In 1990, Trump tried taking an elderly woman property for casino parking to make more room to park limousines next door to his casino in Atlantic City.
The Saturday night Republican presidential debate became very heated when Jeb Bush accused Donald Trump of attempting to take the elderly woman property for casino parking to make more room to park limousines next door to his casino in Atlantic City.
Although Trump denied that he’d taken the property, which was stopped by a court action, he defended the use of the legal power known as eminent domain to take property.
“Eminent domain is an absolute necessity for a country,” he said. “Without it, you wouldn’t have roads, you wouldn’t have hospitals, you wouldn’t have anything.”
Trump’s campaign against the retired long time homeowner and Atlantic City resident Vera Coking in the 1990s is the ultimate example of this kind of private business land use abuse masquerading as something that is a greater good for the public. Coking had lived in her home she and her husband bought in 1961 as a summertime retreat for $20,000. She had previously turned down another developer’s $1 million offer for her house in the 1980s.
In an effort to create more room for limousine parking for the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, Trump tried to get her sell her home. When this did not work Donald got the Atlantic City’s Casino Reinvestment Development Authority to threaten to take the property using eminent domain. If she’d accepted the offer, she would have gotten $250,000 — a quarter of the price she was offered a decade earlier.
Instead of bowing to pressure Coking hired the law firm Institute for Justice to fight her battle in court. Eventually, the courts ruled that they city’s plan was too vague for court to decide if the land would serve as public use.
A major issue concerning eminent domain has been that property owners get “just compensation”. Many times public entities have been able to pay much lower than the actual market value of private property than if the owner had sold it to another private buyer. Many times the property owner does not have the resources to challenge this in court.
Next, when there are land developers such as Donald Trump who will greatly benefit from the use of eminent domain for private projects, the benefits to the general public are less clear.
Donald Trump was correct in stating that eminent domain is often needed for public projects like parks, bridges, or schools; however, for purely private projects, it would be better to require wealthy developers to purchase land at market rates.