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November 5, 2005

Congress takes on eminent domain abuse... maybe

From Field of Schemes:

The U.S. House of Representatives yesterday passed the Private Property Rights Protection Act of 2005, designed to roll back the use of eminent domain for private development, which was okayed by the Supreme Court back in June. The Congressional Budget Office summary of the bill (available as a PDF file here), which is expected to pass the Senate and be signed into law by President Bush, notes that it would "specifically prohibit state and local governments from taking private property and conveying or leasing that property to another private entity, either for a commercial purpose or to generate additional taxes, employment, or general economic health."

This would seem to cast a death blow to projects, like the Washington Nationals stadium or the Brooklyn Nets arena, that depend on taking private land for use by a private sports baron - right? Not so fast. The bill would still allow for eminent domain takings to combat "blight" - a notoriously vague designation that has traditionally been used by cities to mean "not worth as much as we think it should be." If blight is defined broadly enough, this bill could end up protecting only well-off property owners, while those in "blighted" districts - which would likely include the targeted parcels in D.C. and Brooklyn, though the latter includes many high-end condos - would continue to be fair game.


Posted by amy at November 5, 2005 10:38 AM