On Wednesday afternoon, the Senate Courts of Justice Committee will consider SB 194, a bill to protect property owners from inverse condemnation, a technique that subverts the Property Rights Amendment Virginians passed with 75 percent of the vote in 2012, after government bureaucrats prevented it from reaching the ballot for years. It is a shame that after such a massive victory for families and for liberty from big government, we still must fight eminent domain abuse. Here’s what VDOT and other government agencies now do: When it needs land, it publicly announces its intention to take land for "development rights" or for "conservation easements." However, the agencies don’t make an offer for the land. Meanwhile, the property, often in the same family for decades, or invested in for retirement or for family needs, such as paying for children’s college education, instantly loses massive value.
The property owner can’t sell it to anyone, because nothing can be done to the land. The government agency can take its time — often years — until the property is so cheap, it’s compensation to the owners for the taking is a fraction of what it once was worth. This is a backdoor method of making taxpayers subsidize government!
The perfect example of this is the Tri-County Parkway in Prince William and Loudon Counties. There, the Virginia Department of Transportation and the federal government teamed up to "grant" conservation easements to land in a historic district so as to build a road near a historic battlefield. Yet, it asked no property owners if they wanted the easements and, in fact, every property owner wrote asking for their land to be removed from the easements. But, the government is sticking to its position.
Please contact members of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee, especially if your senator is a member. Ask them to support Senator Dick Black's SB 194 this Wednesday. The bill will protect property values by allowing the owner to get compensated for what the land was worth at the beginning of the process.
The bill also dovetails with the Property Rights Amendment’s language that allows property owners to receive just legal expenses in these indirect takings, just as owners do who have their land taken by conventional eminent domain. Currently, property owners, especially older ones, are intimidated from going to court for fear of expensive court costs.
ACTION: Please contact members if the Senate Courts of Justice Committee and urge them or her to vote yes Wednesday on SB 194, to prevent this shameless method of government taking families’ lands on the cheap and circumventing the Property Rights Amendment!