8/02/2005

AG Lautenschlager: Schedules Eminent Domain Meetings, 7/26/05

[Wisconsin] Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager will hold four town-hall style informational meetings around the state on the taking of private property by municipalities under eminent domain law. These meetings are a response to growing concerns many Wisconsin residents have expressed about the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling, Kelo Vs. New London, on eminent domain.

The meetings will be held from 6:30-8 p.m. on the following dates:
  • Aug. 11 – Room 1400B at Black Hawk Technical College in Janesville
  • Aug. 15 – Lecture Hall A at Milwaukee Area Technical College in Oak Creek
  • Aug. 22 – Health Science Center at Northcentral Technical College in Wausau
  • Aug. 23 – Room 103 at Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire

The purpose of the meetings will be to elicit discussion regarding the application of the Court’s decision to existing Wisconsin eminent domain law. Citizen viewpoints, said Lautenschlager, should be used by the legislature in crafting any changes to such laws.

“Since this ruling, I have talked to many Wisconsin citizens who have serious concerns about the implications for homeowners,” Lautenschlager said. “I share Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s concerns that ‘The specter of condemnation hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory.’”

The Court’s ruling came in a lawsuit between a group of Connecticut residents and the city of New London. The residents, including Susette Kelo, opposed the city’s efforts to seize their homes, which are slated for destruction to make room for an office complex. The city argued the proposed development served a public purpose of boosting economic growth that outweighed the homeowners’ property rights, even though the area wasn’t blighted. As a result, local governments are now entrusted with wide powers to bulldoze private homes when they could serve a “public use.”

The majority opinion gave great discretion to the states in placing further restrictions on the taking of private property. Accordingly, Lautenschlager stated citizen input regarding Wisconsin’s eminent domain laws should be solicited. Lautenschlager said she hopes these informational meetings will provide that opportunity.