Virginia Passes Eminent Domain Constitutional Amendment


In 2007, responding to the backlash against the Supreme Court decision (KELO v. City of New London) allowing the government to use the power of eminent domain for economic development, Virginia passed a law restricting that power. On Tuesday, the State of Virginia went even further and passed a state constitutional amendment that requires the government to compensate landowners and business owners not only for the value of condemned property, but for lost benefits and lost access to their property. Opponents of the amendment believe the amendment is an overreaction to Kelo and fear that the new law will open up a Pandora's Box of litigation that leaves taxpayers footing the bill for claims of "lost profits" arising from street widenings to street closures during parades and festivals. Proponents of the law agree that "lost profits and lost access" could end up making roads and other projects more expensive to build.

As of June 2012, 44 states have enacted some type of reform legislation in response to the Kelo decision, according to the National Conference of State Legislators. Of those states, 22 passed laws that severely inhibited the takings allowed by the Kelo decision, while many enacted laws that placed some limits on the power of municipalities to invoke eminent domain for economic development. In 2008, California passed Proposition 99 adding a constitutional amendment which basically set forth existing state law that public entities could not condemn private property that is owner-occupied to transfer to a private person/developer (except under specific circumstances such as an emergency).

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