Property Owners Have Real Protection Against Abuse
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
CONTACT: John Kramer; Lisa Knepper
April 5, 2007
Arlington, Va.—Yesterday, the Virginia General Assembly approved Gov. Tim Kaine’s amendments to H.B. 2954, commonsense eminent domain reform that provides Virginians with much-needed protection from tax-hungry governments and land-hungry developers. Virginia is now the 36th state to pass legislation aimed at protecting home and small business owners in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s infamous decision in Kelo v. City of New London, which allows government to forcibly take property for private gain. It joins Wyoming in passing eminent domain reform this year.
“This is a proud day for Virginians,” said Steven Anderson, director of the Castle Coalition, the Institute for Justice’s grassroots eminent domain advocacy project. The Institute for Justice litigated the Kelo case. “After failing to pass reform last session, the General Assembly responded to the popular outcry against eminent domain abuse and returned this year committed to protecting the Commonwealth’s home and small business owners.”
H.B. 2954, sponsored by Delegate Rob Bell, requires that private property be seized for only traditional “public uses,” like roads, schools and post offices. It also tightens the Housing Authorities Law’s definition of “blight,” which was so broad that almost any property could be designated “blighted.” Local governments can still acquire properties that pose a real threat to public health or safety, but perfectly fine homes and businesses can no longer be seized using vague and subjective criteria like “deteriorated” and “dilapidated,” nor can they be seized because they happen to sit within “blighted” areas.
H.B. 2954 received overwhelming support in both chambers and Gov. Kaine offered mostly nominal amendments to the legislation, leaving intact the bill’s strong protections, though one amendment does exempt the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority from the provisions of the bill until July 1, 2010, as the city builds a new public recreational facility.
“Many people worked on this bill—from activists to legislators—and they all should be applauded for finally getting protection for Virginians,” said Anderson. “Nationwide, homes and small businesses are seized for big-box stores and luxury condominiums. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison would surely be proud that this is no longer the case in their home state.”