Eminent Domain Back in the Spotlight: KTRV-TV12 (Boise ID), 5/2/06

Eminent domain was a hot topic during the 2006 [Idaho] legislative session, but according to some citizens not every part of the issue was resolved. This initiative is an attempt to further protect private property owners from takings and reimburse them for their losses.

"There are 75,123 signatures that we know of that are sitting in the county clerk's office being verified," said Laird Maxwell, operator of ThisIsMyHome.com.

Supporters only need a little less than 48,000 signatures to get the intuitive on the ballot, therefore backers of this issue are confident they have accomplished their goal.

"This initiative gives the property owners an opportunity to go to court and determine the value that has been lost to government actions and recovers that money," said Maxwell.

"I think the citizens will benefit most from this because it does provide an additional check or balance on the government," said attorney Gary Neal of Neal & Uhl, PLLC.

But one official said government takings are not a problem in the City of Boise because over time it has garnered a good reputation when it comes to dealing with eminent domain issues.

"I would fight it 100 percent if we have to take something from someone, we pay for it," said Boise City Council member Vern Bisterfeldt.

Opponents of the bill say it's a "regulatory taking issue" packaged as an eminent domain issue and that a landowners potential profit with a proposed development trumps all other considerations. But backers say they've seen a huge amount of support from citizens.

"We had very little if no resistance to people signing on the petition," said Maxwell.

Several eminent domain bills made it through the legislature this session with House Bill 555 being one of them. Authors of this initiative say they modeled it after that bill.

"In some respects, ballot initiatives are a product of legislature inaction, and now apparently we have tens of thousands of people willing to vote on this initiative," said Neal.

Historically eminent domain was a mechanism that would allow the government to take property for public use such as schools. Now governments have the ability to take private property and give it to a private developer. This occurs more commonly in the Eastern United States and that's where officials believe this new initiative may have stemmed from.

KTRV-TV12: http://www.fox12news.com