Homeowners find out their town has promised their houses to big corporation

Burnet Road in Onandaga County, New York (Google Earth screenshot)
Burnet Road in Onandaga County, New York (Google Earth screenshot)

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Eminent domain is the legal concept that government can take people’s private property – with just compensation – when it is needed for a public benefit like a road or a bridge.

But in recent years governments repeatedly have used the scheme to take private property – and then have turned it over to another private owner, and such disputes have come up repeatedly in court.

There’s another fight erupting now.

This time it’s the Institute for Justice that is fighting on behalf of homeowners who live along Burnet Road in Onandaga County, New York.

That’s because county officials – and Micron Technology – have announced plans for the company to build a microchip facility in the White Pine Commerce Park in Clay.

The proposed construction site includes not only parts of the commerce park, which largely has been vacant since the 1990s, but the private properties of multiple homeowners.

“My father built this home, and my family has lived here for decades. I’m not going to sit back and let the county take my family’s home and hand it over to a private corporation,” explained one homeowner, Paul Richer, in a statement released by the IJ.

Homeowners already have filed code complaints against properties that already have been acquired by the county, including that they have fallen into disrepair and are attracting criminal activity.

Another resident, Britta Serog, explained, “The county has basically put ‘for sale’ signs in front of our homes, even though we don’t want to sell them. This road was a community with rural charm, and the loss of farmland would be tragic. The county cannot just take our land because they want something else here.”

Bob Belden, a lawyer with the IJ, said, “Taking homes from families and giving them over to a billion-dollar corporation isn’t just un-American, it’s unconstitutional. Other states throughout the country have made this abusive practice illegal, but New York State still allows it to run rampant.”

IJ previously has battled the misuse of eminent domain in a number of cases, and it says it’s grassroots activism also has helped save thousands of homes and small businesses from being taken over.

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