A local state representative hopes to amend the state constitution in response to a controversial U.S. Supreme Court decision last month that says a government can take a person's property to promote economic development.
State Rep. Joe Koziura, D-Lorain, said he hopes the May 2006 ballot can include a constitutional amendment that would prohibit the use of eminent domain when its driving force is business development or economic gain.
His constitutional amendment proposal is in response to the controversial June 24 U.S. Supreme Court decision in a Connecticut case, Kelvo v. City of New London, that said local governments could seize private land and turn the property over to private developers for economic development.
''That's just not right,'' he said. ''A man's home is his castle. The goal here is to give Ohioans a chance to protect themselves from an unnecessary intrusion of government into the lives of families and small business owners.''
Eminent domain was designed with the public interest in mind, Koziura said. It was intended to be used for roads, schools and other public works, not private business ventures that benefit a few, he said.
The power of eminent domain has also traditionally been used to eliminate slums, he said. Koziura mentioned that in the past, a person had to be a property owner just to be eligible to vote.
He said he's shooting for the May primary election because he's not likely to get rapid support from the General Assembly before the Aug. 10 deadline to submit a Constitutional amendment to the Ohio secretary of state for the November ballot.
Three-fifths of the Legislature would have to support Koziura's joint resolution for the issue to be placed on a statewide ballot.
Lorain County Commissioner Ted Kalo and Avon Mayor Jim Smith said they agree with Koziura's proposed amendment.
''Doing eminent domain for private concerns are totally wrong. I don't know where the Supreme Court came up with that idea,'' said Smith.
He said Avon would not even entertain an idea to seize a person's property for private development.
Kalo mentioned an instance when the city of Lorain used eminent domain with the HarborWalk housing development on the shores of the Black River about five years ago.
''I think there has got to be a whole lot of checks and balances,'' Kalo said.
Lorain Mayor Craig Foltin could not be reached for comment.
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