Seward Backs Property Owners' Protections

James L. Seward

August 10, 2005

State Senator James L. Seward today announced he's backing senate legislation that would protect individual property rights following a U.S. Supreme Court decision (Kelo v. City of New London) that broadened the authority of local governments to take private property through eminent domain powers.

The legislation (S. 5938), filed with Sen. John DeFrancisco of Syracuse, provides:

*Eminent domain could only be used to obtain property for public projects;
*A county legislature would have to approve any eminent domain "taking" by an industrial development agency (IDA);
*Relocation expenses of the property owners targeted in an eminent domain proceeding would have to be included as part of their compensation.

"The Supreme Court decision was an outrageous misreading of the Constitution that put private property up for sale to the highest bidder," Seward said. "It requires states to redefine the circumstances under which private property will be subject to an eminent domain proceeding, and for me, that means returning it to the common understanding of a public use as the road, street, bridge or sewer needed to advance the common good and used by the public -- not a hotel complex that will simply pay more taxes than the house it replaced."

Seward is also supporting legislation that would require comprehensive economic development plans to be in place where eminent domain is being considered for economic development purposes.

"Our goal in the next session is to be sure that the state narrows the opportunities for government to exercise the power of eminent domain except for commonly and historically understood principles," Seward added.