Eminent Domain Amendment is Necessary in Virginia

Craig Wilson’s opinion piece only reveals in a footnote that he is the principal planner for a major private planning firm. In reality, constitutional amendments may be necessary because legislation can be amended and repealed with ease.  The 2007 reforms were good, but not good enough. But for the vigorous advocacy of great lawyers like Joe Waldo, Virginia’s protection of property owners would be in the Stone Age.

Richmond Times-Dispatch

I would propose five reasons that an amendment is unnecessary. First, the majority of the language in the amendment is already in the Code of Virginia via the 2007 reforms. Those reforms:

• Defined the right to private property as a "fundamental right."

• Better defined "public uses" and "blighted property" for which eminent domain could be used.

• Excluded the use of eminent domain where public interest did not dominate private gain and where the primary purpose was for "private financial gain, private benefit, an increase in tax base or tax revenues, or an increase in employment."

• Established that property in a redevelopment area must be blighted at condemnation and not just when a redevelopment plan was adopted, and completely eliminated the taking of non-blighted property simply for the purpose of the plan.