Public Power, Private Gain: Vermont



 Vermont’s use of eminent domain for private parties in the past five years has been minimal to nonexistent. Although the state apparently has a history of demolition for urban renewal, eminent domain seems to be used sparingly these days, fortunately for Vermont residents and businesses. Indeed, there was only one reported mention of a possible future use of eminent domain for private development in Winooski, but apparently that never materialized. Thus, the threat to Vermonters of having their homes taken away for another private party are slim, though, as everywhere, greater in redevelopment areas.


Private Use Condemnations



Winooski has been trying to redevelop its downtown in a large project that could include housing, offices and commercial space. When the City Council approved the project, it recognized that if it could not purchase all of the land, it could use eminent domain.653 The City sought to include 15 historic homes within the project area, which would make it possible later to use eminent domain if the owners would not sell. In October 2000, the project was still in development and no move had been made to take the homes. At least one owner expressed a willingness to sell.654 The bulk of the project will be built in a space that was cleared for urban renewal 30 years ago.655 As of November 2002, the project was still seeking financing.656 There has been no further news mention of the fate of the homes.  

*These numbers were compiled from news sources. Many cases go unreported, and news reports often do not specify the number of properties against which condemnations were filed or threatened.

653 Emily Stone, “Council Endorses Downtown Project,” The Burlington Free Press, April 12, 2000, at 4B.

654 Emily Stone, “15 Homes in Project’s Path,” The Burlington Free Press, Oct. 11, 2000, at 1B.

655 “Up from the Asphalt,” The Burlington Free Press, June 6, 2001, at 6A.

656 “Funding Delays Winooski Project,” AP Wire, Nov. 15, 2002.