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University to use eminent domain for medical school use

Homeowners and other property owners in the Philadelphia suburb of Camden are facing the possibility that Rowan University may soon use eminent domain to acquire their land for purposes associated with the needs of its relatively new Cooper Medical School. For approximately the last 11 months, the university has been locked in discussions with those who hold the titles to 22 parcels of land a block away from the school. Those negotiations have borne some fruit, culminating with the school's contractual purchase of five homes in the vicinity.

Some property owners, including the owners of one home in the area, as well as the owner of nine other properties that are mostly vacant land, have been less receptive. As a result, while still viewing the use of eminent domain as a last resort, the school's Board of Trustees last month voted to authorize it if necessary.

One homeowner whose property was recently negotiated by Rowan says that he has resided in his home for the last 27 years, and that his wife was raised there. It is also where he and his wife raised their five now adult children, and where he launched his business as a disc jockey.

In an earlier board meeting, the trustees had set aside $1.5 million for the estimated cost of acquiring all 22 desired parcels of land. When all parcels are acquired, the medical school plans to make use of the property on the block adjoining its premises for a large parking facility. There will also be provisions for the inclusion of a number of stores on the ground floor.

The power of eminent domain uses the authority of governmental entities to acquire private property for public uses. Property owners are entitled to fair compensation for what is taken for public use, and often need to consult with experienced attorneys to make sure that they get what their property is really worth.

Source:  Philly.com, "Homeowners make way for Cooper Medical School" Claudia Vargas, Apr. 27, 2013

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