Eminent domain legislation goes too far: Indianapolis (IN) Star, 1/22/06

My View

By Matthew Greller

The Indiana Association of Cities and Towns opposes House Bill 1010 on eminent domain. While we affirm that property rights of Hoosiers need to be protected from unreasonable seizure by government, we believe adequate protection already exists in Indiana law.

HB 1010 imposes unreasonably severe restrictions on government acquisition of private property for public ends. It narrows the types of properties where eminent domain may be applied and unnecessarily drags out the process in a manner that would cripple many timely economic development initiatives.

It's possible the bill's sponsors may be overreacting to the much-publicized impasse between the Indiana Stadium and Convention Building Authority and N.K. Hurst Co. over property needed for the new stadium project. This single case should not rush us to judgment that could have unfortunate ramifications.

Eminent domain is a rarely used government action, frequently upheld by state and federal courts, that lets a city or town acquire property with just compensation and relocation expenses to property owners. It may be used only for the public good, with stringent review and public input. It is used only as a last resort after all private negotiations have failed. Without eminent domain, many roads, sewer lines, water resources and other public projects would never have been completed.

Without the possible use of eminent domain, Indiana probably would not have the AM General Plant in Mishawaka, the Toyota plant in Gibson County or the Isuzu plant in Tippecanoe County.

More recently, eminent domain was a factor in the Fall Creek Place project in Indianapolis, the revitalization of an entire inner-city neighborhood that earlier had been plagued with blight and street crime.

In the city's acquisition of more than 250 properties, 28 cases of eminent domain were filed and used only when the owners of the property could not be found.

Responsible Indiana cities and towns historically have and will continue to judiciously balance the rights of private property owners with the interests of the entire community.

HB 1010, with all its new restrictions, is not needed to protect those rights. In fact, in a state where many economic development initiatives are being pursued with a sense of urgency, HB 1010 could well be counterproductive.

Indianapolis Star: www.indystar.com