Proposition 2 - Eminent Domain, Regulatory Takings: KBCI-TV2 Boise ID, 9/26/06

By Thanh Tan

One of the issues [Idaho] voters will decide this November is Proposition 2.

The initiative has two major components.

First, it reiterates a law already passed by the legislature this year that prohibits local governments from condemning private property for economic or private development.

Second, it gives property owners the ability to seek compensation if government restricts how they can use their land.

Supporters say it protects land and homeowners, but critics say it's a scam that's bad for Idaho.

Several years ago, Glenn O'Dell of Melba tried to break up his land into four parcels for his kids' inheritance.

"I just want to be allowed to give my kids a lot without spending $75,000 in fees," he told CBS 2 News.

O'Dell says Canyon County re-classified his land and made the process so hard, he eventually had to file for bankruptcy and move out of his home.

"It was insulting. I'm a veteran. That's not at all what I thought the rule of law and our county government was supposed to do," O'Dell said.

Needless to say, he supports Proposition 2.

Initiative organizer Laird Maxwell says this measure will help property owners like O'Dell.

"Everybody who owns a home. Everybody who wants to use their property in a manner that is approved by law when they bought the piece of property - this proposition gives them an insurance policy," Maxwell told CBS 2 News. "What you bought your land for, what you're using it for - you can do (whatever you want with) it next year, the following year, and five years down the road."

Dan Chadwick is executive director of the Association of Idaho Counties. They have teamed up with the Association of Idaho Cities and other entities to oppose the initiative.

He says Proposition 2 will cheat taxpayers.

"I think they're pulling a scam and they're not being honest with the voters," Chadwick said.

"Those are all more false claims being bandied about by the cities and counties," Maxwell responded.

If Proposition 2 passes, the Attorney General's office acknowledges its constitutionality could be challenged in court - and that could cost taxpayers a lot of money in legal fees.

"That potential is there, and it's one of those things where it's a new area of law within the state," said Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane.

Kane reviewed Proposition 2 for the attorney general's office and says it may be vulnerable to challenge in court because it addresses eminent domain and regulatory takings.

Idaho's constitution only allows one issue per initiative.

Voters like Michael Devitt of Boise are leery of that prospect. He lives in a historical neighborhood and says he's worried Prop 2 may take away land-use protection laws and force taxpayers to pay for millions or even billions in regulatory takings claims.

"You know, someone's trying to pull a fast one here," Devitt said. "I'm afraid that in some of these communities, if we tie the regulatory agencies hands, what we're going to end up with is growth that's really out of control. Planning and Zoning can't deal with it and you get kind of a hodge podge (of developments in the community)."

He and other critics are concerned Prop Two uses an emotional issue like eminent domain as a front for a different agenda.

"I think we're creating a huge nightmare for local government," Chadwick said. "They'll be in a position where if they make a decision and it somehow diminishes somebody's property, they'll pay. If they don't make a decision and it diminishes an individual's ability to develop their property - they will pay. It's a catch-22 for cities and counties."

Proposition 2 is based on a measure that passed in Oregon two years ago.

KBCI-TV2 Boise ID: http://www2.kbcitv.com