On May 21, Albert G. Mauti Jr. and his cousin Joseph hosted a fundraiser for Assemblyman Joseph Cryan at the Westmount Country Club in Passaic County. The two developers and family members picked up the $10,400 dinner tab, donated another $8,000 and raised more than $70,000 that night for the powerful Union County Democrat, according to state election records.
Three days later, the governing body in Cryan's hometown of Union Township -- all Democrats -- introduced an ordinance paving the way for the Mautis to build 90 or so townhouses on six acres of abandoned industrial land along the Conrail line in town.
There is just one problem: Union Township doesn't own the land.
It is owned by Carol Segal, a 65-year-old retired electrical engineer. Over the past 10 years, the Union Township resident says, he has spent about $1.5 million to acquire the property, and he, too, wants to build townhouses there.
Segal said he met with Cryan, who is head of the township's Democratic Party, and other local officials "scores of times" over the past five years to discuss the project. He claims the talks turned adversarial after he rejected proposals to work with various developers they proposed.
On May 24, the five-member township committee voted unanimously to authorize the municipality to seize Segal's land through eminent domain and name its own developer.
"They want to steal my land," Segal said. "What right do they have when I intend to do the exact same thing they want to do with my property?"
And later on in the article...
After the May vote, Segal sued the township, and on Sept. 7 a Superior Court judge in Union County issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the township from hiring its own developer. Six days later, the township committee unanimously voted to start negotiating -- but not sign a contract -- with the Mautis' company, AMJM Development.
Segal, meanwhile, signed a contract last week to sell his property to Centex Homes for about $13 million, contingent upon local approval. Centex, a nationally known developer with projects in Middlesex, Morris and Monmouth counties, would then build 100 townhouses on Segal's property, with a potential for profits of $15 million to $20 million, Segal said. Township Mayor Joseph Florio and Deputy Mayor Peter Capodice, both members of the township committee, said they were unaware of Segal's involvement with Centex when they voted Sept. 13 to negotiate with the Mautis.
But a proposal Centex submitted to the township committee on Sept. 1 said the company "has been in negotiations with (Segal) for quite some time." When the item came up at the Sept. 13 meeting, the committee did not allow Segal's attorney to speak before the vote was taken.
Florio and Capodice said they preferred AMJM because it is a local company.
"I've never heard of Centex," Capodice said. "They're not Union County people."
The first draft of the development proposal for Segal's property, submitted in January, called for officials "to work with any property owner within the redevelopment area." That language was removed from the final plan introduced May 24, which authorizes the township to choose its own developer.
So a bunch of Democrats in New Jersey want to seize a landowner's property in order to build a bunch of condos. Which is exactly what the owner wants to do in the first place. Then the city (or township, I suppose it's officially called) wants to turn it over to a local developer. And this developer happens to be a major contributor to the county's Democratic party. Then the local Demos change the language of their proposals to benefit the folks that line their war chests, refuse to allow the owner's attorney to speak before the council voted, and defy a restraining order. All of which to put one over on one of their own citizens.
Got all that?
And that just infuriates me. The whole lot of it. Every single one of these unmitigated bastards should be strung out to dry by every Democrat in the country. The national party should shun them and not a single cent should flow into their coffers.
And that's even if they don't seize the land. If they do, then every single one of us should go down there with a nail-studded baseball bat in one hand and a copy of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in the other. Then tie the bastages down in the middle of Main Street and read both the Declaration and Constitution aloud, punctuating the monologue with whacks of the bats at every single full stop and semi-colon in the documents.
And then sue them for every cent they are, and will ever be, worth, ban them permanently from holding any political position more important than dogcatcher and PTA member, and declare them persona non grata for the rest of their unnatural lives. And after their political lives are destroyed, take the case all the way to the Supreme Court and get that piece of judicial dung known as the Kelo decision overturned before anything else like this happens.
[sound of deep, soothing breaths]
Okay. Maybe we ought to leave the baseball bats out of it. But as for the rest of it...
UPDATE (06 OCT 05): One of my favorite bloggers, if not my absolute favorite, on the other side of the line, John Cole, decided to do Kevin one better. He's assembled a good-sized list of other eminent domain projects throughout the country. Unfortunately, it's not all of them, as most of these end up going unreported. Still, for those interested more in the practice of eminent domain, here is a brief for you.