Property Rights

Virginians would have stronger property rights under a proposed state constitutional amendment and related measures that were signed by Governor McDonnell.  The bills set the date for a referendum for voters to accept or reject the amendment—and also clarify some legal definitions.  Supporters are hoping that a large majority of voters will get on board in November.

If voters approve, the guarantee would be inserted into Virginia’s Bill of Rights and would permit eminent domain only when the property taken or damaged is for a true public use—and not for private benefit or enhancing tax revenue.

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said it also defines what will be “just” compensation to property-owners.  “The cost of the taking has to be borne by the public.  If we’re going to take your property for the benefit of the community, the community needs to bear that cost—not just you because you happen to live in the wrong place at the wrong time or your business was located there, or what have you.  Fair and full compensation has to be made when property is taken or damaged.  And that includes the loss of business profits and the loss of access when the takings occur.”

Opponents say that will cost governments more—but supporters counter that it’s fairer to the landowners.  The State Capitol ceremony was packed with advocates, including the Virginia Farm Bureau, which just rolled out a campaign to win voter approval.

–Anne Marie Morgan  

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