Local Governments Using Kelo to Condemn Property Despite State Law

You’ll recall that when the new, broader standard for government takings came down in Kelo v. City of New London, states rapidly passed legislation limiting such takings (see a map of how states dealt with Kelo here).  More than forty states passed laws excluding the term “economic development” from the reasons government may take a property.

However, property owners are learning the hard way that this exclusion probably was not enough.  Most states still allow localities to condemn properties deemed to be “blighted.”  Governments are construing this undefined term so broadly that almost any property could be determined to fit the definition.

For example, the City of St. Louis condemns for “blight” when properties are “an economic or social liability.”  James Roos, a landlord, says St. Louis condemned his building even though it was a decent place where two families live.  The city attorney defended the move saying that Roos’s buliding was rundown and that the city had a legitimate interest in redevelopment. 

Experts say that the solution here is definine “blight.”  Eminent domain, of course, can be a useful solution, they say, but municipalities need to be discouraged from abusing the authority.

Source:  Wall Street Journal

Footnote:  Here’s a link for brushing up on your Eminent Domain law: Eminent Domain

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