- “Primarily” language means all economic development prohibitions are useless.
- “Blight” loophole remains.
Like many other states, Vermont made a limited effort to address the concerns of citizens who were outraged over the Kelo decision, but it unfortunately fell well short of enacting real reform.
Senate Bill 246, passed by the Legislature and signed into law in April 2006, prohibits the use of eminent domain where “the taking is primarily for purposes of economic development” or confers a private benefit on a particular private party. While the Legislature at least acknowledged the need for eminent domain reform, the language adopted in this bill will be of little to no help to home and business owners forced to try to rebut a municipality’s claim that its primary purpose is something other than private development.
Even more importantly, the Vermont Legislature left in place the same kind of “blight” loophole that enables eminent domain abuse in other states, allowing condemning authorities to designate entire neighborhoods as blighted on the basis that a few individual properties meet vague and subjective criteria that have little to do with the health or safety of the surrounding community.
The Vermont Legislature needs to follow up Senate Bill 246 with substantial reforms that will close the “blight” loophole, clearly limit the approved public uses of eminent domain, and prohibit the transfer of private property to other private parties.