Saturday, December 10, 2005

Eminent Domain by Nathan the "Pajama Jihadist"


In light of the Kelo decision many citizens, myself included, have become concerned about potential abuses of the government's right of eminent domain. Those of us in the State of Washington have been somewhat mollified by our State's Constitution, which in Article 1, Section 16 prohibits the taking of private land for private use (with certain limited exceptions), and provides judicial review to ascertain whether the seizure of private property is really for public use.

However, there are ways around these constitutional restrictions. The condemnation of the Sinking Ship parking garage by the Seattle Monorail Project is a perfect case in point.

Despite the fact that the monorail station SMP intended to build on the Sinking Ship parcel would only take about one quarter to one third of the property, and in spite of the fact that HTK L.L.C., the owners ofthe Sinking Ship, were willing to work with the Monorail Authority, SMP condemned the entire property with the intention of selling the unused portion at a profit once construction was complete.

HTK objected, and fought the condemnation all the way to the State Supreme Court, but even given the protections afforded by the State Constitution, the Court ruled in favor of the SMP (see the majority opinion in the matter of the petition of the Seattle Popular Monorail Authority and Jim Johnson's pointed dissent).

It is clear to me that further limitations on the right of eminent domain are necessary in order to protect citizens from the unreasonable seizure of their property by the government.

We in Pierce County are fortunate to be in a position to do something about that. In accordance with the Pierce County Charter, a CharterReview Commission has been empanelled that will "review the Charter to determine its adequacy and suitability to the needs of the County and .. . propose amendments."

Here's what I'd like to see the Pierce County Charter say in regards to eminent domain: No property taken for public use may be sold, leased or otherwise transfered to private ownership within ten years of its condemnation unless it be returned to its original owner.

Such a restriction would lessen the temptation to seize property for a purely temporary "public use" and then turn around and sell that property to the highest bidder.

For more by Nathan, see


At 5:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The 10 year suggestion is good.
It might also be advisable to have a provision limiting the acquisition to the actual area required and mandating severance damages in addition to payment of the land value since quite often the loss of space either increases the cost of doing business or reduces the income.


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