Bill on eminent domain get Assembly panel OK: (Madison WI) Capitol Times, 9/22/05

By Anita Weier

A legislative committee recommended Tuesday that the Assembly approve a bill aimed at tightening protections for private property owners in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision in a Connecticut case.

That case, Kelo v. city of New London, involved the condemnation of property by a private nonprofit redevelopment corporation, and ultimately the transfer of that property to other private owners who would develop it.

"We wanted to protect individual rights against the heavy hand of government," said Rep. Sheryl Albers, R-Reedsburg, chair of the Committee on Property Rights and Land Management.

The bill, proposed by Republicans and approved on a party line vote, would prohibit the condemnation of property that is not blighted if the government condemning the property intends to convey or lease the acquired property to a private entity.

The bill defines "blighted" property and provides that property that includes one or more dwelling units is not blighted unless the property has been abandoned or has been converted from a single dwelling unit to multiple dwelling units, and the crime rate in, on or next to the property is higher than in the rest of the municipality.

Rep. Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie, objected to voting on that bill and others on the same day public hearings were conducted. He said important issues deserved time for adequate study.

The committee cast the same 4-2 party line vote to approve AB 656, which would allow income from a property to be considered in determining fair market value of a condemned property. Currently income evidence is not admissible when evidence of comparable sales exists.

A representative of the state Department of Transportation opposed the bill on the grounds that the income approach was "unreliable" and would result in higher costs for taxpayers in Wisconsin. Courts have been concerned that in eminent domain cases, the property owner should be compensated for actual loss, not speculative loss, the DOT argued.

Capitol Times: www.madison.com