Kennedy seeks to stop eminent domain abuse

Legislation to stop eminent domain abuse in Missouri has been introduced by Sen. Harry Kennedy, D-St. Louis.

Kennedy’s bill comes amid a flurry of legislation introduced following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo v. New London last year.

“It’s clear that eminent domain abuse must be addressed this session,” Kennedy stated in a news release. “I want to make sure the Legislature uses common sense when dealing with this complicated issue.”

Several bills have been introduced to eliminate the use of eminent domain for economic development purposes, which could restrict the ability of municipalities to engage in urban redevelopment projects.

The flood of legislation, the release stated, is due in part to the Sunset Manor redevelopment project in Sunset Hills, which has left property owners in limbo as the developer lost funding for the project and has generated numerous lawsuits.

“People are scared, and it’s understandable when you look at horror stories like Sunset Hills,” Kennedy stated. “But there are situations where eminent domain does provide a public good, such as the urban re-development in the city.”

The legislation primarily focuses on procedural changes that would give property owners a better chance to challenge the use of eminent domain, as well as negotiate a fair price for their property. Among the proposed changes, mandatory mediation would be used to ensure good-faith negotiations by developers.

Kennedy’s bill also would require local governments to develop a plan that specifically states the public use and public benefit the project will provide and would re-quire better notification from developers to homeowners.

Relocation assistance also would be given to property owners forced to move due to redevelopment.

The legislation also includes a provision to ensure that citizens in all municipalities would have the ability to challenge the use of eminent domain for economic development through the petition and referendum process.