Ballot proposal seeks eminent domain restrictions: Bellville (MO) News Democrat, 2/8/06

By David A Lieb, Associated Press

A new ballot initiative proposed Wednesday would restrict the use of eminent domain [in Missouri] while also providing compensation to people whose property values decline because of government regulations.

The proposed constitutional amendment was filed with the secretary of state's office by Kansas City resident Patrick Tuohey, who formed a group called Missourians in Charge to push for the ballot measure.

Other property rights activists also have been pursuing potential ballot measures on eminent domain.

State legislators are seeking to rein in the condemnation of private property after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year upheld the government transfer of property from one private owner to another who could generate more tax revenues.

"Missouri property owners are at the mercy of the government now," Tuohey said. "If government wants to bulldoze your house or business to make way for an office park or a strip mall, they now can."

All of the proposals considered so far in Missouri would allow eminent domain to take property for public uses such as roads or government-owned facilities.

The proposal submitted Wednesday generally would prohibit the use of eminent domain to transfer private property to another private owner. But it includes several exceptions, including properties used for drug dealing or that are nuisances, or land needed for use by utility companies.

The proposed amendment also would allow property owners to seek compensation if any land use regulation or law enacted after Oct. 7, 2006, results in a reduction of the fair market value of their properties. Laws and rules to protect the public's health and safety would be excluded from that provision.

"Sometimes a city can zone a property near you and affect your property value," Tuohey said.

Another group, calling itself Missouri Citizens for Property Rights, previously submitted two proposed constitutional amendments to the secretary of state's office. Those proposals were withdrawn to make technical corrections but are being resubmitted, said the group's chairman, Ron Calzone.

Calzone said the eminent domain restrictions in the newest proposal appear to be weaker than in the proposals by his group.

If their measures are approved for petition circulation, supporters of the proposed amendments would need to get at least 145,000 signatures from around the state to qualify for the November ballot.

Bellville News Democrat: www.belleville.com