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West Virginia 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.

West Virginia Castle Coalition letter grade of

c-

House Bill 4048 passed in 2006, which now creates a slightly more complex process for condemning authorities to go through prior to designating a property blighted, and properties must be evaluated on an individual basis. However, in the state of West Virginia, blight properties have no expiration date, so redevelopment agencies have leeway with the development process and timeline.

Summary

The state of West Virginia has seen very little reform in concerns to eminent domain, making it yet another state where property owners are vulnerable to hungry developers and agencies. Because blight designations do not have expiration, agencies have a lifetime to redevelop a property or area. The state needs a significantly tighter definition of blight, including a timeline in which redevelopment agencies must abide by when developing blighted areas. Until West Virginia sees a substantial amount of reform in this area, property owners are still at high risk for abuse of eminent domain by governmental agencies. Click to read more about House Bill 4048.

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