Eminent domain

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Eminent Domain is the power to take private property for public use by a state, municipality, or private person or corporation authorized to exercise functions of public character, following the payment of just compensation to the owner of that property. [1]

Eminent domain was also used to acquire the property that is now the Shenandoah National Park. In 1926 Congress passed the bill that would allow the park to be made, but simultaneously prohibiting the use of government funds to obtain the land that was needed. In the end, the Virginian government took the land of 500 families on the basis of putting it to public use. [2]

Local Applications

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Eminent domain was used extensively during the redevelopment of Vinegar Hill.[citation needed]

The process was also used to obtain a portion of the Hillsdale Drive Extension from Meadowbrook Creek LLC, the developer of Whole Foods, and has resulted in K-mart suing the developer for breaking their lease. [3]


On July 15, 1991, Charlottesville City Council approved a request from the University of Virginia to acquire properties along Lane Road for expansion of Jordan Hall. [4]

Nelson County

In another case, Starke Smith of Fisherville is urging officials to use the power of eminent domain to posses what is locally called the "Afton Slums". This property is located on Afton Mountain right next to Interstate 64 belonging to the Dulaney family. The property contains many dilapidated and vandalized buildings, which Smith says that the unsightly land could be deterring thousands of tourists each year, and he feels that the only way to prevent that is for the government to seize and fix up the land. However, Agusta County attorney Patrick Morgan said that the only way the government would be able to take ownership of the property was if it was causing a healthy of safety risk to nearby residents. [5]

Virginia reform

House Bill 5

Virginians voted on an amendment concerning eminent domain in November 2012. This amendment sought to change the text of the current Article I of the Bill of Rights and was proposed by Del. Robert B. Bell. Bell's goal with the new amendment is to only allow the minimum amount of private property to be taken for government use and for the owner to be aptly compensated. [6]

In the House of Delegates, this bill passed in the winter of 2012 with 83 votes for and 14 against. [7] When it was brought before the Senate, the bill passed by a much slimmer majority with 22 votes for and 16 votes against. [8]

In opposition, delegate David Toscano believes that our current laws concerning eminent domain are already satisfactory in the protection of the private property owner. He was quoted saying, “If a constitutional amendment gets passed, my worry is we won’t be able to invest in public infrastructure to the extent that we need to in Virginia.” [9]


External Links

Text of House Bill 5