Berman v. Parker

75 S. Ct. 98

 

RULE:

For community redevelopment projects, it is not for the courts to oversee the choice of the boundary line nor to review the size of a particular project area. Once the question of the public purpose has been decided, the amount and character of land to be taken for the project and the need for a particular tract to complete the integrated plan rests in the discretion of the legislative branch.

FACTS:

The District of Columbia Redevelopment Act was a legislative determination that certain areas within the District of Columbia were injurious to public health because of blight and substandard housing. Pursuant to the act, a project was undertaken to redevelop an entire area in the District of Columbia. The project called for acquiring all rights to land located in the area. Appellants owned certain property in the subject area with a department store located on it. Appellants objected to the appropriation of their property for purposes of the project to redevelop the subject area, as violative of the Fifth Amendment. The Court affirmed the constitutionally of the project, ruling against the appellants.

ISSUE:

Is it a violation of the Fifth Amendment for a private business not contributing to the public health concerns of a community to be taken by eminent domain for a community redevelopment project, even when the area will still be privately owned?

ANSWER:

No.

CONCLUSION:

Substandard housing and blighted areas may be considered a public health concern, allowing the government to eliminate the condition, including through eminent domain. A private enterprise may be appropriated and put to private use because public ownership is not the sole method of promoting the public purposes of community redevelopment projects. The rights of property owners are satisfied when they receive the just compensation which the Fifth Amendment exacts as the price of the taking. It is the legislative’s decision as to what the means to the end will be, so long as the end is justifiable. Therefore, the means of taking appellant’s business building was proper, as it was justified for the redevelopment project.

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