Legislative Watch 2006 — Eminent Domain: KCRG-TV9 (Dubuque IA), 2/11/06

By Katie Wiedemann

If the government wants to buy your home or business to make way for construction, you'd better start packing. It's called eminent domain. But state lawmakers are now discussing a plan that would protect a person's property. A senate committee approved a bill that would make it illegal for the government to condemn private property for economic development projects.

For the past 60 years Art Frommelt has been watching birds and squirrels from his kitchen window. “I think I’m as close to heaven as I can get."

But these days instead of nature, Frommelt is watching his neighborhood disappear. The city of Dubuque is expanding a detention basin and it needs to tear down these homes to make way. The Frommelt home is next.

State law allows government to purchase private property even when the owner doesn't want to sell. Dubuque Chamber of Commerce President Steward Sandstrom says the law is a necessary evil that boosts economic growth. “It's not nice, we don't even want to do it but it's for the public good." Sandstrom points out if eminent domain laws were not in place, the America’s River Project would not have happened. “There were sizable pieces of property that we needed the eminent domain laws to compel property owners to be willing, not very willing but willing enough."

As for Frommelt, he says his home is his castle. And he just wishes he was still its king. “After all these years of paying taxes and taking care of everything, now they're pushing me out. so I don't have any rights."

The Dubuque chamber is urging its members to get involved by writing state legislators. The proposal that would protect a person's property is just out of committee.

It would still need support from the full house, senate and the governor.

KCRG-TV9: www.kcrg.com