As legislatures across the country prepare to adjourn for the year, eminent domain reforms are making their way to governors' desks. Currently, the National Association of Industrial & Office Properties is tracking more than 500 eminent domain bills; so far this year, 10 states have enacted reforms.
In Georgia, Governor Sonny Perdue signed HB 1313 on April 4. The bill prohibits a governmental entity from using eminent domain unless it is necessary for public use.
It specifies that eminent domain for redevelopment purposes is limited to specific blighted properties and does not allow for the condemnation of non-blighted property within a blighted area. The bill states that the public benefit of economic development is not a public use, and requires a city to have a superior court judge review the reasons for every condemnation when condemning property for redevelopment purposes. The judge would be required to determine if the property is blighted.
The governor also signed HR 1306 on April 4. This proposed constitutional amendment would require that the condemnation of property for redevelopment purposes be approved by vote of the elected governing authority of the county or city in which the property is located. It restricts the use of eminent domain for redevelopment purposes to the elimination of affirmative harm.
In Kentucky, HB 508 was signed into law on March 28. The bill defines public use as the ownership, possession, occupation, or enjoyment of the property by a governmental entity, removal of blight, or use by a public utility. It prohibits the transfer of private property to another private entity for economic development purposes, including enhancement of the tax base or tax revenue, increased employment, or promoting the general economic health of the community.
Both houses of the Michigan legislature passed a proposed constitutional amendment that defines public use to not include the taking of private property for transfer to a private entity for the purpose of economic development or tax revenues. Public use would include the taking of private property for blight removal even if the property is subsequently transferred to a private entity. It defines blight on a case-by-case basis, and provides that when private property is taken for blight clearance, the burden of proof is on the condemning authority to show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the area is blighted. The amendment requires approval by a majority of voters in the next general election on Nov. 7, 2006.
Utah Governor Jon Huntsman signed SB 117 on March 21. The bill requires approval by the governing body of a local government before eminent domain may be exercised for a public use. It requires written notice at least 10 days prior to the public hearing where the proposed taking will be considered. The bill expands the definition of public use to include bicycle paths and sidewalks adjacent to paved roads.
Virginia Governor Tim Kaine signed HB 132, making changes to eminent domain procedures, and HB 699, which defines blighted area, blighted property, conservation area, redevelopment area, and spot blight abatement plan. It clarifies that the elimination of blight in a redevelopment area, the prevention of blight in a conservation area, and the designation of individual properties as blighted pursuant to a spot blight abatement plan are public uses and purposes. He also signed HB 1099, which raises from $50,000 to $75,000 the cap on relocation expenses that may be paid to certain persons displaced from their business or farm operation.
Wisconsin AB 657 became law on March 31 with Governor Jim Doyle's signature. The bill prohibits the condemnation of property that is not blighted if it will be transferred to a private entity, and defines blight to emphasize properties that are detrimental to the public health and safety.
This information was reprinted with permission from Herndon, VA-based National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP), which comprises more than 13,000 members (developers, owners, investors, asset managers, and other professionals in industrial, office, and mixed-use commercial real estate) in 50 North American chapters. Founded in 1967, it provides networking opportunities, educational programs, research on trends and innovations, and strong legislative representation. For more information, e-mail Mark Riso (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Mandy Hagan (email@example.com), or visit (www.naiop.org).