It Could Happen to You!
This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," December 14, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Norma Peterson Fluke is a 68-year-old great-grandmother living in Stanhope, New Jersey. She works hard overseeing the family home and tree removal business, which services 140 towns in the state, and now after more than six decades in the town, the family is about to lose everything in yet another case of eminent domain as the town wants to replace their home and business with a new real estate development. Let's take a look.
NORMA PETERSON FLUKE, LOSING HOME AND BUSINESS: The family has lived here 65 years. The business has been here 56 years. And now the town has come and deemed us unfit to be in this town and want to put us somewhere else.
But we're centrally located for our business. And without this property, we would go out of business.
They can't take my house. This is my home. I've lived here for — well, almost — you could say the family has lived here 65 years. I've been here 27 now, or 25 since my mother died. And I'm not leaving.
This is my only source of income now besides my pension check. When my husband died, his pension died with him. So now the only way I can exist in this town is through the rents from this property. And it's twofold. I exist, but 11 other families exist by my low rent for the family.
MARJORIE FLUKE, MOM LOSING HOME AND BUSINESS: This is her home. This is an industrial zone, yet right across the street is residential. And this has been a business for 56 years. And we have a very profitable business and we've been here and now they want to take it away from us. And I don't think it's fair.
This is our garage. We have trucks that we work on, keep the equipment going, chippers and stuff. My grandfather started it. This was his original garage. They built over it. This is the original masonry that was in here, and then they put the steel building over top of it. So this building has been here for quite awhile but there's nothing wrong with it. It's up to today's standards for garages.
RUSTY PETERSON, LOSING BUSINESS: When they can take pieces of property from people after you've paid all your bills and your taxes and everything else for all these years, maintained them and kept them up, now they just come and take them, that's a little out of the way. As far as I'm concerned, I think we're in communism then and not in a democracy.
COLMES: We were unable to reach the mayor of Stanhope for comment, but remember if it can happen to this family it can also happen to you.
And joining us now are Norma Peterson Fluke and her daughter, Marjorie Fluke.
I can't believe what you're going through. The mayor is not responding. We'd love to get him on the show to answer some questions.
M. FLUKE: Her. Her.
HANNITY: Excuse me, and how sexist of me to say that. Tell us what's happening. You've been there since — not you personally, but the homestead has been there since 1940, right?
N. FLUKE: 1940.
COLMES: Right. So what are you going through now?
N. FLUKE: Well, I'm in the middle. I'm in status quo, you know. You can't — you can't repair things. I don't want to add more — I don't want to put more on the property than I can get back from it.
COLMES: Right. They're doing it secretively, Marjorie. I understand that you found out information that the mayor and the town did not want to tell you. What happened?
M. FLUKE: When we originally went to the first meeting they said there was no plan, there was no builder lined up. And then we started digging through the minutes and we found out they already had sent a letter of intent to the builder.
COLMES: So they're planning to do this. They're not telling the residents. They're secretly planning this behind your back?
M. FLUKE: Yes. Definitely.
COLMES: And that's — that's really outrageous. Where are you in trying to save your property at this point?
M. FLUKE: We're — got the town involved now. The Board of Ed. has come out to help. We've passed out letters. We're going door to door. Anything we can do to get the word out that they have to stop it now, because if they vote for the...
HANNITY: Go ahead.
M. FLUKE: ... at the land use board for the redevelopment, then it makes it even harder down the line.
HANNITY: I want everybody to understand this, because now we've had a couple of these cases. There's another case in New Jersey, World War II, highly decorated veteran with cancer, dying, and they want to take his home.
This development is not about a road, a school or a bridge, and your house happens to be in the way. It's not about that, is it? It's about...
M. FLUKE: It's about a builder making money.
HANNITY: It's about a builder making money so they increase tax revenues to the town. Is that what we're talking about?
M. FLUKE: Exactly.
HANNITY: And the basic — so the government has come up with a plan to take your property and give it to another citizen?
N. FLUKE: Yes.
HANNITY: And this is happening all over the country. We had a Revelli Tire our in Oakland, California. We had the case that we just dealt with in Riviera Beach.
Do you feel powerless? Do you have to hire an attorney? What are you doing?
N. FLUKE: I had to hire an attorney and a planner. I have to fight it now in the beginning.
HANNITY: You do.
N. FLUKE: I have to get it in the minutes.
HANNITY: And you're not a wealthy woman.
N. FLUKE: No, I'm not.
HANNITY: You don't even have — your husband didn't leave you a pension?
N. FLUKE: No, no, no.
HANNITY: So — so basically now, you could end up going bankrupt and have to sell.
N. FLUKE: That's right.
HANNITY: And they could force you to sell, because they have unlimited resources, because they're using the taxpayer's money.
N. FLUKE: Right. Oh, sure. Well, they did use their own money for...
HANNITY: Well, you ought to be able to sue them so that they — you recoup.
M. FLUKE: ... the taxpayers' money. Take the builder's money. Right, that's right.
HANNITY: The developers. The developer's money, I should say.
I just want everybody to know you've been in this home 60 — how many years now?
N. FLUKE: Sixty-five, 1940.
HANNITY: Sixty-five years. And in business 55 years.
N. FLUKE: Fifty-six.
HANNITY: And now they're going to come in — I looked at the home. How do they possibly say that beautiful home of yours is blighted? How do they say?
N. FLUKE: Well, they don't say the word blight. That's only used once it gets to the eminent domain.
HANNITY: There are two — there are two criterias (sic) ...
N. FLUKE: Right.
HANNITY: And they're saying it's dilapidated, overcrowded, faulty arrangement of design, lack of ventilation. I mean, they've got a million different ways to — to steal your property. I don't care...
N. FLUKE: Seven points of criteria; you only need one.
N. FLUKE: And any property in Stanhope will meet one.
N. FLUKE: If you have a shed on your property you're going to meet their criteria.
HANNITY: Is the town — are the people in this town getting behind you?
N. FLUKE: Yes, they are. They're very good.
HANNITY: Why don't you run for mayor?
N. FLUKE: Actually I feel sorry for the mayor. It's a thankless job.
HANNITY: I'll donate to your campaign. Listen, you shouldn't — you should not lose your home, ma'am.
COLMES: We'll both campaign for you.
HANNITY: I want to tell you something: if this gets worse, and they try and do this to you, you please come back here, and we will let our audience know. And we'll do everything we can do in our power to help you, because this is the United States of America. You deserve your property.
COLMES: We're following a bunch of these stories like yours. This is very important to us, and I think to America, to make sure it doesn't happen to anybody watching this show.
COLMES: Norma and Marjorie, thank you very much.
HANNITY: We actually agree. He's wrong on just about on everything else.
COLMES: Wait a minute. That's what I thought about you.
M. FLUKE: That's one thing you agree on, right?
COLMES: We thank you both for being with us.
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