Fight Erupts When City Takes Private Property for ‘Park’

Photo: Wikicommons

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Guest by post by Bob Unruh

But Supreme Court charges eminent domain case was pretextual

A fight has erupted over a decision by the Long Island town of Southold to take private property that the owners of a chain of hardware stores bought for a new location.

The problem is that the town took the land against the wishes of the owners using eminent domain, but it had no legitimate reason for doing that.

According to officials at the Institute for Justice, that’s known because the city insisted it needed the land for a “park,” but that turned out to be a “passive park” with no cleanup, no improvements, and the remnants of an old home and greenhouse left there.

The IJ explained, ‘When every legal effort to stop someone from using their property has failed, can the government simply take the land using eminent domain? That is the question at the heart of a new U.S. Supreme Court petition filed by a family-owned hardware store business whose property was taken by a small Long Island town.”

It is the Brinkmann family whose members already have five Long Island stores and obtained the Southold property for another.

“The town did everything it could to stop construction. After failing to drive the Brinkmanns away by attempting to interfere with the Brinkmanns’ land purchase, then imposing an exorbitant fee for a market impact study that the town never performed after being paid, and even deploying a selectively enforced moratorium on building permits to stifle the Brinkmanns’ permit application; the town voted to take the land by eminent domain for a park,” the IJ said.

At the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the judges said, “the government can take your property for almost any reason at all—including because it just doesn’t like you—so long as the government lies about why it is using eminent domain,” explained IJ lawyer Jeff Redfern.

“This is a dangerous precedent, and the Supreme Court should take this opportunity to clarify that it is unconstitutional to use eminent domain in bad faith, simply to stop someone from making a lawful use of their property.”

The commercial venture was started by Tony and Pat Brinkmann with a single store in Sayville, New York, in 1976. Today, the company is still family-owned and operated by their children—Mary, Ben and Hank.

“If the maneuver that Southold used to take our property is allowed to stand, no one can purchase property with the confidence that they will be able to use it,” said Ben Brinkmann. “We played by the rules, but the ground kept shifting under our feet until our property was simply taken by force. Courts should not turn their eyes from eminent domain abuse.”

A dissent from the recent 2nd Circuit ruling pointed out that “courts across the country have long invalidated bad-faith takings to stop otherwise legitimate uses of property.”

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