Eminent Domain Amendment to Go Before Voters

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by Valerie Garner

The eminent domain amendment that will go before voters in November is a hot button issue for the Virginia Municipal League and localities. Delegate Charles Poindexter said, “property rights are fundamental to our form of government. I don’t see that the legislation prevents development … it just makes it a little more legitimate.”

Greg Habeeb said, “nothing has changed in the tiniest bit than what they currently are.” What is controversial, said Habeeb, is that a property owner can get compensated for lost profits and lost access. “It just adds additional categories for damages [now] born by the property owner,” said Habeeb.

“For those who actually read the bills – it takes the burden off the property owner and puts it where it should be which is on the local government deciding to take their property”

Roanoke City Manager Chris Morrill said that the constitutional amendment is still a concern. “While we understand the issues people may have with eminent domain, the amendment’s language on lost access, lost profits are very troubling. Could this language be interpreted to include having to compensate a business when a street is temporarily closed for repaving or for a parade? Recognizing the overreaching of this clause in the amendment, the General Assembly tried to fix it by passing legislation defining these terms. However, the constitution trumps legislation and courts could interpret this clause to the detriment of communities.”

“Moreover, current laws already restrict use of eminent domain so a constitutional amendment is probably not necessary,” said Morrill in an email.

VML contends that “The amendment is unnecessary and will harm Virginia’s citizens by severely limiting the ability of local governments and the state to carry out projects that help improve life for the Commonwealth’s population, due to the amendment’s language on lost access, lost profits and the loss of eminent domain where economic development, increasing jobs and increasing taxes are involved.”