Eminent domain stars reveal legislative agenda
Richmond -- The stars of eminent domain reform in Virginia held a press conference Wednesday morning at the Patrick Henry buiding at Governor and Broad Street just off I-95, the former state Supreme Courthouse.
Senators John Edwards (Democrat, 21st), Ken Cuccinelli (Republican, 37th), and Delegate John Joannou (Democrat, 79th) spoke passionately about the core principles of reform they hope to advance in next year's session of the General Assembly.
Last session the legislators were unable to pass any eminent domain reform. However, 15 or so bills were consolidated into 2 competing bills. One would limit and the other expand the circumstances where local agencies can seize your home or business.
After driving from Charlottesville on my first eminent domain trip to the capitol, finding a place to park, and going through a sensitive metal detector, I sat down down at 9:25 for the last 15 minutes of the conference when star headliners were speaking. I was handed two fliers: 4 core principles and 14 examples of eminent domain abuses since 1998 in Virginia.
The first example may portend the wave of the future on this issue. The Va. Supreme Court ruled that Hampton could seize the Ottofaro property so the Industrial Development Authority can lease the land to developers. The court said public ownership is public use despite the clearly private uses intended for the property.
This type of eminent domain abuse has plenty of precedent. Public housing seizes land, clears and builds housing, and then rents it out for private residential use, typically to those who had lived there before the clearance.
Core Principles for Eminent Domain Reform in Commonwealth
(1) Prohibit Kelo-type abuses. Eminent domain to seize and sell for purpose of employment, economic development, or tax revenues.
(2) Prohibit taking for blight when property is not blighted.
(3) Re-establish property rights as co-equal with other Constitutional rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to bear arms, and the right to vote.
(4) Recognize just compensation must be full compensation to include the many costs created by a seizure such as attorney's and appraiser's fees, and business losses.