Since the decision by the United States Supreme Court in Kelo v. City of New London many states across the country have taken measures to help protect the rights of private ownership. The controversial Kelo decision held that a local government can take the private property of one person and give it to another private entity. While the Court’s ruling was seen by many as a serious blow to citizen’s constitutionally protected rights of private property ownership, the decision prompted a number of states to initiate legislative reform to help curb eminent domain abuse.
The Castle Coalition has released a report, grading each of the states based on their efforts to protect private property owners and their rights based on changes in their respective state laws. The Castle Coalition is the Institute for Justice’s nationwide grassroots property rights activism project that teaches home and small business owners how to protect themselves and stand up to abuse by governments and developers who seek to use eminent domain to take private property for their own gain. Stated below is the letter grade, as given by the Castle Coalition, along with a description of the changes that have occurred since Kelo v. City of New London.
In 2006, Senate Bill 246 was passed, which limited the use of eminent domain in instances where the taking is primarily for economic development purposes. Although this bill acknowledged that economic development does not constitute a taking of private property, the bill scarcely limits condemning authorities because of the vague language it contains. Without specific language, loopholes are created; meaning condemning authorities can easily proceed with unjust takings. Additionally, this bill ceases to address the state’s definition of blight. Without addressing the definition of blighted property and how blighted property is evaluated, condemning authorities are left with an abundance of power in regards to eminent domain proceedings with blighted property. With a large gap in the little legislation that has been passed, property owners are still at risk.
The lack of reform seen with the state of Vermont unfortunately leaves property owners in the state at a loss. Until the state sees reform in the definition of blight and public use, and the elimination of private takings for private developments, property owners are vulnerable. Click to read more about Senate Bill 246.