Friday, October 26, 2007

Government taking private property for speculation "is contrary to what most people understand the power of eminent domain to be for."

Texas voters to decide eminent domain issue November 6


By Sam Baker,
Copyright 2007

DALLAS, TX-Voters across Texas will decide 16 proposed constitutional amendments on November 6. One of them, Proposition 7, would require local and state government to sell back property acquired through eminent domain to the former owner at the original price. Houston state Senator Kyle Janek said he first wants to make sure city, county and state government acquire property for the right reasons.

JANEK: "Before government comes in and takes your land, they should have a defined use for that land and it should meet a public purpose: you're gonna build a freeway, build a road, you're gonna build a fire station. And if you find that need is not there, that land should revert to the property owner."

Critics contend selling back at the original price means government loses out on any increased value of the property or accrued property taxes and maintenance costs - not to mention money spent on bonds and property enhancement. Janek understands all that, but he says government should not be in the land speculation business.

JANEK: "To take it through the force of law and the special powers given to government authority, only to use it as speculation in the hopes that the values go up and they can appreciate the returns on that, is contrary to what most people understand the power of eminent domain to be for.

Passage of Proposition 7 won't end Janek's efforts to refine eminent domain laws. The senator said he still wants to address related issues such as just compensation and acquiring property designated as "blighted" through eminent domain. Janek believes the issue of eminent domain will grow in importance, especially as the state proceeds with acquiring land for the planned Trans Texas Corridor.

© 2007 KERA:

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