Senate approves eminent domain bill: Des Moines (IA) register, 4/13/06

The legislation toughens rules on when cities can confiscate property

By Jonathan Roos

The [Iowa] Legislature moved a big step closer Wednesday to restricting local governments' power to confiscate property for business development.

"For the grandmother in Waverly or the grandmother in Des Moines, this makes sure their house is protected," said Sen. Bob Brunkhorst, a Waverly Republican, in calling for Senate approval of an amended version of House File 2351.

Opponents warned of unintended consequences that could hamstring cities and hurt the state's economic development efforts.

The legislation threatens to tie the hands of city councils "to satisfy a political opportunity that you all think you're going to get out of this" in the next election, said Sen. Jack Hatch, a Des Moines Democrat.

Sen. Brad Zaun, a Republican who is a former Urbandale mayor, said no one had shown that governments' use of eminent domain had been abused in Iowa. "I want to hear the horror stories in the state of Iowa," Zaun said.

The legislation was sparked by a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year that found it permissible for governments to seize private property to make way for business development. The Connecticut case involved a city's seizure of property for a project to develop offices, a riverfront hotel and health club.

The Senate's version of the bill is designed to avert a conflict between proposed condemnation restrictions and a major industrial project in Clinton.

Archer Daniels Midland Co. plans to build a new plant next to its wet corn mill in Clinton. The plant would make biodegradable plastics from corn. The industrial expansion involves a residential urban renewal area established in 1981.

The legislation toughens requirements for a city to take property within urban renewal areas. The areas would have to be heavily blighted for condemnation powers to be used.

However, lawmakers made the effective date of the change Oct. 1, thereby enabling the Clinton project to move ahead, said Sen. Keith Kreiman, a Bloomfield Democrat.

House File 2351, passed by the Senate on a 43-6 vote, returns to the House for more debate.

Des Moines Register: http://desmoinesregister.com