On Monday in Richmond, lawmakers in each chamber will consider bills to curb a backdoor way government agencies now are using to subvert out recently passed Property Rights Amendment to the Virginia Constitution. The House Courts of Justice Civil Law Sub-Committee will consider HB 738 and the full Senate Courts of Justice Committee will consider SB 194, bills designed to protect property owners from inverse condemnation. Virginians ratified the Property Rights Amendment with 75 percent of the vote in 2012. 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. But the hideous procedure of inverse condemnation circumvents the Property Rights Amendment, which prohibits many instances of eminent domain abuse and guarantees fair compensation in cases where a government taking is necessary.
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 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, its 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 Bi-County Parkway in Prince William and Loudon Counties. There, the Virginia Department of Transportation forced conservation easements on all property owners, even though every property owner has written their opposition to their properties' inclusion as easements.
The bills will protect property values by allowing the owner to get compensation for what the land was worth at the beginning of the process. They also dovetail 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. Often, property owners are intimidated from going to court for fear of expensive court costs.
Please click here for members of the House Courts of Justice Civil Law Sub-Committee. Ask the delegates to support Delegate Scott Lingamfelter's HB 738 Monday afternoon.
Please click here for members of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee. Ask the senators to support Senator Dick Black's SB 194 Monday morning.