Curb on eminent domain could go to Missouri voters: Kansas City (MO) Business Journal, 5/19/06

By Jim Davis

Missouri voters could consider a referendum in November on a state constitutional amendment that would sharply curtail eminent domain's use, board members of the Economic Development Corp. of Kansas City heard on Friday.

The initiative needs to be certified by the Secretary of State, said Greg Williams, an aide to Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes. State officials must verify that the petition received about 145,000 valid signatures. Williams said the review will take until August.

EDC Chairman Warren Erdman said this timetable would leave little time for supporters of the state's current eminent domain to mount a campaign to preserve the status quo. These efforts would be coordinated by Missourians for Responsible Growth, a lobbying group.

Eminent domain was hotly debated during the General Assembly's session, which ended May 12.

The Legislature passed House Bill 1944, which continues to let blighted property be condemned for private development. This power was essential in assembling property for H&R Block Inc.'s new downtown headquarters.

The law, which takes effect Aug. 28, also requires a premium to be paid for "historic homesteads," residential property that has been held by the same owner for at least 50 years.

Williams said Barnes supports the law, though provisions such as the historic homestead premium are onerous. But he said this compromise would be nullified if voters approve the constitutional amendment.

Missourians in Charge, the group that circulated the petitions, is led by Kansas Citian Patrick Tuohey.

Kansas City Business Journal: http://kansascity.bizjournals.com