Thursday, May 11, 2006

Eminent Domain Reform Conference Committee Concludes Work; Final Vote Expected Monday

Posted by Craig Westover | 2:48 PM |  

From Minnesotans for Eminent Domain Reform --
Last night, the 10-member conference committee on the 2006 Eminent Domain Reform Bill, SF 2750, reached an agreement on a final bill. The committee's work will go on to be presented to the full Senate and House early next week for a final vote.

Although the official version of the final bill is not yet available, below is a summary of the final bill:

The use of eminent domain will be restricted to publicly owned property, public utilities, and certain problem properties (blighted property, contaminated property, abandoned property, and nuisance property).

The government will no longer enjoy the deference courts have previously given them to make decisions on taking property by eminent domain. The government must now prove by a preponderance of the evidence that property is blighted, contaminated, abandoned or a public nuisance in order to take it by eminent domain. Put another way, property owners will now have a day in court to ensure that a court will determine whether their property can be taken because it is alleged to be a problem property.

If a government eminent domain action is determined by a court to be unlawful or not for a public use, then the property owner will be entitled to recover all their attorneys fees and costs.

If a government's last offer to compensate a property owner is more than 20% less than what the property owner is finally awarded in exchange for the taking of their property (just compensation determined by a third party), then the court may also award attorney fees and costs to the property owner. If the government's offer is more than 40% less than the final award of damages, the court must award attorney fees and costs to the property owner.

If a government's eminent domain action destroys a business, the business owner will now be entitled to loss of business value if the business cannot be relocated. The government has the burden of proof to show that the business owner is not entitled to compensation for business loss.

If a government takes away more than 51% of driveway access to a business, the business owner will be entitled to compensation for loss of revenue due to the restricted access.

If a government conditions the approval of a permit on the agreement of a property owner to remove a legal non-conforming use from their property, the government must compensate the property owner for the value of the loss of the legal non-conforming use.

The legislature also required that certain redevelopment projects that were already begun as of February 1, 2006, be grandfathered in for a phased in period of up to five years. Other than those projects that can qualify to be grandfathered, the bill will become effective for eminent domain actions commenced the day following final enactment.