Republican leaders to work together on eminent domain: Boston (MA) Globe, 9/15/05

[New Hampshire] House and Senate Republican leaders pledged Thursday to work together to strengthen private property rights in eminent domain cases. House Speaker Douglas Scamman and Senate President Ted Gatsas said lawmakers will consider putting a constitutional amendment before voters in 2006 and make changes to existing laws to better define when eminent domain will be allowed.

Gatsas said private property should not be taken and turned over to a developer for a strip mall, but the proposed changes are not intended to prohibit urban renewal projects if they enhance an entire community.

House and Senate task forces studied eminent domain this summer after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling permitted New London, Conn., officials to take a group of older homes along the city's waterfront for a private developer who plans to build offices, a hotel and convention center. The court said states can pass more restrictive laws.

The panels struggled with how to write a law that balances the landowners' rights with the public's need to take their property in some circumstances.

Lawmakers are considering emphasizing the taking must be for a "public use" and not just a secondary "public purpose." That could preclude taking property for private redevelopment while allowing it for public uses such as highways, schools and the like. Some legal experts say that also could block urban renewal projects that aren't built and owned with public money

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