Columbia, Missouri Votes on New Charter Amendment to Rein in Eminent Domain Abuse

Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe has proposed a new charter amendment to restrict eminent domain abuse in Columbia, Mo., The amendment would prevent authorizing eminent domain for private gain and for “economic development,” as well “for programs related to economic development such as jobs programs, poverty alleviation, or area, community or neighborhood revitalization.”

This charter amendment is solely needed for Columbia. Missouri earned a “D” from the Castle Coalition for its lax eminent domain laws and notoriously vague blight criteria, including factors like “inadequate street layout,” “unsafe conditions,” and “obsolete platting.”

Indeed, as the Columbia Missourian reports,

The measure comes in response to citizens' worries about the city's potential establishment of an enhanced enterprise zone program. An EEZ is a state-run program that provides tax incentives to spark expansion of existing businesses or manufacturing companies and the development of new small businesses. An area must be declared "blighted" to qualify for an EEZ, according to state statute.

The Columbia City Council will vote on this amendment tonight. If it passes, it then will go before the voters in a special election in April 2013. Ballot initiatives against abusing eminent domain are very popular. Earlier this month, Virginia overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment to ban eminent domain abuse, by a margin of 3:1.

-- Nick Sibilla

Nick Sibilla is a writer at the Institute for Justice

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