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Eminent Domain Task Force Gives Considerations

October 04, 2005
By: Kathryn Buschman
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Task Force on Eminent Domain is considering a change in how the state seizes private property on behalf of developers for economic growth.

The task force reported its initial findings to Gov. Blunt on October 1. Terry Garrett, chair of the task force, said he was the main drafter of the report.

"A vote was not taken [before publication], there was a consensus that these were the issues that we're looking at," Garret said. "These are not final recommendations to the governor, the report is a progress report."

The report said eminent domain abuse has occurred in Missouri.

"We have heard from folks that feel that their property is being taken essentially to add wealth to private companies and their individuals and they proclaim that this is their property and they bought it and they don't want to sell it," said Steve Hobbs, state Representative, R-Mexico and member of the task force.

Eminent domain allows the government to seize private property without the consent of the owner as long as the property will be used for public purpose and the owner is justly compensated.

The task force said even if developers comply with the law, a lot of people do not understand the issue.

"Sometimes the eminent domain process doesn't provide adequate notice that there is a proposed taking in that area including their property," said Senator Chuck Gross, R-St. Charles, and member of the task force. "I think where we are heading on [this] is that we need to firm up the process and guarantee people whose property is potentially going to be taken that they deserve adequate notice."

The task force is considering a formula to help determine a fair market value for blighted property.

Gross said he believes determining the scope of eminent domain is another key issue.

The committee's next meeting on Oct. 10 will focus on eminent domain in rural Missouri .

"We will be focusing on more procedural issues on the way eminent domain [is used] and how people are compensated," said Steve Hobbs, state Representativ, R-Mexico and member of the task force.

Gov. Blunt created the task force in June in response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Kelo v. New London that reaffirmed the use of eminent domain for private development. The committee is appointed to study the use of eminent domain in Missouri and make recommendations for possible future legislation to be considered by the General Assembly.