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Monday, February 26, 2007

 

Eminent Domain Abuse Issues in WA

The author of this article Mr. William Maurer, is the Executive Director of the Institute for Justice, Washington chapter. Mr. Maurer also recently wrote a book regarding eminent domain issues that the nation is facing as a result of the decision from the Supreme Court ruling in the Kelo case. That ruling prevents Federal courts from interfering with local governments regarding the condemning of private property for economic development. In this article Mr. Maurer discusses the effects of the Kelo case on Washington state.

The Kelo case regarding private property issues in the state of Washington (and other states) are really more of abuse of police and state powers. For example, an old statute called Washington's Community Renewal Act has been used to condemn whole neighborhoods and transfer the property rights to the city development contractor. The city planners simply describe that a particular neighborhood is one that is "blighted" -a word which has a very vague meaning but leads one to believe that the neighborhood is in desperate need of repair- and they have the power to remove the neighborhood and replace it entirely. Because of the Kelo case decision the Supreme Court cannot intervene regarding this city enforced "blight" issue. Although in the Kelo ruling the Supreme Court stated that the local governments could provide more protection from such abuses of private property if it deemed appropriate. The biggest issue now is that citizens cannot sue the city or state for breach of the Constitution in order to protect their property. There is no chance for the citizen to win. Mr. Maurer believes that if cities and states were more responsible and if the courts enforced the local government constitution, there would not be such an abuse of power.

Constitutionally, this is a blatant abuse of police power. It is perplexing to me as to how can a state allow this to happen. Maybe the people of the cities and states in WA and other areas affected are not doing enough to raise this issue. Where is the city getting its approval to begin these developments or re-developments? Economically, the city is negatively affecting the ability for its own future growth. These "blighted" neighborhoods may be in an area that, if left alone, could become larger and provide more housing and economic growth. The economy of the real estate market could take a very large downturn if the city decided not replace the neighborhoods it removed, preventing more people from moving to the city.

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