N.C. Senate committee, appeals court, act on eminent domain: Wilmington (NC) Morning Star, 6/20/06

A [North Carolina] Senate judiciary committee agreed Tuesday on a bill that would bar local governments from using eminent domain authority to take land for private projects.

The provision stops short of proposing a constitutional amendment that proponents argue would better protect owners worried about having their property condemned.

A House bill that would put an amendment on the state election ballot in November 2007 was considered Tuesday by a House committee. It was sent to a subcommittee for more work. One of that bill's primary sponsors, Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, said he didn't know what that meant for the measure, which has nearly 90 sponsors out of the chamber's 120 members. Bills often are sent to subcommittees to die out of sight.

The measure recommended by the Senate panel - and already passed by the House - would repeal any laws giving condemnation authority to specific local governments beyond statewide restrictions already in the law starting July 1. The bill would affect at least nine local measures on the books.

The bill would limit eminent domain exclusively to public uses already set out in law. Those include improvements such as building or expanding roads, parks, sewer lines and government buildings.

Several bills addressing eminent domain powers have been filed since a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year that allowed the town of New London, Conn., to take houses on property for a hotel and convention center.

Also Tuesday, the state Court of Appeals upheld a Mecklenburg County trial court ruling that awarded $2 million in damages to the owners of 3.6 acres of property near Charlotte-Douglas International Airport. The land was condemned by the City of Charlotte in 2002.

The city deposited $842,500 when it took the land from John and Linda Hurlahe, who had used the law for 16 years for car rental and airport parking. A jury in 2004 determined that the couple deserved more.

The city appealed, arguing in part that the judge shouldn't have allowed evidence about the Hurlahe's future use of the property or the profits of a hypothetical valet parking business to determine a value for the land. A three-judge panel of the appeals court disagreed.

Wilmington Morning Star: http://www.wilmingtonstar.com