Bill would ease restraints on cities' eminent domain powers: Wichita KS Eagle, 3/1/07

Local governments would get greater eminent domain powers under a bill being considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee

The [Kansas] bill, SB 296, would give local officials the power to force the sale of blighted property without legislative approval. Under the bill, properties that are unsafe, abandoned, uninhabitable or the site of repeated illegal activities could be deemed blighted.

Under a law that goes into effect in July, local governments must seek approval from the Legislature before using eminent domain for redevelopment.

That worried officials in Wichita, Kansas City, Kan., and other areas who argue urban redevelopment efforts should have greater authority to use eminent domain when it comes to troubled neighborhoods. They say owners of run-down property who allow drugs or prostitution to go on aren't deserving of the same protections given to typical property owners.

Dale Goter, lobbyist for the city of Wichita, told a panel of lawmakers Thursday that the bill would allow the forced sale of property only "in a very limited fashion."

Because of initial concerns from agricultural lobbyists, agricultural land was exempted from the blight definition.

That bothered critics of the bill, which says all property owners "even owners of blighted property" deserve the same property rights.

"Are property rights important only in rural areas, or are they important across the state?" said Alan Cobb, state director of the anti-tax group Americans for Prosperity.

No vote on the measure has been scheduled.

Wichita KS Eagle: http://www.kansas.com