Out of Sight but Not Out of Mind

The House of Delegates hasn’t forgotten about the U.S. Supreme Court “Kelo” ruling that expanded the rights of local governments to condemn peoples’ land for economic development purposes. The House passed a bill last year curtailing the application of eminent domain in Virginia but deadlocked with the Senate, so the bill went nowhere.

But according to the Free Lance-Star, House Speaker William J. Howell, has a task force looking at Kelo and expects to submit new legislation in the 2007 session.

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3 responses to “Out of Sight but Not Out of Mind”

  1. Virginia really needs to take care of this sooner than later. The state has a very bad history with eminent domain.

  2. Ray Hyde Avatar

    The present case with the proposed new Dominion power line is exactly a case in point. This amounts to economic development for Dominion and for Dominion customers (out of state) at the expense of rural landowners.

    It is particularly ironic that Dominoon is coming through Fauquier as a result of large tracts of open space which are a result of Fauquier’s long standing anti-growth sentiments.

    PEC and other interests have successfully diverted the power line from the wealthy Northern part of the county because much of the land there is under conservation easement. Having fought against landowners rights for decades, PEC is now arguing that conservation landowners have more rights than other landowners.

    It is my observation that the best way to have a successful plan is to plan for the worst possible outcome. PEC is unlikely to make the power line go away entirely, in my opinion.

    I hope I’m wrong.

    But, it seems to me that one tactic would be to argue for the highest possible compensation, even including a share in the sales of electricity passing through the line.

    The electricty is going to flow for a long time, with only a one time payment to locals. If PEC argued that eminent domain for economic development requires an ongoing cash flow back to the communities involved, then they might get more support than from just the locally affected landowners.

    If they were sucessful at that, the power line might actually go away.

  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I’m surprised that there are only 3 comments on this.

    For one thing – VDOT already does exactly what Ray advocates.

    They get money for cell towers … on their rights-of-way

    If you check your phone bill.. you’ll see this fee.. passed on to YOU.

    There’s another aspect to imminent domain that is made in the Smart Roads book.

    And that is that most situations involving ED do NOT allow excess land to be obtained with part of it retained for the original purpose and the excess sold – at a profit.

    VDOT cannot do this. So what they do is buy as little as possible.. and leaving adjacent landowners with impacts (like the powerline towers).

    The reason this is allowed is that ED usually only requires payment for DIRECT impacts not secondary or CONSTRUCTIVE impacts like visual or noise.

    The Smart Road book argues that if a private entity was allowed to buy at whatever cost – a corridor – paying whatever it took to obtain the land – even larger parcels – that they could then develop the excess land – for a profit that would .. actually result in less net costs for the infrastructure than the way that VDOT goes about it.

    What does this have to do with KELO?

    A LOT – because it DOES boil down to whether or not… ED is needed by ANY developer or VDOT.

    When you give the private sector – any developer.. or Dominion.. or VDOT ED powers – what you are doing is impeding private enterprise – and actually encouraging, incentivizing and empowering abusive and patently unfair practices vice willing-seller/willing-buyer methods.

    Any casual observer of history.. may want to review … the history behind.. why CSX has a LAND and Real Estate Division. It’s precisely because they have land … acquired long ago.. that is now excess to their needs.

    I’m not sure… in the history of railroads.. if they obtained their land via ED.. and then were also allowed to sell off excess land at a profit…. and I’m certainly not advocating that now…

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