At county meeting, lawyer pans eminent domain plan: St Louis MO Post-Dispatch, 10/4/06

By Sterling Levy

Lawyer Tom Cunningham says the proposed [Missouri] constitutional amendment on eminent domain would have a devastating effect on municipal government.

Cunningham, who specializes in work as a municipal attorney, said that though the petition drive to put the amendment on the November ballot had failed, he predicted that supporters of the measure "will be back." He said that though the measure was promoted to deal with eminent domain, it would seek to throw out most zoning powers. He said supporters had spent $1.5 million and collected thousands of signatures before the effort was disqualified on procedural matters.

"This is a sledgehammer approach that can turn back the clock for Missouri cities by effectively stopping all future zoning, and it could also affect subdivision requirements, signage and many other areas," Cunningham said.

Cunningham spoke at the recent meeting of the St. Louis County Municipal League in Shrewsbury. The Missouri effort for the constitutional amendment was led by Missourians in Charge, based in the Kansas City area.

A similar proposal has become law in Oregon. Related petition efforts seeking state constitutional changes are under way in 10 more states, Cunningham said.

Cunningham said that the Missouri proposal would have provided that any property owners who could show that they had been adversely affected by a city decision in zoning and other areas - excluding building and fire codes - would qualify for monetary compensation if the city did not rescind its decision within 120 days. He said property owners would have up to four years to bring suit for compensation. Apparently, property owners as well as owners of adjacent lots could file claims if they could show damages, he said.

St Louis MO Post-Dispatch: www.stltoday.com