Assembly restricts eminent domain: Roanoke VA Times, 2/25/07

By Michael Sluss and Mason Adams

After more than a year of work on the issue, the [Virginia] General Assembly on Saturday passed legislation that restricts government's power to seize private property by invoking eminent domain.

The Senate and House of Delegates agreed on bills that define "public uses" under which government can take private property, stripping out a Senate provision that would give housing and redevelopment authorities greater ability to condemn property in blighted areas.

The passage of House Bill 2954 and Senate Bill 1296 nearly completes lawmakers' efforts to strengthen eminent domain restrictions in the wake of a 2005 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Kelo v. New London. In that case, the court upheld a Connecticut city's condemnation of a homeowner's property for a private development project.

The bills define five "public uses" for which private property can be taken. The legislation allows eminent domain for eliminating blight, but only if the property itself is blighted.

The bills would not affect current plans of redevelopment and housing authorities if they file petitions for condemnation by July 1, 2009.

Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, said the legislation should not pose a major burden on the Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority, but said the authority would have preferred no restrictions.

"I think the grandfather clause should allay most of their concerns," Edwards said. "I think they can live within the parameters of the statute, and if not we can come back and look at it another year and see if tinkering needs to be done."

Roanoke VA Times: http://www.roanoke.com