EDC board discontinues eminent domain to seize private land: Boston (MA) Globe, 1/25/06

By Associated Press

In a move supported by Gov. Don Carcieri, the [Rhode Island] state Economic Development Corporation [EDC] will discontinue using eminent domain to take people's property and give them to private developers for economic development.

The policy change came in a vote by the EDC's board on Monday.

"We're trying to send a clear message that when it's owner-occupied we're respecting those rights," said Carcieri, who's chairman of the EDC. He asked the agency last year to revise its eminent domain policy that would protect Rhode Islanders' homes from eminent domain condemnations for office buildings, hotels and other private uses. Carcieri said earlier this month that he plans to introduce legislation to prevent the use of eminent domain for economic development statewide.

State Rep. Charlene Lima, D-Cranston, introduced legislation earlier this month that would prevent the state or a municipality from taking people's property against their will if the land will be more than 10 percent privately owned.

The EDC still plans to use eminent domain for the general public good — such as building bridges or laying utilities. The quasi-public agency also will still use eminent domain for economic use, but only when it involves unoccupied property.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that states can take property for economic-development purposes if such a move would benefit the public good. The ruling upheld a decision by the City of New London, Conn., to seize seven property owners' land so developers could build a hotel and high-end condominiums to keep pharmaceutical giant Pfizer expanding in the state.

Since that ruling, about 40 states have passed legislation to prevent local governments from taking private property for shopping malls, hotels or other private development, according to The Providence Journal. Some states, such as Michigan, are amending their constitutions to prohibit taking personal property for economic development, the newspaper reported.

The EDC used its power of eminent domain in 2001 to condemn 40 acres of private property in Smithfield so Fidelity Investments could expand its corporate campus along Route 7.

The Boston Globe: www.boston.com