Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Eminent Domain and Saving an Urban Trailer Park

According to an article published in The Record of Hackensack New Jersey dated January 31, 2007 “Residents of two Lodi trailer parks left a courtroom Tuesday optimistic…” Lodi, New Jersey has been attempting for the past several years to remove from that wonderful Northern New Jersey town two trailer parks, Brown’s Trailer Park and Costa’s Trailer Court in order to replace it with more attractive and higher ratable commercial development and upscale housing for senior citizens.

But there has been something standing in the way of that plan. And that would be the people who call that trailer park home. I guess that a man’s home is his castle even if it is a trailer.

What right does any government entity have to take from a person what belongs to another simply to increase the tax base? But a recent ruling at the U.S. Supreme court has simplified and given just cause to such a thing. That is one of the problems here in this case. As well, the fact that the town will use a portion of the land to build senior citizens housing does in fact serve the public good.

Adding to the confusion in this case is that as it is a trailer park which has an owner, his interests also needs to be weighed. That owner has his own idea of what he would like to do with the land. So in a complication, three parties are involved in this case.

The town of Lodi says that the trailer park is blighted, a factor which needs to be proven by them in order to meet court standards for taking under eminent domain rules. The residents say that it is not blighted, but who can argue with reason that any trailer park is not blight from the outset. How many people would be overjoyed to learn that the land next to their residential property was going to be developed as a trailer park?

I myself live in a deed restricted community which forbids the placement of a trailer anywhere within the community. Does that make me an elitist? Well, in view of the fact that I live within walking distance to our ski slopes, and driving distance to our communities equestrian stables, lake and private Delaware River Park, then perhaps I am an elitist.

But this is not about elitism but rather about eminent domain. The people who live in that trailer park in Lodi, New Jersey seem to have been given words which have resulted in creating a sense that they will prevail in this case. But words have little meaning when politics are in play. The truth is public good will in fact occur in this plan and add to the value and tax base of the community at large. That is a large part of this issue in my view.

The only thing which might be to the benefit of the residents of the trailer park is the town's seeming unwillingness to fight for a victory. According to The Record, the mayor of Lodi, Gary Paparozzi has gone on record as saying that they will not pursue it in appeals court if the opposition party wins the early round. That would tell me if I were serving as judge how to rule.

The victory always goes to he who is willing to fight for the victory. That is true in all things. Clearly Paparozzi reveals that he isn’t willing to fight. That makes me wonder why he is even making the effort in the first place.

I hope that the residents of this trailer park win their fight, not so much that I am a lover of trailer parks or those who reside in them. My concern is that any government which can easily seize private property is a dangerous government.
Snake Oil Sam
Snake Oil Sam Internet Media Publishing © 2007

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