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Eminent domain amendment no threat to local coffers, AG says

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli apparently hopes to reassure doubters that a state constitutional amendment to rein in eminent domain powers will not turn into a drain on local taxpayers.

A just released official opinion from the AG suggests localities will not have to compensate property owners who claim a nearby public facility is a nuisance or businesses where customers have to make a u-turn to park.

If a locality wants to encourage high rise development in aging suburbs, the community would still be able to condemn land for roads and utilities to support the plan, Cuccinelli says.

Cuccinelli also says short-term street closings for festivals and parades would not be grounds for having to compensate local merchants.

The opinion was requested by Del. Jackson Miller, R-Manassas, who supports the proposed eminent domain amendment.

In the 12-page opinion, Cuccinelli makes his case for revising the state constitution to make property ownership a “fundamental” right. His statements regarding specific scenarios seem calculated to allay fears raised by local governments, some of whom are spending to lobby against the eminent domain amendment.

By Peter Vieth

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