In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld New London, Connecticut's use of eminent domain to condemn several properties the city claimed stood in the way of additional tax revenues and new jobs. However, nothing precludes states from restricting their takings power, so Arizona should take the opportunity to reexamine its slum clearance and redevelopment statutes to help ensure the security of private property, say Benjamin Barr and Tim Keller, of the Goldwater Institute.
The Arizona Constitution promises Arizonans strong private property protection; yet municipalities use slum and blight statutes to circumvent this safeguard. Arizona has expansive definitions of blight and slum, coupled with the sanction of property takings for private development. Eight areas of legislative reform should be considered, say Barr and Keller:
- Eliminate open-ended definitions of blight and slum and define public use; refining these definitions is important because vague definitions give municipalities wide latitude to use, and abuse, their eminent domain powers.
- Prohibit municipalities from using eminent domain to take private property for private commercial development.
- Require detailed slum clearance plans, and increase structural, notice and evidentiary standards.
- Afford property owners the right of redress.
- Shorten the duration and revise existing slum designations.
Furthermore, Scottsdale, Arizona, provides a vivid example of statutory abuse that hindered redevelopment, say Barr and Keller:
- In 1993 city officials declared the downtown a slum and blighted area under the redevelopment statutes, immediately bringing the threat of eminent domain.
- As rumors persisted about redevelopment projects, property owners refused to invest more capital and signing long-term leases proved very difficult.
- Since repealing the Downtown Redevelopment Area in 2002, private investors have poured $2 billion into downtown.
Source: Benjamin Barr and Tim Keller, "This Land is My Land: Reforming Eminent Domain after Kelo v.City of New London," Goldwater Institute, January 17, 2006.
For executive summary:
National Center for Policy Analysis: www.ncpa.org