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Eminently Unjust: Giving Government Too Much Discretion in Eminent-Domain Cases

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Publication Date: January 2008

Publisher(s): Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace

Author(s): Richard A. Epstein

Series: Hoover Digest

Topic: Economics (Property and wealth)
Environment (Land resources and use)

Keywords: Port Chester; Property Rights; Eminent Domain

Type: Report

Coverage: New York

Abstract:

An example of what political actors can legally do with unchecked condemnation power in eminent-domain cases. 1999, Port Chester, NY established a redevelopment area in which new projects could be built only after getting approval from a village-designated private individual to whom the municipality inexplicably delegated its regulatory authority.

When two owners of a plot asked for permission to build a pharmacy, the reported reply was, “Either pay me $800,000 to build or give me a piece of the action, or I’ll have the village take the property.” The day after they spurned the offer, Port Chester did indeed start the takings process, then arranged for another pharmacy to develop the site.