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Hannity

Eminent Domain Swings at N.Y. Golf Course

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," March 21, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: We continue our special series tonight on eminent domain abuse across America. Now, our reporting is taking us across America, from California to Florida, Oklahoma, Missouri and everywhere in between.

But today we bring you a story from nearby Long Island, New York, where a private golf course could be seized by the village of North Hills for the "public good." We spoke with one of the club's members earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN WILSON, DEEPDALE GOLF COURSE MEMBER: The Deepdale Golf Club is 175 acres, and it was established in 1955, '56. I've been a member of the Deepdale Golf Club now for 20 years.

What's happening now in the village of North Hills, the mayor and the board of trustees are attempting to seize the golf club through the process of eminent domain.

The mayor feels that he's doing a benefit to the community by providing the residents with a golf course that is going to increase the value of their homes. And to me, and to everybody else we talk to, that is absurd: to steal somebody else's golf course, to give it to somebody else as a golf course so that their home values increase.

I mean, where does that come from? Is that what the Supreme Court intended? I don't think so. And it's absolutely absurd that this is public use.

The town of North Hempstead, of which North Hills is a part, has eight municipal golf courses. You would think that the residents of North Hills have enough places to play golf. Not to mention that a number of them belong to their own clubs. So to provide an amenity for whom?

There's another irony in this situation, aside from a mayor trying to steal somebody's golf course and give it to somebody else. The people he's giving it to are very, very wealthy people. North Hills is considered to be the fifth wealthiest community in the United States.

It's not as if the mayor is taking this golf course or seizing this golf course to give to the economic disadvantaged. He is giving it to wealthy people.

I don't understand. I don't think the purpose of eminent domain is to steal somebody's golf course and give it to somebody else as a golf course. I don't think that was the intent of the law, no matter how liberal it was in the last Supreme Court decision.

I think it would be much more understandable, maybe not acceptable, but much more understandable if you were going to build a children's hospital on this property or take it for roads or take it for some real public use. Not the use of a few people. And to steal it to give it to a few people, I don't think is the intent of eminent domain.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HANNITY: We invited the mayor of North Hills to come on the show, but he says he cannot come, pending litigation. Joining us now is the attorney for Deepdale Golf Course, George Conway, back with us.

Good to see you.

GEORGE CONWAY, ATTORNEY, DEEPDALE GOLF COURSE: Good to see you.

HANNITY: I — well, first of all, Mr. Wilson is very articulate, nailed this 100 percent.

CONWAY: Absolutely he did.

HANNITY: Basically we want to empower our government to steal a golf course to increase other people's values to their homes, rich people.

CONWAY: Right. And that's what the Supreme Court said you couldn't do under Kelo. I mean, Kelo was a very broad reading of public use under the Constitution, but it didn't allow you to take property and give it to somebody else to increase their wealth, just for the purpose of private use.

HANNITY: Sure.

CONWAY: That's what this is all about.

HANNITY: We literally have had so many cases. One that stands out in my mind is Long Branch, New Jersey. A man buys a house on the water, 1960, you know, he's owned it all of these years.

CONWAY: Right.

HANNITY: And they want to take his home, give it to another contractor to build condos so they can increase the tax base for the area. And I'm thinking this is not the Soviet Union. This is America. Isn't the same thing going on here?

CONWAY: It's even worse. They're not trying — they're not doing it to increase the tax base. They're doing it to create what they call a private amenity.

COLMES: It's certainly a wealthy community. They're probably Republicans. Very wealthy.

CONWAY: Well, the mayor is a Republican. And there are private and public golf courses just all over the place, as you know.

COLMES: There's also, George, you know — they do this — they decided this in an executive session in the municipality. They're shutting out public decision on this whole thing. They don't want to — another egregious violation of the public trust in this particular case.

CONWAY: Yes, I know. And what they're doing in that regard, is that they are — they're raising money for — this is going to be a very expensive proposition.

COLMES: And they'll have to borrow money to finance it.

(CROSSTALK)

CONWAY: And also they're doing this thing where they're selling zoning rights to developers and not telling the public...

COLMES: And another case that's resolved on that.

HANNITY: When is this going to be resolved? We've got to go.

CONWAY: It's going to be resolved, hopefully, in the next few months. We're going to push the litigation as hard as possible.

HANNITY: Good to see you. Good luck on this case.

Please e-mail your stories of eminent domain abuse: ItCouldHappenToYou@FOXNews.com.

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