the property "open," but leaving the owner in technical ownership of the property. In these "regulatory takings" cases, the government often doesn't have to pay the owner any compensation. Here, at least, the government is required to compensate the owner for the taking.