The city of Philadelphia seized a famed artist’s studio by using eminent domain to convert the block that the property is on into a high-end shopping area.
In 2005, James Dupree, a 64-year-old muralist and painter, bought a rundown warehouse in Philadelphia and worked to turn the former horse stable into an art studio before the city government seized the property for public use.
“It started right after I purchased the building,” Dupree, who has been fighting the seizure in court, told CNBC. “They had called this area a blight several years ago, but didn’t move on it until 2005. It’s nothing more than a land grab. And the kicker is the developer who was going to build the shopping area backed out of the deal.”
According to experts, Dupree is part of a growing number of cases of homeowners and businesses losing their property over government seizures via eminent domain, CNBC reported.
“I think there are more cases and as a result, more publicity about them,” said Scott Gizer, a business litigation lawyer at Early Sullivan. “There’s more land taken for the upgrading of infrastructure like bridges and roads and a lack of land for development. “But whatever the reason, it’s a hot-button issue with people and creates a negative feeling toward government.”
The 2005 Supreme Court case Kelo v. New London found that Connecticut had the right to seize several homes to build a Pfizer tower – which ended in disaster when the drug company left and affected properties were used as a vacant lot, Watchdog.com reported.
That case was ruled constitutional as long as the city of New London said they were increasing municipal revenue.
"That ruling allowed the taking of residential property under the idea that it was good for the people," said Nicholas Chop, director of litigation at Integra Realty Resources. "It's really opened up the floodgates when it comes to eminent domain."
Some states have passed legislation to curb the power of eminent domain – from prohibiting land grabbing for economic development, to requiring compensation at fair market value.
But those measures do not take the place of federal laws that allow the national government to continue using emeinent domain.