To the Editor:
Last October, my family got a call from a developer asking to buy our house on Third Street. We said sorry, we are not interested in selling—not at any price. My wife and I plan to retire in that house. We thought that would be the end of it. But last month, the Borough Council started the process of declaring my house “in need of redevelopment.” That is, to call it “blighted” so they can take it against my will using eminent domain.
My home is not “blighted.” There is nothing wrong with it. Third Street looks just like any other street in suburban America. It just happens to be located on Block 81, which is in the sights of developer JMF Properties. They want to knock down all the homes there and use the land to build an apartment complex next to the train station.
Eminent domain—the power to force people to sell property against their will—was meant for public use, like a school. Not for some developer to make a buck turning your house into a bunch of upscale apartments.
I have lived in Raritan for 34 years. I have owned this house for 12 of those years. I bought it with hard earned money, and I renovated it into the kind of place my wife and I would like to retire in, close to our three children. Our plan was to retire in just the next year or so. Now, those plans are all in jeopardy. With eminent domain, they will supposedly pay you (what they call) a “fair market value.” So will the insurance company if your house gets knocked down in a hurricane. How would you feel about being hit by one? The bottom line is that you cannot put a price on a house that is not for sale.
What I want people to know is that this is not just about me and my family. Eminent domain abuse is something that could happen to you, too. If they can take all the houses on Block 81, what is stopping them from taking Block 82 or 83…or yours?
If they get away with taking my house this time, do not be so sure your house will not be the next one some developer thinks he can get away with taking. When property rights are not respected, no one is safe.
I have certainly gotten no acknowledgement from the borough council. To them, I am just a bump on the road. If they just ignore me, I will go away.
I am not going away. My home is in Raritan. I love this town and I am going to fight every step of the way for my right to stay here. And public opinion is on my side: in the last ten years, almost every state has tightened its laws against eminent domain abuse in response to public outcry. And courts across the country, including in New Jersey, are rejecting eminent domain abuse.
But the last thing I want is for this to go to court. I do not want to have to fight it when some inspector paid by the developer comes out with a magnifying glass to find chipped paint or a ruler to see if my grass is too tall.
I want the borough council to recognize that my house is not “blighted,” and that this developer is just going to have to build around me. It is my property, not his. I have every right to keep what I have worked so hard to own.
Raritan: Hands off my house.