A,MENDMENT 8 WOULD HARDEN EMINENT DOMAIN LAW by Roxanne Escobales

10/31/06

An amendment change on the ballot would constitutionally seal Florida’s eminent domain laws into place gets backing from property rights advocates but not from local government. WMNF’s Roxanne Escobales reports.

In a controversial 2005 decision, known as the Kelo case, the U-S Supreme Court ruled 5-to-4 that private property could be taken by municipalities for private development. As a backlash, 42 states discussed hardening their lawbooks against such eminent domain laws and protecting property owners. Florida was one of them.

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Carol Saviak is the executive director of the Coalition for Property Rights based in Orlando.

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Florida’s strict eminent domain statutes passed during the 2006 spring legislative session, along with a new community redevelopment act. Together they bar local governments from taking property from its owner to be handed over to a private person or company. If the property is taken for public good but not used for ten years, the original owner has dibs on buying it back for the same price it was bought from them. And property cannot be taken to stop nuisance, slum or blight.

Amendment 8 would make this part of the state’s constitution, and require any change to pass with a three-fifths vote from the legislature.

But Pinellas County attorney Susan Churuti says the latest statutes provide plenty protection.

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Churuti says developments such as the popular Baywalk in downtown St Petersburg were created under former eminent domain law. But if Amendment 8 passed, it could take years to get the go ahead from the legislature and new laws would have to be drafted and passed.

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But advocates like Carol Saviak of the Coaltion for Property Rights says private property is a constitutional issue. It appears in the Bill of Rights at the end of the 5th amendment where it says: nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

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Saviak says Florida’s Amendment 8 would add a further layer of protection to private property owners.

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