Emergency Condemnation Should Remain Useful Tool In Fight Against Drugs – Jamestown Post Journal

Apr 6, 2022
A recent court ruling on an eight-year-old complaint is an unfortunate development for a city trying to fight the scourge of illegal drugs flowing into their community.
The Jamestown City Council is paying $51,168 to settle a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court by the owner of Royal Housing LLC. One of Royal Housing LLC’s apartment houses was raided in September 2014. Police charged four of the home’s residents, two with burglary and criminal possession of a controlled substance and two solely with criminal possession of a controlled substance.
“This location was extremely busy,” Capt. Robert Samuelson of the Jamestown Police Department told The Post-Journal the day of the raid. “Even when we were there during the raid people were pulling up to stop there.”
Vince DeJoy, former city development director, performed an emergency condemnation of the property through Section 215 of the City Code. That notice was later rescinded about two months later.
According to the court filing, even if city officials had submitted evidence that the drug-dealing activities of the tenants constituted an “emergency,” any emergency would have been abated upon the arrest and removal of those tenants suspected of illegal drug activity, which occurred the day before the condemnation was ordered.
The court’s ruling is disappointing. It is important to protect a property owner’s property rights, but it is also important to give city and police officials the ability to crack down on problem properties. An emergency condemnation should be an extreme step — but there are times where such a condemnation may be necessary.
In our view, the City Council should use this instance to spell out proper procedures in Section 215 of the City Code to prevent future such lawsuits while keeping the emergency condemnation a part of the city’s tool box.
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