Senate to consider eminent domain: Farmington (NM) Daily Times, 2/13/06

By Diana M. Alba

A measure limiting the power of governments to seize land using eminent domain gained unanimous support in the House on Saturday.

The bill would prevent land from being seized from a private owner in order to promote private or commercial development.

Though the bill and similar proposed legislation have support from many lawmakers, some state officials think it's an overreaction and could serve to hinder beneficial development.

The House bill follows last summer's U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing a Connecticut city to take land for a revitalization project from a handful of owners who refused to sell.

Rep. Al Park, D-Albuquerque, said the city of Rio Rancho is already taking property for economic development purposes. The bill would prevent the type of seizure the Supreme Court allowed in the Kelo vs. New London case, he said.

"Nobody wants their property taken for government purposes," he said.

"What's not acceptable is to take one person's private property and give it to another person ... The government has no role in that."

Rep. Donald Tripp, R-Socorro, said he, too, supports the bill.

"For those of us who believe in private property rights, it's absolutely essential we send that message."

Rep. James Roger Madalena, D-Jemez Pueblo, sent a ripple of laughter through the gallery with his comments.

"Nobody wants government to take away private property," he said "Now we know how the Indian feels."

Though the bill had broad support in the House, two state agencies say it could serve to hinder economic development.

"The promotion of economic development, even if it means allowing public purpose to be advanced through transferring title of private property to another private entity ... is a long-standing though unused power of New Mexico municipalities," reads a concern listed by the Department of Finance and Administration. "While (eminent domain) may be a last resort, its presence enables marketplace-set levels of just compensation to rule, not exorbitant or unreasonable rates that can prevent community-desired development ... from occurring."

Also according to the DFA, the bill, along with others like it, is trying to fix a problem that doesn't exist in the state.

"Local governments usually bend over backwards to accommodate private property owners; for instance, Rio Rancho, when exercising its power on a 1000-acre parcel, only condemned raw land, and it gave vouchers to land owners to obtain lands plumbed with infrastructure in other parts of the city," according to the fiscal report attached to the bill.

The bill must still clear the Senate and be signed by Gov. Bill Richardson before becoming law.

Farmington Daily Times: www.daily-times.com