5/01/2006

Opponents Take Aim At Eminent Domain: Turn to 10 TV (Providence RI), 3/10/06

Joseph Mollo's family has owned his farm in Smithfield since 1911.

But the state ordered Mollo to give it up so Fidelity Investments could have a pristine landscape around its business campus.

Mollo, a two-time war veteran, doesn't feeling like rolling over for the state.

"There are two ways you're going to get me off my property," he said. "Lock me up or kill me."

It's called eminent domain and it's a method for governments to take private land. Typically land is taken for some public purpose like a highway.

"I live on that property," he said. "I'm on the verge of bankruptcy. I went from a nice garden center with seven rents to nothing."

In recent years though, it's been used to take land for business and that has some legislators concerned.

"A person's family can have roots going back generations," Rep. Charlene Lima said. "But those roots can be torn up by a bulldozer working for modern day robber barons."

For the last three years, Lima has submitted bills to restrict the type of takings authorized by the state.

"This legislation would prohibit the taking for private development," she said.

She said since the Supreme Court ruling allowing the city of New London to take private property to allow a developer to bring big stores downtown, the public opinion has swung strongly in her favor.

Since many other legislators have submitted legislation in the wake of the New London case and that the leadership team in the House is in favor of the bill, Lima said she's hopeful it will pass.


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