Pines ballot question affects eminent domain orders: Miami FL Herald, 10/22/06

A ballot question would restrict the use of eminent domain for economic development in Pembroke Pines

By Amy Sherman

Pembroke Pines voters will be asked Nov. 7 whether they want to limit the city's ability to acquire residential property for economic development.

The proposed amendment to the City Charter is a reaction to a controversial U.S. Supreme Court decision that last year upheld the right of New London, Conn., to take Suzette Kelo's pink home with a river view for commercial development.

A ''yes'' vote in Pembroke Pines would prohibit the city from taking a similar action.

Typically, cities use their power to ''take'' property - known as ''eminent domain'' - to clear the way for public works such as roads or parks. But some cities have used their powers - at times in the name of cleaning up blight - for economic development.

Since Kelo, 31 states and about 80 cities have passed eminent-domain reform laws, said Steven Anderson, of the Institute for Justice, a law firm based in Arlington, Va., that works on eminent domain cases.

Florida legislators this spring passed a measure limiting the use of eminent domain, but went a step further: They put a statewide constitutional amendment on the ballot that would prohibit using eminent domain to transfer private property to developers. However the Legislature can enact exemptions to the ban by a three-fifths vote.

Pembroke Pines City Attorney Sam Goren concluded in a memo that the changes to state and federal laws make the city's move unnecessary.

But if the state statute were to be repealed or altered, the City Charter provisions would remain in place, Goren concluded.

Phil McConaghey, a frequent city critic, says it's crucial for the city electorate to pass the measure even though Florida has tightened its law.

City officials included $15 million for redevelopment in a bond referendum approved by voters in 2005. The money is expected to go toward the older, eastern side of town.

''There isn't any more pieces available in the eastern end to do economic development without taking in some residential property,'' McConaghey said.

Commissioners have said they don't intend to seize homes for redevelopment, but agreed to the ballot measure.

''This will ensure to some extent that future commissions will be bound by the will of the people,'' Commissioner Bill Armstrong said.

Two other proposed charter changes would delete obsolete provisions and change appointments to the Charter Review Board from continuous to once every five years.

Miami FL Herald: http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald