Featured guest post by candidate for Virginia Attorney General, Delegate Robert Bell
|DELEGATE ROB BELL|
As co-author of Amendment #1 , the Property Rights Amendment, I respectfully encourage you to vote “Yes.”
First, the Amendment would prohibit the Government from taking property from one person and giving to another.
This is what happened in the case that prompted the Amendment. In the Supreme Court’s infamous Kelo case, the town of New London took the Susette Kelo’s house through eminent domain and transferred it to a developer.
Closer to home, this is currently happening in Norfolk to Bob Wilson. Bob’s company, Central Radio, has been in business in Norfolk for 78 years. The City Redevelopment Authority has decided to use eminent domain to take his property and use it for a commercial development – University Village. The problem is that Bob doesn’t want to sell.
For a private developer, it would have ended right there. But the City decided that if Bob would not sell, it would use eminent domain to take his property, and then give it to the developer. Bob’s compensation will be limited to that set by the court. As in the Kelo case, the city government just wants someone else to have the property. The Property Rights Amendment would stop this from happening.
Second, the Amendment would ensure that the government not take more property than it needs.
Third, the Amendment will help ensure that when a property must in fact be taken, the property owner will receive better compensation. Opponents have claimed this may increase costs to government when eminent domain is used. But this misses the point. The only way the Amendment will increase costs is if the government has been systematically under compensating landowners whose property is condemned.
Make no mistake -- when property is taken through eminent domain, the full costs are paid by someone. It is fundamentally unfair for these to be borne by the landowner, as the property is being taken by the government for the benefit of the public. If the property must be taken, the least the government can do is pay what it is actually worth.
I believe the Constitution exists to define the limits of governmental power and to protect individual rights. Our proposed Constitutional Amendment will protect homeowners and stop the government from picking and choosing who should own certain properties. If Virginians endorse the Amendment, then the next Bob Wilson will not lose his property just because the government thinks someone else has a better use for it.
Delegate Rob Bell (R-VA) is co-author of the Property Rights Constitutional Amendment, and is currently running for Virginia Attorney General.