Eminent domain amendment fails with Board of Supervisors: Grass Valley (CA) Union, 8/24/05

By Becky Trout

Nevada County's top elected officials found themselves divided Tuesday on a proposed state constitutional amendment that would limit how governments can force the sale of private land.

Sue Horne had petitioned her fellow members of the Nevada County Board of Supervisors to support the amendment, which is being discussed in the state's legislature.

Specifically, the amendment would require public agencies to retain property they acquire using the process of eminent domain, preventing situations similar to a conflict in New London, Conn., where the city obtained property to transfer to a developer.

In late June, the Supreme Court reviewed the New London case and approved that practice, a move that spawned nationwide backlash.

Several of the Nevada County supervisors said they disagree with the Kelo v. New London decision but retain reservations about the proposed California amendment.

The board heard presentations from amendment-backing Assemblyman Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, and Timothy Sandefur, an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation.

But the supervisors opted not to support the amendment. Instead, supervisors Ted Owens and Robin Sutherland voted to support Supervisor Nate Beason's proposal to reserve the county's use of eminent domain only for acquisitions that clearly benefit the public.

That language won't stand legally, Sandefur said, because of the broad interpretation of the word "public." His clarification led Supervisor John Spencer to abstain from the vote.

Horne also abstained, expressing her disappointment the board failed to support the state constitution amendment.

The Placer County Board of Supervisors approved the constitutional amendment with a unanimous vote, Horne pointed out.

The Union of Grass Valley: www.theunion.com