One of the hot issues in the PA Governor’s race is natural gas drilling. One small component of that is a utility’s power of eminent domain. State Treasurer Rob McCord (Dem.) has stated that he would seek to rescind the power of eminent domain by a company developing a natural gas storage facility.
The New Jersey legislature is considering a bill that would abolish NJ’s Real Estate Appraisers Board and transfer regulation of appraisers to the state’s Real Estate Commission. Bill A2387 was unanimously passed by the Regulated Professions Committee March 13. The Appraisal Institute strongly opposes the bill. The Bill’s sponsors, Troy Singleton, and representatives of the Appraisal Institute are scheduled to meet. A copy of the bill can be found at http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2014/Bills/A2500/2387_R1.HTM
In 2005, the US Supreme Court issued one of its most controversial decisions. In Kelo v. City of New London, the Court held that it was not unconstitutional to use the power of eminent domain to take homes and other private property and transfer the property to private entities for economic development. It found that economic development was a “public purpose” which, therefore, satisfied the Fifth Amendment “public use” requirement.
Although the taking was held to be constitutional, the extraordinary public reaction caused the City of New London to abandon the project. 9 years later, the property still remains vacant. New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio ultimately issued an apology to former Fort Trumbull property owners and announced a restructuring of the New London Development Corp.
The City of Sacramento won a major eminent domain battle in its attempt to secure land for a new arena. A judge has given it the rights to the old Macy’s Men’s store in Downtown Plaza. The store was the last parcel needed by the city to make the site into a new $448 million, 24/7 attraction. The city filed its eminent domain suit in January after its $4.35 million offer for the property was rejected.
A Federal Judge agreed with a federally appointed commission’s $1.5 million appraisal of what is now the Flight 93 National Memorial property. The property, located in Shanksville, PA, was condemned for the Memorial. The land’s former owner, Michael Svonavec, argued the 275-acre property was worth $23 million. It is not known whether Svonavec will appeal the ruling.
The House of Cards producers are threatening to leave Maryland if they don’t get millions more dollars in tax credits. In response, members of the Maryland House of Delegates have threatened to condemn the sets, equipment and other property used for that show. The threat was proposed Thursday afternoon by Del. C. William Frick (D-Montgomery) and quickly approved with barely any debate or even a roll-call vote. According to the Washington Post, Frick said, “I literally thought: What is an appropriate Frank Underwood response to a threat like this? Eminent domain really struck me as the most dramatic response.” However, the state Senate is not expected to pass a similar measure.
The Washington State Senate approved a bill that would prevent property from being condemned and then being transferred to an agency of another state. Senate Bill 6125, introduced by state Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, passed in the Senate 25-23 vote and will now be considered by the State House.
The bill reads in its entirety: “No private property shall be taken or damaged for public or private use that is to be transferred for use or possession by a governmental agency of another state. In the event of conflict between the provisions of this chapter and any other act, the provisions of this chapter shall govern.” This is apparently in reaction to a light rail project in which C-Tran would use its power of eminent domain for TriMet.
During a recent radio call-in show, NJ Governor Chris Christie was asked by a listener about legislation providing the power of eminent domain to a new Rutgers-Camden and Rowan University joint board of governors. Gov. Christie said he was unaware of such a proposal. However, Gov. Christie had already signed that bill into law last month.
Christie said in response to the listener’s question, “If a bill like that comes to my desk, I’ll have to take a close look at it. I haven’t heard anything at this point about eminent domain being given to a university – I don’t think that’s the way it works.”
The bill was among 100 that Christie’s office said he signed Jan. 21. He also pocket-vetoed 44 bills that day.
Utah recently passed an amendment to its eminent domain laws. The Utah Senate unanimously approved HB 25 and now the bill awaits the Governor’s signature. The legislation updates language in the state code dealing with eminent domain and also established news guidelines that allow property owners greater access and engagement in the process.
The legislation allows a property owner to involve the State Ombudsman in the process and allows a property owner to accompany an appraiser valuing the condemned property. It also permits condemnees to request an explanation of the condemnor’s appraised value.
National Mortgage News has reported that HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan stated at a Politico event that the legality of the use of eminent domain to force the sale of mortgages should be decided by the courts. The American Land Title Association’s chief executive Michelle Korsmo criticized the remarks, stating “Waiting for these eminent domain proposals to be resolved in the court system will likely take years and cost these interested parties significant dollars.” HUD’s current position is that the use of FHA to refinance seized mortgages can only be decided when the agency receives a loan application, as indicated in an Aug. 12 letter to three California congressmen when Richmond, Calif., was facing private lawsuits to prevent it from condemning and refinancing underwater private-label loans. National Mortgage News reported that the letters says, “Pending legal developments and possible further execution of the plans in questions, HUD does not know whether any new mortgage which might be created would qualify for insurance by the Federal Housing Administration.”