Eminent Domain, the coming pain

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    Welcome to the property management blog, where we watch the world of property managemtn. I copied this item from the Columbia, Missouri Daily Tribune. As states struggle with the new world of eminent domain, it will be interesting to see how each one sets its policies and how these policies will be shaped by the states that are most agreesive on either end of the spectrum. What is happening in your state?

    “Panel begins property law examination
    Eminent domain policy under review.”

    By JOSH FLORY of the Tribune’s staff
    Published Friday, August 5, 2005

    JEFFERSON CITY – They didn’t fix the state’s eminent domain system, but members of a task force created by Gov. Matt Blunt did review nearly four centuries of history yesterday.

    The eminent domain task force was created in response to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld the right of governments to take property for private development. The decision created a furor, and Blunt has called on the task force to recommend changes to Missouri’s law.

    First, though, the group called on St. Louis attorney Stanley Wallach to bring it up to speed on the current state of eminent domain law in Missouri.

    Wallach, who specializes in representing property owners in condemnation actions, said the term “eminent domain” is based on a Latin phrase coined by a Dutch jurist in 1625 and has origins in the system where feudal lords would grant property rights to tenants but could always take the property back.

    More to the point, Wallach gave a lengthy summary of the state of Missouri law, citing several provisions in the state constitution as crucial. Article I of the Missouri Constitution says that “private property shall not be taken for private use” except in certain cases such as drains and ditches used for agricultural and sanitary purposes.

    But Wallach cited a 1954 case in which the Supreme Court ruled that remedying blight was a legitimate public use, and he noted that Article VI of the Missouri Constitution allows the use of eminent domain to redevelop blighted areas.

    Wallach said courts have shown deference to determinations by local legislative bodies that property is being taken for a public use and that currently there is no meaningful judicial review of whether an area is actually blighted. Instead, he said, challenges to eminent domain tend to focus on technical issues such as whether proper notice was given.

    The task force could consider whether constitutional or statutory changes are necessary in defining blighted areas or public use. Currently, state law says a blighted area can include one that is an economic liability and, for various reasons, is unable “to pay reasonable taxes.”

    State Rep. Steve Hobbs, a Mexico, Mo., Republican who is on the task force, has sponsored legislation in the past stipulating that in cases where a different use of a property could provide more tax revenue, that fact “shall not be a valid factor in determining blight.”

    In the recent Kelo v. City of New London, Conn., case, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to uphold a municipality’s right to seize property for private developments, including shopping malls, that generate tax revenue.

    bye for now, Tron

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