Heddens Has Eminent Domain Proposal: KCCI-TV8 (Des Moines IA), 1/30/06

Lawmaker Wants To Protect Individual Owners

Iowa legislators will be examining the controversial subject of eminent domain during this session.

Rep. Lisa Heddens of Ames said her constituents are worried about what a Supreme Court decision means for eminent domain in Iowa. Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that the government had the right to take private property and sell it to private developers.

"A private developer could just come in and say, 'Oh, I want your home to build potentially a bigger home,'" Heddens said.

Heddens has helped sponsor a bill that would define the process and justifications of eminent domain when it comes to private property. In crafting the bills, she said she wanted them to be narrowly focused and written in such a way they would not impede economic development.

"That (gives) individuals some comfort that my home is going to be protected," she said.

The East Village has felt the effects of eminent domain in Iowa. Last summer, the city said it would take some buildings if the owners did not agree to renovate. Some owners said they'd comply, but that it was unfair to be forced at their own expense.

"The main issue is, I'm one of the only people not borrowing money from the city," said resident Brad Hamilton during an interview last summer. "I'm doing it with my own money."

Heddens' bill only deals with private property, but others may look at economic development like the East Village case. Heddens said there are several bills that will be going to committee for review.

"If we're missing something within our language, if there's a gap that we're missing, then let's just tweak it a bit," Heddens said.

Heddens said Iowa has traditionally used eminent domain responsibly, but she wants to make sure homeowners are educated on their property rights. Heddens also said eminent domain plays into many larger legislative issues, such as the economy.

KCCI-TV8: www.kcci.com