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Utah Property Rights

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.

Utah Castle Coalition letter grade of

Utah Property Rights

 

 

 

 

Just before the landmark case of Kelo v. City of New London in 2005, Senate Bill 1841 was passed in Utah, which removed all eminent domain power from redevelopment agencies, and is now provides a significant amount of protection for property owners in the state.

Then in 2006 Senate Bill 117 was approved, which made notice requirements mandatory for all public use takings in the state. Now, public officials must unanimously vote on the approval of public takings, as well as publicly inform property owners.

Then in 2007, state of Utah saw somewhat of a setback when the legislature passed House Bill 365. This bill states that local governments can take blighted property, and that property owners may vote to force out neighboring property owners in condemnation proceedings if that particular property owner owns a significant portion of the land being taken.

Summary

The state of Utah has seen ups and downs when it comes to eminent domain, but overall, property owners can feel at ease. Senate bill 1841 and Senate Bill 117 effectively limited the power of governmental agencies against unjust public takings, and also established notification of the public takings.

However, House Bill 365 slightly inhibited the protection of private property owners in the state by allowing condemning authorities to take blighted properties. With a vast and wide definition of blight, property owners are still at a risk for unjust takings. If the definition of blight was tightened, and the opportunity for property owners to vote to force out neighboring owners was revoked, then property owners would have sufficient protection against public use takings. Click to read more about the most recent bill passed, House Bill 365.

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