- Sufficiently narrows the definition of blight to apply to only unsafe property, parcel-by-parcel.
- Redevelopment projectss must now be voted on by an elected body.
Georgia is another state in which 2006 will be remembered as a banner year for the protection of private property rights. The Georgia General Assembly not only heeded citizens’ calls for reform by passing important statutory reforms about the way that eminent domain may be used, but it also gave voters the opportunity to adopt a constitutional amendment requiring a vote by elected officials to precede the use of eminent domain for redevelopment.
House Bill 1313 (2006) counters the Kelo decision by providing that economic development is not a public use that justifies the use of eminent domain. Just as importantly, the bill significantly tightens the definition of blight in Georgia’s eminent domain laws. Now property can only be designated blighted if it meets two of six objective factors and “is conducive to ill health, transmission of disease, infant mortality, or crime in the immediate proximity of the property.” The bill also requires government officials to evaluate blight on a parcel-by-parcel basis in order for the properties to be subject to condemnation for private development. No longer can entire areas be threatened with the wrecking ball based on the dilapidation of a few properties; now home and business owners can protect themselves by keeping their buildings well-maintained. The new law emphasizes, “Property shall not be deemed blighted because of esthetic conditions,” and the government is given the burden of showing that a piece of property meets the criteria for blight. These changes go a tremendous way to protecting the freedoms of Georgia’s citizens.
House Resolution 1306 (2006) became a constitutional amendment that was approved by nearly 85 percent of the voters. Unfortunately, the constitutional amendment was only a minor procedural requirement that before eminent domain can be used for redevelopment, it must be voted on by elected officials. (In most cases of eminent domain abuse, elected officials vote; the point of constitutional protections is to prevent citizens’ rights from being voted away.) While any constitutional amendments strengthening property rights are good, Georgians would be better off if some of the strong reforms of HB 1313 made it into the state constitution.