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, Georgia House Bill 1313 was passed as a state amendment, and effectively tightened the state’s definition of blight. The bill also stated that the overall idea of economic development was not a satisfactory requirement for condemning property.
This bill was significant because it now narrows the usage terms for blighted property, where the property must show two or more of these categories: be an uninhabitable, unsafe or abandoned structures; have inadequate provisions for ventilation, light, air or sanitation; be an imminent harm to life or other property caused by fire, flood, hurricane, tornado, earthquake, storm, or other natural catastrophe; be a site identified by an agency as environmentally contaminated; have repeated illegal activity on the property; have maintenance of the property is below state, county, or municipal codes for at least one year after notice of the code violation; and be conducive to ill health, transmission of disease, infant mortality or crime in the immediate proximity of the property (all as stated on the current version of the bill).
House bill 1306 was also passed in 2006, which requires elected officials to vote on redevelopment projects before the properties can be taken by eminent domain. Although this is a small procedural amendment, it was put in place to protect citizens from having their rights being easily voted away.
The state of Georgia has taken measures into its own hands to protect property owners’ rights. Property owners have seen significant improvement through a tightened definition of blight, as well as procedural amendments for condemning private property. Click to visit the state legislature website that has more information on House Bill 1313.