1,300 property owners in Camden, New Jersey whose homes are in a new redevelopment zone were sent letters explaining eminent domain, but the city says it has no intention of taking their homes.
"(T)he 26-page letter is so laden in detailed legal terms and foreboding phrases - such as "affect and/or acquire your property against your will" - it is seen by some residents as confirming their fear that the city wants to take all of their homes.
"They're going to come back and get everything," said resident Keith Stewart, 42. "We know they're going to."
In the letter, property owners in the Lanning Square neighborhood are advised to hire an attorney within 45 days to protect their properties - a stark contrast to officials' assertions at public meetings that only three homes would be acquired and subjected to eminent domain.
"This was something they were worried about before, and they were told that they wouldn't have to worry about it," said Benigno Rodriguez, a community leader who has spoken to residents upset about the letter. "They don't have the knowledge to understand the words and the language in the letter. It confuses and distresses a lot of people."
The city, which has faced lawsuits over procedural problems with its redevelopment plans in the past, said it has no interest in taking more homes. Officials say they were abiding by an appellate court ruling in February that called for increased neighborhood notification about possible eminent domain."