In opposition to Supreme Court Justice David Souter's vote to broaden the power of eminent domain, Oak Park resident Conrad Montville has created a website designed to raise enough money to build a hotel on Souter's New Hampshire farmhouse.
Souter was one of five justices that sided against a group of New London, Conn., residents in a June court case involving eminent domain. The residents protested when the city seized their land and sold it to a developer, who built a private hotel and convention center, river walk, office space and condominiums.
The justices argued that the new jobs and increased tax revenue would benefit the public, while the petitioners said their homes were in good condition and should not have been seized by the government simply because they were in the development area.
Eminent domain, the government's power to seize land for public use, has been around for years. But Montville argues that this new decision, which sets a precedent for the government to seize property and sell it private entities for economic gain, makes the power of eminent domain much too easy to abuse.
His website, www.thelostlibertyhotel.com, is his effort to give the "activist judges" their just desserts. He and Freestar Media LLC plan to use eminent domain to seize Justice David Souter's New Hampshire farmhouse and build a hotel on the land, called "The Lost Liberty Hotel."
"The Supreme Court basically said, 'we'll take your home whenever we want,'" said Montville, who is a full-time college student and a veteran of the U.S. Navy. "It's all about our personal freedoms being taken one by one and extinguished."
Montville is giving any money he raises on his website to Freestar Media to build the Lost Liberty Hotel. As for money needed to build the hotel and attract people to it, "obviously, we're talking millions of dollars," he said.
Montville would not release any figures concerning how much money he or Freestar Media has raised so far or how close they are to their goal. They have begun the eminent domain paperwork to take over the hotel, but Montville estimated that the actual hotel is at least three years off.
"This is about doing action," Montville said. "This about taking a stand and letting the government know that no matter how big they are, they are for the people."
Donators can get rewarded with everything from an American Patriot plaque ($1,000 or more) to a personal check presentation to Freestar Media ($10,000 or more). But if you can spare only $5, "let the bells toll loudly for your sacrifice," Montville said on his website.
Although Montville supports eminent domain in some cases?#34;"you need roads," for instance, "it can't be a health hazard," and he admits that he is a fan of "cosmetic appearance." He said would create another website, five websites if necessary, if "activist judges" and governments continue to abuse eminent domain.
Montville joined the army after 9/11. "I wanted to protect us from foreign foes," he said. "Now, I find myself making websites to protect us from the government. I definitely do see this as an assault."