A businessman’s effort to curb eminent domain laws across the country ended Friday when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his case involving a 15-year lawsuit against Chicago.
On the last day of its term, the high court refused to hear Fred Eychaner’s case, which stemmed from the city’s 2005 decision to hand his River West property over to Blommer Chocolate Co.
Blommer wanted to expand its candy-making factory and needed Eychaner’s vacant parcel at 460-468 N. Jefferson Street. Blommer had offered $825,000 for the property that at the time was surrounded mostly by former meat-packing warehouses.
When the two failed to reach an agreement, the city swept in with its power of eminent domain and seized the property for Blommer, arguing it “may become a blighted area.”
Eychaner, who founded Newsweb printing company in Lincoln Park, sued the city in 2006, charging that allegations of speculative decay abused the “public use” requirement.
In 2019, he was awarded $7.1 million for the property, which now sits on the edge of bustling Fulton Market. But he wanted the high court to overturn a controversial 2005 ruling, Kelo v. City of New London, that allowed governments to take over property in a push to revitalize an area.
Three judges were willing to hear it — Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — but a fourth was needed for it to get on the agenda.
In his three-page dissenting opinion, Thomas called the 2005 decision a “mistake” that did a “disservice” to the Constitution. He also noted Chicago “decided to use the coercive power of the government to give the company a valuable parcel of not-yet-blighted-land.”
Blommer, whose sweet chocolatey smells have drifted over the city for 80 years, is now owned by Fuji Oil Holdings. The Japanese company closed on the family-owned firm in early 2020.