Eminent Domain unabated

And hopefully the Virginia General Assembly will be able to stop it in its tracks. These are the bills currently put forth in the General Assembly tagged with “eminent domain.” These are the search results for same.

Now, read this article in the Wall Street Journal referencing Washington State’s interpretation of eminent domain.

The city of Burien, Wash., recently decided that a piece of property owned by the seven Strobel sisters that had long housed a popular diner-style restaurant was not upscale enough for the city’s ambitious “Town Square” development, which will feature condos, shops, restaurants and offices. Rather than condemn the property for a private developer and risk a lawsuit, Burien came up with a plan–it would put a road through the property, and the city manager told his staff to “make damn sure” it did. When a subsequent survey revealed that the road would not affect the building itself, but only sideswipe a small corner of the property, the staff developed yet another site plan that put the road directly through the building. A trial court concluded that the city’s actions might be “oppressive” and “an abuse of power”–but allowed the condemnation anyway.

Until government’s power to take for profit is removed, all property owners are potentially at risk.

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3 Comments

  1. TrvlnMn January 12, 2007 at 13:43

    What I don’t understand is why the Democrats I’ve talked to like it so much or at least refuse to condemn the way Eminent Domain has been used abusively. I would think it should be an issue that transcends political affiliation. But it hasn’t. At least not with the people I’ve talked to.

  2. Waldo Jaquith January 12, 2007 at 14:31

    I’m working on merging tag listings and search results, so that a search is sufficient to find both.

  3. Ray Hyde January 13, 2007 at 00:30

    Eminent domain for profit is an abomination. My wifes property is about to be targeted for taking by eminet domain, FOR THE THIRD TIME.

    After this, there will be nothing left.

    You should be very concerned about this, because your home may be next. There have been more than 15,000 cases similar to the case cited above, JUST THIS YEAR.

    Landowners in four counties are about to be overrun by a power line proposed by Dominion Electric.

    The power company will take an easement across their property. They will pay only for damage to the property they cross, roughly 150 feet wide. Tey wioll pay nothing for collateral damage to the remaining property.

    Dominion will attempt to run the line near property boundaries to limit the damage. But they will pay NOTHING to the adjacent property owner who may suffer as much or more.

    Dominion is required to pay NOTHING for scenic damage, which is the major issue in these parts.

    Dominion pays only for the loss in value before and after the easement. Since much of the property that will be crossed is (presently) prohibited to development, they will wind up paying for the difference in value betweet a hayfield and a hayfield. In other words, virtually nothing.

    They will pay once, but deliver elctricity forever, meaning their eventual costs are near zero. If the area later becomes developed, Dominion will pay nothing for the new losses that occur.

    If you sue to get a better settlement, Dominion is protected from the cost of your suit. You will be required to pay for your own appraisal and expert testimoney to support the suit.

    Even if you win, your share of the proceeds after expenses will be on the order of 50%.

    Dominion pays nothing for EMF. This is probably supported by studied that have found EMF damages are inconclusive. However, the FEAR of EMF is sufficient to cause property losses, and Dominion does not have to pay for that, either.

    There have been previous commissions that recommended changes to all these conditions, but they have been defeated by lobbyists. (For guess who?)

    But the most important change that has not yet occurred is to have such cases tried by a jury. At present, they are tried by the same judges who sit on the SCC who authorized the project to begin with.

    And, after all that, Dominion will take only an easement. The owner will still pay taxes on property under the power line.

    The proposed power line routes have been cited so as to avoid those properties that have been placed in conservation easement. At first glance this makes sense. Easements have already been paid for with government tax benefits. We would hate to see the government take a los on its investment in conservation.

    But state law requires that conservation land that is taken must be replaced elsewhere, Therefore, the government will not take a loss.
    Why, then, should owners, who have already been paid once for their property, get precedence over those who have conserved their property at their own expense?

    At least some of those who do not have easements on their property, have not done so because the value of easements has been rising. Like any other propterty, they are worth more later. But if dominion wrecks the scenic conservation value of the property with a power line, they will also wreck the conervation value, and hence the easement value.

    There is little prospect that Dominion would have to pay a non conservation owner, in the same way that they would have to “make good” on an easement owner.

    The alleged purpose of the power line is to promote the public good. There are two pproblems with this. One is that the public good to be served may be as far away as New England. The other is that if it is truly for the public good, then surely the many who are served can afford to pay a decent price to those few who are deprived.

    However. if Dominion really had to pay a deent price for a) what it is that they break and b) what it is that they get in return (profits forever), then the cost might be high eneough for them to consider other alternatives, like more co-generation, which is far more cost effective than burning coal in Ohio and shipping power to New England —- unless you get to basically steal the land.

    This is wrong, and it needs to be stopped. It isn’t wrong just because it is going to take my property. It isnt wrong just because my wife’s family has lost property twice before. It is wrong because it may take your property someday.

    Clearly, eminent domain has a long legal history. There are public needs for which we will need to take property. But there are no public needs that are so pressing and so important and so valuable that we cannot afford to pay the current landowners what amounts to a piece of the action.

    It is only fair.