Senate passes eminent domain bill: Radio Iowa (Des Moines IA), 3/22/06

By O.Kay Henderson

A[n Iowa] Senate committee has passed a bill that still retains local governments' ability to seize land for economic development projects, but establishes new hurdles. The bipartisan compromise which cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee would force two-thirds of a city council, for example, to vote to condemn "blighted" land that is to be turned over to a private developer.

Senator, Keith Kreiman, a Democrat and is from Bloomfield, says it's in response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling many interpret as giving cities broad authority to seize land and turn it over to private developers. Kreiman says the bill is tougher and more workable than the legislation that cleared the Iowa House.

Senator David Miller, a Republican from Fairfield, says lawmakers are acting because private property rights are just as important as the freedom of speech and freedom of religion. "We're going to look out for the little guy and try and protect the private property rights of individuals," Miller says. But Clinton city leaders are concerned that if the bill becomes law it would thwart the planned expansion of Clinton's Archer Daniels Midland plant onto adjacent property and endanger jobs.

Senator Roger Stewart, a Democrat from Preston, says just one-third of the land needed for the A-D-M expansion has been acquired, and the city might need to use its power to condemn property to obtain some of the remainder. "It's a great economic boon to Clinton to get this done," Stewart says. A-D-M plans to build a new plant that would make plastics out of corn.

It would be adjacent to A-D-M's wet corn mill plant in Clinton. Stewart says he and Clinton-area leaders are worried any changes in Iowa's condemnation procedures might delay the project. "Clinton was chosen over other sites in the country," Stewart says. "It's a good thing for the Clinton area."

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