Prop. 207 changes eminent domain: Tucson AZ Citizen, 11/3/06

By Brad Poole

On Nov. 7, voters will be asked to approve a proposition that would change the way governments can take private property for public use.

Proposition 207 would define public use as use by the general public or public agencies, use for utilities, acquisition to eliminate a safety or health threat or acquisition of abandoned property. The measure would block taking of property for economic development, require governments to pay legal fees for property owners who successfully fight eminent domain - the taking of private property for public use - and compensate owners whose property values were decreased by land-use laws.

Question: Don't state law and the state constitution already protect property rights?
Answer: State law allows governments to take land for the public good, including for economic development, provided the government gives property owners fair market value for the land. Proposition 207 would halt taking of land for economic development and require governments to compensate property owners if a land-use law lowers property values. Compensation would be allowed only if the land-use law regulates your land. No compensation would be allowed if a land-use change on a neighboring property reduces your property value.

Q. How would Proposition 207 affect development around military bases, including Davis-Monthan Air Force Base?
A. The measure's opponents say it would prevent land-use restrictions aimed at protecting D-M from encroaching development. The measure would not prevent such restrictions, but restrictions around D-M would likely lead to claims of reduced property values. Such claims could make land-use restrictions costly to local governments.

Backers say Proposition 207 would allow such land-use codes because military defense is a public use, and compensation aspects of the measure would be avoided near D-M because of exemptions that would apply.

Q. How would Proposition 207 affect southern Arizona's Regional Transportation Plan?
A. Opponents say the measure would block land-use restrictions that would be required along major routes in the plan. Again, the measure would not block land-use restrictions, but it could lead to claims of reduced property values.

Backers say Proposition 207 would not apply because it allows taking of land and blocks compensation for decreased property values for "rules and regulations relating to . . . transportation or traffic control."

Q. How would the proposition affect the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan?
A. Opponents say the measure would block transfer of development rights from property owners to others, thereby blocking implementation of much of the plan aimed at restricting development on environmentally sensitive land.

Backers say Proposition 207 offers a needed requirement to compensate owners whose property is devalued by land-use restrictions in the conservation plan. Under Proposition 207, developers could claim reduced property value if the conservation plan restricted their land to fewer homes than they wanted on a property.

Tucson AZ Citizen: http://www.tucsoncitizen.com