One of the greatest frauds (and there are many) of Kelo is the farce that the requirement of a “comprehensive plan” prevents abuse. This shibboleth is absurd, as courts have found the comprehensive plans need not be comprehensive, nor plans at all. Taken seriously, Kelo will permit the exercise of eminent domain whenever there is any idea written down about how property may be used to improve the tax base. This usually gives any non-stupid staffer the ability to concoct some hair-brain scheme to take someone’s property. But in the past, there had to be something on paper.
And then there’s New Jersey. As you may have read, Atlantic City is in dire conditions. Several casinos just filed for bankruptcy and are closing down, including The Revel. Earlier, to help those failing casinos, the City had decided to take the home of Charlie Birnbaum, a 67-year-old piano tuner, whose parents were Holocaust survivors. Now, that the Casino has gone bankrupt, the plans have totally fallen apart. So does this stop the government from taking the property? Of course not. With no plans, but a hope and a dream, the city is proceeding with the eminent domain proceedings.
The lawyer for the Casino Authority explains that there will be a comprehensive plan one day, which is good enough for taking the property now.
Stuart M. Lederman, the lawyer for the casino authority, said that the details of the shops and restaurants to be erected can await a developer’s conceptions.
Unbelievable. The best laid schemes of mice and men. But with Steinbeck, there was actually a plan!
This comprehensive plan is neither comprehensive, nor a plan, nor even an actual idea. It’s a work of fiction. An IOU that one day there will be a comprehensive plan. If this survives Kelo, then anything will survive Kelo. A promise to act is not cannot possibly suffice. But again, this is New Jersey.