The Georgetown Law Journal
Since the Supreme Court's decision in Kelo v. City of New London, which expanded the state's power to condemn private property and transfer it to other private owners under the Fifth Amendment, there have been significant calls to curb the power of eminent domain through statutory reform. Scholars and jurists in favor of eminent domain reform have asserted that legislation is needed to protect private property rights against the rising tide of state power, with many arguing that such reform should incorporate a public approval process into land use decisions. Those opposed to eminent-domain reform argue that empowering the public in land use decisions is an imperfect process that slows development. This Note asserts that incorporating public approval into the eminent-domain process need not come at the cost of expediency. Rather, thanks to advances in technology, a public empowered by statutory reform can couple with grassroots Internet political activism—a concept popularly dubbed as "netroots"—to create a new and more efficient approach to traditionally ineffective public forums.
This Note uses the Atlantic Yards project as a case study in post-Kelo use of eminent domain. Part I will outline the role of Kelo in reshaping the debate around eminent domain. Part II will examine the history and controversy surrounding Atlantic Yards and illustrate how, despite significant Internet-facilitated community activism, the absence of a legal mechanism prevented landowners from affecting any change in the outcome of Forest City Ratner's $4.9 billion commercial and residential development plan in Brooklyn, New York. Finally, Part III will look at traditional methods for public forums in land use and propose a new format to elicit and accommodate public participation in land use decisions. It will argue that advances in technology and the proliferation of the Internet have increased community connectivity, involvement, and transparency and can be used to streamline the public-hearing process. Statutory reform that incorporates these advances can appease both sides of the eminent domain reform debate and create a more efficient and democratic system of land use.