Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Stricter laws put the skids on eminent domain for RRHA

Monday morning council briefing

The South Jefferson Redevelopment Plan is being amended effective June 30, 2010. The amendment is a reworked 5-year plan that will accommodate Virginia’s newer property rights laws. Council will vote on the amendment at its June 21 meeting.

The Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority has no plans to initiate future eminent domain proceedings. In April 2007 multiple bills were enacted:

  • House Bill 2954 sponsored by Delegate Rob Bell (R-Charlottesville) gave definition to “public use.”
  • Senate Bill 781 sponsored by Ken Cuccinelli (R-Fairfax) gave voters an option to select the definition of “public use.”
  • Senate Bill 1296 sponsored by Tommy Norment (R-Williamsburg) restricted transfer of taken property to a private party for five years.

Mark Loftis, attorney for the Roanoke Redevelopment Housing Authority laid out how these bills effectively put the skids on eminent domain used for taking property in South Jefferson and Gainsboro. The RRHA will have to directly negotiate private transactions with owners if it wants other property.

Large parcel redevelopment will be severely curtailed. Smaller parcels with single owners have a better chance of succeeding under the new laws.

In all, stricter limits on public use, the taking of property for private benefit and the tightening of the definition of blight are the new rules. The taking of non-blighted property just because the property is located in a blighted area is prohibited. The new law was not in time to help Jay and Stephanie Burkholder when the housing authority condemned their Reserve Avenue property.

It still does not go far enough for some people including Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

When Cuccinelli addressed the Roanoke Chamber of Commerce on April 6 he made it clear that he would pursue adding stronger property rights protection to Virginia’s Constitution.

“There is no consistency on the application of eminent domain throughout Virginia,” exclaimed Cuccinelli. He and the Governor “plan to rectify that” in the next legislative session. He added that “growth is a good thing but there is a wide variety of aggressiveness by local governments and housing authorities.” Cuccinelli noted that Southwest Virginia is the most aggressive in that regard.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Business, Politics, Roanoke City Politics

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