Blagojevich signs eminent domain law: Bloomington (IL) Pantagraph, 7/28/06

By Matt Adrian

Property owners will have more power to oppose local government attempts to seize their land under a new law signed Friday by Gov. Rod Blagojevich. The rewrite of Illinois eminent domain laws make it harder for local governments to take property and will require relocation costs be paid to displaced people.

“This law goes further than anything we’ve ever done to protect the rights of property owners while making sure that important public projects can still move forward," Blagojevich said in a prepared statement.

The law is a reaction to a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision that allowed a Connecticut city to condemn six homes to make room for an office complex.

In the wake of the ruling, politicians nationwide have scrambled to address the issue. This year, 42 states are considering similar legislation.

Government can still take property to build roads, bridges and airports, said state Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, the measure’s House sponsor.

"People understand you gotta have railroads. You gotta have interstates," he said. "Where people really have problems … is where the government comes in and takes your private property and gives it to another private landowner."

The measure also allows property owners to get more money when government takes their land.

"It’s also another disincentive for the government to take your property, because it is going to cost more," he said.

The law also requires local governments to pay a property owner’s legal fees in cases where the condemnation request is denied.

The Illinois Municipal League opposed the changes, but chose not to fight its final passage earlier this year. Opponents of the eminent domain rewrite argued it would make it more difficult for communities to attract new business.

The new law takes effect Jan. 1, 2007, and does not apply to any property seized before that date. Bradley doesn’t believe this will cause municipalities to accelerate condemnation proceedings to beat the deadline.

"These cases take so long to do, you can’t really rush out and attempt to get one conclude by then," he said.

The legislation also exempts tax increment financing district redevelopment plans adopted by April 15 and expansion surrounding O’Hare International Airport in Chicago.

The Pantagraph: http://www.pantagraph.com