Assembly members move to limit eminent domain: KTUU-TV2 (Anchorage AK), 6/27/05

by Jason Moore

Imagine the city or state taking your private property because it felt someone else could use your land more profitably. The U.S. Supreme Court last week ruled that government has that authority through eminent domain.

But local politicians sent a message Monday that that is not OK.

“To the Supreme Court of the United States, the Anchorage Assembly should say, ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’” said Assemblyman Allan Tesche.

He and fellow Assembly member Janice Shamberg (left) say they will introduce an ordinance at Tuesday’s meeting to limit the city’s power of eminent domain.

“It's just not worth that price,” said Shamberg. “You don't pay that price, taking away a private person's property and giving it or selling it to another person or another entity because they can do better with it.”

The U.S. Supreme Court decision came on a case from Connecticut, in which the court ruled 5-4 that the city of New London can take private property for the simple reason of economic development.

Anchorage Assembly members are not the only politicians speaking out against the ruling.

“It’s a case of judicial theft,” said Anchorage Rep. Bob Lynn. He and fellow Republican Rep. Lesil McGuire are drafting a bill to limit the state’s power of eminent domain.

“We want to have a bill that’s going to protect Mr. and Mrs. Alaska,” Lynn said. “We don't want to have somebody coming in and trying to put a big box store in somebody's bedroom so they can increase the tax revenue. That just doesn't make any sense at all.”

Eminent domain is most commonly used in public works projects. Recently, the state Department of Transportation used it for the C Street extension between Dimond and O’Malley roads.

Three property owners out of approximately 50 refused to sell their homes, so the state invoked eminent domain. Ultimately, the property owners agreed to sell.

If the new legislation passes, the power would still exist. But the politicians say that taking private property just to sell it to another developer will not be allowed.

“What we would like to do is provide a clear, strong and immediate reassurance to Anchorage citizens that this power will not be exercised here,” said Tesche.

Even without the ordinance, the likelihood of that happening in Anchorage is remote. But Tesche said it’s a way to ease public concerns that the government could use the court’s ruling to grab land.

Officials say the last case of eminent domain used by the city was in 1999 on the widening project along 15th Avenue. In that case, it acquired part of a parking lot belonging to the Black Angus Inn.

A public hearing on the proposed city ordinance will be held July 12.

KTUU-TV2: www.ktuu.com