No one likes a government agency knocking on their door - or, more likely, sending a certified letter - telling them they have to move.
In Atlantic City in particular, the use of eminent domain for redevelopment projects has long been controversial, well before it became a national issue.
In the late 1980s, as the CRDA began the $300 million transformation of the Northeast Inlet, many longtime residents of that blighted area objected strenuously to having to relocate. And a dispute between property-owner Vera Coking, Donald Trump and the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority helped propel the use of eminent domain into the national spotlight.
Now, it is residents of approximately 60 housing units in the South Inlet who are concerned and fearful about being relocated to make way for redevelopment of that long-blighted area.
Some of these residents have spoken before the CRDA board. They held a meeting Saturday to voice their concerns. And it is entirely likely that national groups opposed to eminent domain will join the fray on behalf of these residents.
This is understandable - but unfortunate. The redevelopment of the South Inlet adjacent to Revel and Absecon Inlet is a critical part of Atlantic City's revival. Indeed, this is potentially one of the most beautiful waterfront spots on the East Coast.
The project, which depended on financing leveraged through Revel's Economic Redevelopment and Growth grant, is now on hold, because of Revel's lackluster performance. But the CRDA has wisely gone ahead with land acquisition for the project. Having the various parcels already assembled will make the project more enticing to potential developers.
So CRDA has sent letters to residents giving them the 90-day relocation notice required by law.
Again, we understand that it is scary and unpleasant to get such a notice. But there are several things these residents should keep in mind.
First, the CRDA has said repeatedly that the time frame for relocation is flexible and that no one with children would be displaced during the school year.
Furthermore, the CRDA - which is meeting individually with these residents to help them find new homes - has a track record of going above and beyond what is required by law. For this project, renters are being offered $9,600 in relocation assistance over three years, plus at least $750 in moving expenses, which is more than state regulations mandate.
Indeed, when a holdout for a project on North Carolina Avenue objected to the fact that his initial home had a back deck and his new home did not - CRDA gave him $10,000 for a new back deck.
As to the larger question - why should the poor, or anyone, be forced to move for the sake of a redevelopment project? - eminent-domain critics need look no further than the Northeast Inlet project just a few blocks away. An area where homes were literally falling down is now a thriving neighborhood of 620 well-kept housing units, with new landscaped streets and a waterfront park.
Can anyone argue that this project did not enhance Atlantic City for everyone - including those who were forced to move?
Yes, there are abuses of eminent domain. But the South Inlet project is not one of them. And there is no reason to think the CRDA will treat relocated residents with anything but fairness and compassion, as it has done in other projects.