The job of a planner is to ensure the efficient use of land space. The pursuit of efficiency, however, requires planners to conduct some legal gymnastics in terms of the use of private property. That’s where eminent domain comes in. According to Levy’s Contemporary Urban Planning eminent domain is the right of the government to take property for public purposes. (Levy 73) Though the property is taken from the owner they are compensated for the value of what is taken. Without eminent domain, planners and the entire process of planning would be a much more difficult task. However, just as with any power there are those who have tried to abuse the right of eminent domain.
The most prominent example for me, personally, of a state office attempting to seize an individual’s property without a justified plan, is the case of Birnbaum v. CRDA. In this case New Jersey’s Casino Reinvestment Development Authority attempted to seize the home of Charles Birnbaum in order to level the lot and use the lot for a future plan. However, when Birnbaum requested the proposed plan for the lot the CRDA was unable to provide him with a plan and simply stated, “This state has recognized that the economic engine of the casinos in Atlantic City is vital to the success of the state of New Jersey. That’s the public purpose here. ” (1) This forced Birnbaum to take legal action and the courts ruled in his favor on August 5, 2016. (2)
Birnbaum in front of his home.
Eminent domain has been a controversial topic in the history of planning and there is enough evidence to support the fact that without the use of property that was once private, our nation would not be as developed as it is today. In Houston, for example, land that was obtained to create the Minute Maid Park baseball stadium has benefited the community’s downtown in a significant way. (3) In conclusion, eminent domain when used responsibly has been a great asset to the development of the country.
Levy, John M (2017). Contemporary Urban Planning, 11th edition. Prentice Hall.