What is Eminent Domain?

 Eminent Domain (excerpted from the FreeDictionary by Farlex)

The power to take private property for public use by a state, municipality, or private person or corporation authorized to exercise functions of public character, following the payment of just compensation to the owner of that property.

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires the government to provide just compensation to the owner of the private property to be taken. … The government takes private property through condemnation proceedings. Throughout these proceedings, the property owner has the right of “due process”. 

The amount of compensation should be measured by the owner’s loss rather than by the condemner’s gain, and the owner should be placed in as good a financial position as he or she would have been in had the property not been taken (Monongahela). The compensation should be paid in cash, and the amount is determined as of the date title vests in the condemner. Interest is paid on the award until the date of payment.  The owner has an automatic right to appeal.

Is Eminent Domain fair to all parties?

Fair to the Developers?
When the developers bought the property it was with the intention that these grounds would be swapped with the Borough for a different property that the developers wanted to develop – with the expectation that the Borough would then preserve the Barclay grounds.  It was only when that deal fell through that the developers moved forward with their current plan to develop the property.  Under “eminent domain” the developers will be paid the “best use” price for the property, allowing them to recoup their initial investment plus the full profit they would make if they sold it for development as houses (as under their current plan).  In addition, in certain circumstances, “eminent domain” can shield the seller from any capital gains taxes that would otherwise be payable on their profit.

 Fair to the Residents of the Borough?

In 1935, when Mr. Kay and Mr. Jacob donated the property to the Barclay Home (a Quaker home for the elderly), Mr. Kay was quoted in the Daily Local News as saying “When the work under completion is finished you will find these grounds a great addition to the value and attractiveness of the town, for it will be much like a public park.”  As a result, Borough residents have enjoyed using these grounds for almost 80 years – and in the 1992/3 Borough Open Space and Recreation Plan the Barclay Grounds were identified as a “quasi-park”.  The developers only bought the property in February of 2013, so declaring “eminent domain” will prevent local residents from losing a beautiful space they have used as a park for approximately 80 years in what would be a “flipping” of real estate.