Eminent Domain Weekly Wrap-Up

Eminent Domain Weekly Wrap-Up

What’s buzzing in the eminent domain arena this week?   It’s been a mixed bag of hot topics making the headlines; everything from proposed eminent domain legislation reform to more land grabs in New York.

Here’s what caught our eye this week:

Willets Point Eminent Domain New York:  In 2004, NYC created the Willets Point Advisory Committee (WPAC), chaired by Borough President Helen Marshall, to help advise the City’s planning efforts for redevelopment in Willets Point.  This project is requiring the acquisition, through eminent domain if necessary, of land owned by small businesses nestled with in a 62 acre site in Queens to pave the way for large corporate owned hotels, retails facilities, and housing complexes, ect.

The nine Willets Point business owners in the first phase of the redevelopment plan who have not signed purchase agreements with the city received eminent domain notices from the city Economic Development Corp. Monday.  Representatives of the property owners state that the condemnation of these properties violates statements by the city in court documents indicating that it would wait until after a pending state Department of Transportation review of ramps on the Van Wyck Expressway.

Montana HB 240: Montana is following in the footsteps of its almost-neighbor Utah by proposing legislation that will give the state of Montana eminent domain authority to take back federally owned land.  Currently, approximately 30% of land in Montana is owned by the federal government.

Iowa House File 64: This bill will make it more challenging for condemning authorities to use eminent domain in Iowa.  The bill stipulates that the property acquisition phase of a project cannot begin without signed authorization of the governor. It also changes the standard of proof in eminent domain cases from a “preponderance of the evidence” to “clear and convincing evidence.  Also included in the bill would be a prohibition on the condemnation of property on the National Register of Historic Places. It would also prohibit any project that receives state funding or assistance through specified economic development, tourism or community betterment programs to be defined as “public use” and adds reasonable attorney fees, up to $100,000, to be reimbursed to the property owner by the acquiring agency.

Read the Iowa Independent article on the topic

Nevada Eminent Domain: Senate House Bill 86: Nevada’s 130-year-old legal provision giving mining companies the right of eminent domain might be buried because of an unlikely coalition of liberal and conservative forces.  The bill was introduced by Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno who took interest in this issue when she read about a case in Elko in which a mining company was seeking to use the power to acquire ranch property.

Texas Senate Bill 18: Texas SB 18, which mirrors HB 279, was recently approved by the Texas State Senate.  This bill prohibits a government agency or private entity from taking property through eminent domain “if the taking is not for a public use.” The measure also requires that property owners receive a bona fide offer, along with a buy-back option if an intended project is not started within ten years.

We agree with OnesNewsNow that reported Marc Shriber’s comments.  Mark tracks land-use policy for the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), and states “They’re basically paying lip service to the property rights arguments,” he contends. “Now, they’re saying you can only use this for public use. That’s been well-established by the courts. You can’t come out and say, ‘We’re taking this to give this to a private developer.’ You’ve always had to couch in that language that this is in some way in the public purpose.”

Scribner adds that the Senate has failed to amend the blight guidelines, including the determination of what classifies as blight.

However, we don’t agree with his statement here: “Governments can still condemn entire areas as blighted, even when you’ll have properties within the area that aren’t blighted.”  We argue that Proposition 11, which was passed in 2009, forces municipalities to evaluate each parcel and property individually before designating it as ‘blighted’.  This essentially prevents large scale redevelopment/economic development projects from occurring in areas where only a portion of the property is blighted.

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