9/12/2007

Protecting rights of homeowners: Cincinnati OH Community Press, 8/7/07

Viewpoint

By Jim Raussen

For most Americans, part of the American dream is owning a home, having a place you can raise a family and create memories that last a lifetime.

A home is part of what makes a family so strong - as the saying goes, "home is where the heart is." However, recent court rulings and undefined specifics of eminent domain threaten individual property rights.

Eminent domain is the power of a government to take an individual's private property in order to fill a legitimate public need such as building an interstate highway. In response to the growing problem presented by eminent domain, the legislature created the Eminent Domain Task Force to study the impact of eminent domain laws on local governments, economic development and residents in Ohio.

Members of the House and Senate, along with many other interested parties and property rights experts participated in the task force and worked to find solutions to recent problems.

As a result of the task force's hard work, members of the House and Senate worked to compromise on Senate Bill 7. This legislation aims to take the recommendations of the task force, along with ideas brought forth by the Legislature, and create legislation that would protect both Ohio property owners and the communities seeking to further economic development.

Senate Bill 7 prohibits communities and local governments from using the power of eminent domain to acquire property unless when absolutely necessary for public use. If the need for the property exists, the local government must provide a development plan detailing the public need.

The bill also more clearly defines what constitutes blight and a "blighted area" and protects farmland from being declared blighted. This is an especially important part of the legislation due to the difficult nature of determining what is considered property in bad condition. Such determinations can be hard to make and therefore clarifying what is considered blighted was just as difficult.

S.B. 7 requires entities wishing to exercise the power of eminent domain to provide property owners with written notice of their intent to take property at least 30 days before filing an appropriation petition, and make a good faith offer in writing. If the landowner objects, he can appeal to the elected officials who oversee the agency, and those officials can veto the taking.

Under the bill, property owners would have the right to repurchase their property if it has not been used for its stated purpose within five years. These provisions represent the legislature's efforts to ensure property owners are properly compensated when a legitimate "taking" occurs.

The legislation passed by the House this week represents our commitment to homeowners and property owners across the state. We continue to work to ensure that the rights of property owners are not overlooked.


Cincinnati OH Community Press: http://news.communitypress.com

Jim Raussen is a State Rep in Ohio: 77 S High St. Columbus OH 43215, 614-466-8120