More eminent domain legislation: Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch, 7/18/05

By Greg Edwards

Republicans [in Virginia] said today they will introduce legislation that prohibits the government from using its condemnation powers for private economic development projects.

In taking that stand against a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, House Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford, and other delegates joined Sen. Bill Bolling, R-Hanover, and Del. Robert F. McDonnell, R-Virginia Beach, who last week proposed legislation and a state constitutional amendement to restrict the use of eminent domain power to projects with a clear public use. Bolling and McDonnell are the GOP's candidates this fall for lieutentant governor and attorney general respectively.

In June, the Supreme Court ruled that the city of New London, Conn., was within its rights under Connecticut law to condemn private property for a redevelopment project that promised to increase local tax revenue, revitalize the downtown area and create new jobs.

Condemnation powers have been used in Virginia to improve blighted areas but have not been used purely for the purpose of economic development, although some condemnations may have been for that use. Lawmakers are concerned that, because of the court ruling, condemnations for economic development may occur in Virginia.

Del. Robert G. Marshall, R-Prince William, said if lawmakers don't protect private property rights, "citizens are no different than serfs or slaves." Marshall unsuccessfully sponsored legislation in this year's General Assembly to limit eminent domain powers but plans to reintroduce it next year. --

Richmond Times-Dispatch: www.timesdispatch.com