In the past few weeks I have heard a lot of buzz generated by Supervisor Mick Staton, Sugarland Run District, about the potential for the use of eminent domain to condemn private property in the "poorer" areas of eastern Loudoun County and replace the seized property with "town center" developments.
I heard Mr. Staton speak at the Sugarland Run HOA board of directors meeting in early May where he voiced this viewpoint. I also attended a Planning Commission meeting in Leesburg where I heard Mr. Staton downplay the eminent domain issue somewhat but still stress the threat of "redevelopment" (a bad thing) while praising "revitalization" (a good thing.)
Last week, I contacted the Loudoun County Zoning Department and asked them if there were any plans to use the power of eminent domain for economic redevelopment in Loudoun County. I was informed that there were no such plans that have been proposed.
If a developer in fact wished to conduct such a redevelopment, they would first need to submit a formal plan to the Loudoun County Department of Building and Development for review. The Planning Department, Planning Commission (appointed by the Board of Supervisors), Zoning Department, Transportation, VDOT, Health Department, etc. would all get to comment on the proposed development before there were public hearings and the matter voted upon by the Board of Supervisors.
May 21, during the public comment section of the Planning Commission meeting, I directly asked the members of the commission if any of them would support the use of eminent domain and vote to approve such a plan to the supervisors. Not one indicated that they would support such a use of eminent domain.
Clearly, there is no imminent threat that eminent domain will be used to seize private property in eastern Loudoun, western Loudoun - or anywhere else in the state of Virginia. I also found information on the Internet that indicates "in April 2007, the state of Virginia joined 37 states that have passed protection from the U.S. Supreme Court's very unpopular Kelo decision which allowed a city to take well cared for homes and make them available to a private developer to bring in more taxes and jobs." See http://www.vapropertyrights.org/.
Doesn't this action at the state level render the possibility of the use of eminent domain in Loudoun County a moot issue?
In this election campaign, we should all be sure to ask our current supervisors, as well as all who seek to replace them, what their views on eminent domain and private property rights are. We as voters need to be informed about the issues. I don't think we need to be stampeded by rumors of dire consequences by politicians seeking political gain.
Louden Times-Mirror, Leesburg VA: http://www.timescommunity.com