Eric Adams’ family has been threatened repeatedly by Easton Area School District for about 18 months (see here and here). The EASD, in cooperation with the Palmer Township government, threatened the use of eminent domain to seize and destroy a good portion of his family’s property to dig up his yard to install 400 feet of sewer pipe, destroying some massive trees and installing a large boulder field, known as a rip rap apron, that would lead to the routine flooding of his property. Ostensibly, they have claimed this work, which would likely cost school district taxpayers an estimated $1 million, is needed for the new Palmer Elementary School, but engineers hired by Adams have concluded the new stormwater system is totally unnecessary.
EASD Superintendent Reinhart on October 21, 2018 admitted as much by writing to his school board that:
“The township has been most disrespectful in causing us to spend thousands of taxpayer dollars on ideas that will help them solve a township problem. We have all tried to contain our frustration at these circumstances by dealing with the township with respect and following their directions in spite of serious questions in their judgment.”
Even so, under the threat of eminent domain, Adams offered to sell the easement for $135,000 in 2018 to the school district which he claims after paying restoration costs, capital gains tax, legal defense expenses and conservatively assuming a 10% loss in the value of our property, would result in a zero net gain. Palmer Township supervisors instead voted in October 2018 to conditionally approve the school districts’ plan as long as the school district acquired the easement. EASD appraised the easement for $7,800, but followed this with an initial bid of $30,000, followed by $50,000, $85,000 and lastly $95,000.
Recently Adams decided that despite the duress inflicted by the eminent domain threats, the easement is no longer for sale. He wrote this letter to the township and attached his lawyers’ opinion that the eminent domain theft of his land is illegal. Now Easton Area School District must decide whether to cease and desist from threatening his family’s property or take them to court to attempt to inflict the theft of his land via an eminent domain ruling that would result in a Declaration of Taking – government fancy talk for “we are stealing your land.” Adams in a June 2019 letter already highlighted to the school board his recommendations for the best path to get the new Palmer Elementary built – they need to cooperate with Palmer Township on a new plan that does not involve destroying Adams’ property.
Journalist John Stossel explains eminent domain in more detail in this piece based on the movie Little Pink House centered on the Kelo v. City of New London case. Take a look how that worked out for both Ms. Kelo and the City of New London – no winners there. Eminent domain is highly controversial and begs the question: who really owns your land? Should any government even have the right to steal an individual’s property under any circumstance? While eminent domain has its roots in the United States Constitution and state laws, let’s call a spade a spade – eminent domain is just another form of legalized theft, or as Bastiat puts it, legal plunder.