WA House approves another eminent domain measure: Vancouver WA Columbian, 3/10/07

The [Washington] state House unanimously passed a measure (House Bill 2016) Saturday meant to protect residents from having their property condemned through eminent domain for a public purpose. It now heads to the Senate.

The bill would give property owners who lose their land because of eminent domain the right to buy back the property at the price it was sold, if it is unused within seven years.

The measure would also require any effort using eminent domain to consider alternative options. It would increase the amount of money a property owner would be reimbursed if they incur fees while trying to protect their property, and makes it law that eminent domain cannot be used solely for the purpose of economic development.

"Taking private property for public use is never easy for those affected, but this bill will help make the process fair," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Larry Springer, D-Kirkland, in a release.

The bill passed after a flurry of amendments offered by Republicans who said the measure didn't go far enough in protecting property owners.

The measure is in response to a 2005 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in a Connecticut case, Kelo v. City of New London, that ruled a government agency could condemn private property for private developments.

"There are appropriate uses of eminent domain, but taking private property and turning it over to another private owner is not one of them," Springer said.

The House approved another measure earlier this week that requires better notification of citizens before their property is condemned.

That bill evolved in reaction to a state Supreme Court decision involving Barbara and Ken Miller, whose property in south Tacoma was condemned by Sound Transit to make way for a parking lot for a train station.

Sound Transit posted a notice on its Web site of the meeting where the condemnation action would be taken. The Millers never saw the Web site notice, and appealed. But the state Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Web site posting satisfied the notice requirement.

Vancouver WA Columbian: http://www.columbian.com