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June 5, 2007

EMINENT DOMAINIA: States' rights

EminentDomainia17.jpg The Cleveland Plain Dealer, This week at the statehouse
The legislature of the home state of Atlantic Yards developer Forest City wrestles with Eminent Domain reform:

Eminent domain (Am SJR 1):

The Senate approved a resolution that would put a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would override "home rule" provisions of the Ohio Constitution and require cities to follow uniform state law when it comes to taking private property through eminent domain. The vote was split 21-11 along party lines, with Democrats siding with cities that see a threat to their home-rule authority, which allows cities with charters to overrule some state statutes.

Eminent domain (Sub SB 7):

The Senate approved a companion bill that contains rules and definitions governments must follow when taking private property through eminent domain. Among its provisions is a requirement that 90 percent of parcels in an area be blighted for a government to use its eminent domain authority. The debate was shorter than the hourlong discussion of the resolution on eminent domain and home rule, and the bill passed 29-3.

The House is expected to consider its own eminent domain bill -- one that would follow a task force recommendation and require that just 50 percent of parcels in an area be blighted in to use eminent domain authority. Cleveland-area leaders have opposed efforts to restrict their use of eminent domain. The debate over eminent domain rules has been fueled by two court rulings last year. The U.S. Supreme Court said governments could take private property and give it to developers to support economic development, while the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that economic development cannot be the sole reason for a government's use of its eminent domain authority.

Jackson Hole Star Tribune, From elections to eminent domain
Vice President Dick Cheney speaks out against eminent domain abuse:

"The place where I have a problem and where I think the controversy has been recently is when a governmental unit exercises the right of eminent domain for essentially private purposes, that's not a public purpose -- to build a shopping center, for example, it's a commercial enterprise. That gets into an area where I think you do have to make that distinction between what's a public purpose and what's a private purpose.

AP, via The NY Sun, Connecticut Moves To Limit Use of Eminent Domain

The state at the center of a national property-rights battle moved to limit the use of eminent domain, two years after the Supreme Court ruled that governments may seize property for private development projects.

Unlike other states, however, the Connecticut measure does not expressly ban using eminent domain for economic development. Instead, it prohibits property from being taken solely to boost property taxes.
“I think at the end of the day it will ensure that property, especially homeowners’, will not be unnecessarily threatened by this extraordinary power,” Rep. Michael Lawlor, a Democrat, said.

Some lawmakers complained the bill would not have stopped the seizure of Susette Kelo’s pink cottage in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood of New London.

Courier Post [Camden, NJ], Eminent domain has Trenton at an impasse

Public Advocate Ronald Chen described how local government uses tactics like labeling buildings as blighted for small things such as chipped masonry or peeling paint. A guy in Passaic found out his land had been given to a company owned by a former city councilman when he asked why he didn't get a tax bill. This is still America, isn't it?

Where are those Statehouse "public servants" when you really need them? Arguing. The state Senate and the Assembly, which has the slightly better bill for limiting eminent domain powers, can't agree on how to handle it.

Chen says the burden of proof should be on local government, which ought to have to prove it has a right to take the property. It's the other way around now.

Posted by lumi at June 5, 2007 7:37 AM