by Daren Bakst
Senior Research Fellow in Agricultural Policy, Heritage Foundation
• There is optimism that an eminent domain amendment will pass this upcoming legislative session. The amendment must be carefully drafted, however, to properly protect property owners.
• An amendment is necessary for many reasons including:
– There is no state constitutional protection from eminent domain abuse, such as the government seizing private property for economic development.
– In fact, North Carolina has the weakest property rights protection in the country; it is the only state in the country that does not have a Constitution that expressly addresses eminent domain.
– The North Carolina Supreme Court has held that the government can take private property and transfer an interest in that property to a private company for its sole and exclusive use.
– The government seizes private property for other private parties through various means, such as blight laws.
• After Kelo, eight states passed constitutional amendments, including the two neighboring states of Georgia and South Carolina.
• A model amendment would, among other things:
– Prohibit takings for private uses. A prohibition on takings for economic development is not enough, since many takings that involve the transfer of property from one private party to another private party are not connected to economic development.
– Prohibit the government from improperly using “blight” and other pretexts for seizing private property in order to promote economic development or to achieve some other improper objective.
– Require the government to have the burden of proof to demonstrate that a taking is for a proper public use.
– Require just compensation to make property owners whole, by including the payment of relocation costs, loss of business goodwill, and attorneys fees.