Δευτέρα, 1 Απριλίου 2013

Alabama Brings Back Eminent Domain for Private Gain


This month, Alabama Governor Robert
Bentley
signed
into law a bill that allows local officials to condemn
private property and turn it over to private developers.


Alabama’s statutes had contained some of the best protections in
the nation for property owners; officials couldn’t seize property
for private development unless it was a true threat to human health
and safety.


Welcome back to the bad old days.


Advertised as a tool to attract industry to Alabama, the new
law (the Major
21st Century Manufacturing Zone Act) expands tax subsidies for
companies that open a manufacturing facility of at least 250 acres.
It also allows municipal officials to seize property for “private
uses and purposes imbued with a public interest” like auto
factories, biomedical facilities, and pharmaceutical plants.


Officials can now condemn property they deem “blighted,” which,
since the statutory definition of the term is so subjective, could
be nearly any property. Criteria include:


  • “deteriorating structures”

  • “inadequate street layout”

  • “faulty lot layout”

  • “obsolete platting”

  • “excessive vacant land”

In 2005, when the Supreme Court sanctioned condemnation for
private development in Kelo v. New London, Alabama
legislators were the first in the nation to react. The reform
defanged urban renewal plans like this
one
from Tuscaloosa, where local officials authorized
themselves to seize a broad swath of the downtown area. Until then,
every property owner in the project area had faced the threat of
eminent domain, regardless of whether their property was actually
blighted—just being in the vicinity of a rundown property could
trigger condemnation.


Alabama municipalities looking to attract industry would be wise
to look not to the ruling in Kelo, but to the fate of New
London after the decision. Pfizer Inc. left town after the
subsidies that originally lured it to New London expired. And the
neighborhood officials fought so hard to raze is now an illegal
dumping ground.


The new law makes Alabama the second state to renege on strong
eminent domain reform. (Utah stripped eminent domain powers from
redevelopment authorities in 2005 only to partially restore them in
2007.)


In other Alabama news, legislators are scheduled to consider a
bill this week that would make Alabama the last state in the nation
to legalize home
brewing
. So there’s that.

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