House committee moves to limit when governments can take private property

Posted February 4, 2015

— State and local governments would be prohibited from taking private property for certain economic development purposes under a proposed constitutional amendment approved by the House Judiciary II Committee on Wednesday morning.

The measure, which passed the House overwhelmingly last year, would curtail eminent domain powers by saying the the state could forcibly take land only for a public use, not a public purpose. Governments would still be able to take land for schools, roads and other public purposes. 

What would be outlawed, said Rep. Mickey Michaux, D-Durham, would be cases where "private property was being condemned and sold to private developers."

The amendment was spurred by a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court case in which the justices ruled that the federal constitution allowed the town of New London, Conn., to take private land and turn it over to a developer because the new project would increase the tax revenue coming to the city. However, the court also ruled that states could set up stricter standards for the use of eminent domain powers. 

Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, the bill's lead sponsor, said there hasn't been a rash of cases like that in North Carolina, but his legislation is designed to head off future problems. 

"We don't want to get sometime down the road and have there be any ambiguity," McGrady said. 

Another feature of the bill would give someone whose property has been condemned the right to a jury trial to determine its value, something that is a right in almost every other state.

The measure is being watched carefully by city officials, who frequently work to revitalize areas that have become blighted. Durham Mayor Bill Bell was in the room as the committee voted on the bill.

Asked if he thought the amendment would interfere with work Durham is doing, Bell said, "I think we're good." 

Constitutional amendments must be approved by a three-fifths vote in both the House and the Senate. They are then put to a vote of the people. The language in this bill would call for a public vote during the May 2016 primary. 

A very similar measure passed the House twice during the 2013-14 session with more than 100 votes each time, but senators declined to take up the bill. McGrady and Rep. Paul "Skip" Stam, R-Wake, said they have higher hopes for the measure this year. 

No one spoke against the bill in committee. The House is expected to vote on the measure Thursday.


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  • 68_dodge_polara Feb 5, 2015

    View quoted thread

    Yes but it appears hp277 isn't aware of that and that's why I corrected him.

  • cruzinlong Feb 5, 2015

    here's the rest of it ;
    Land condemned for any liquid pipelines shall:

    a. Not be less than 50 feet nor more than 100 feet in width; and

    b. Comply with the provisions of G.S. 62-190(b).

    The width of land condemned for any natural gas pipelines shall not be more than 100 feet.

    So all is not as rosey as it appears....

  • cruzinlong Feb 5, 2015

    But LOOK what PRIVATE condemnors still can do per senate bill 636:
    "(a) Private Condemnors. - For the public use or benefit, use, the persons or organizations listed below shall have the power of eminent domain and may acquire by purchase or condemnation property for the stated purposes and other works which are authorized by law.law:

    (1) Corporations, bodies politic or persons have the power of eminent domain for the construction of railroads, power generating facilities, substations, switching stations, microwave towers, roads, alleys, access railroads, turnpikes, street railroads, plank roads, tramroads, canals, telegraphs, telephones, communication facilities, electric power lines, electric lights, public water supplies, public sewerage systems, flumes, bridges, facilities related to the distribution of natural gas, and pipelines or mains originating in North Carolina for the transportation of petroleum products, coal, natural gas, limestone or minerals. Land condemne

  • Greg Boop Feb 5, 2015
    user avatar

    Morrisville is a local town a few years back that was talking about seizing privately owned buildings using "eminent domain" in the downtown area and turning them over to a private developer for re-development. Good thing that North Carolina is moving forward with this law before this type of nonsense escalates.

  • Phil Larson Feb 4, 2015
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    You do realize this isn't talking about using "eminent domain" to takererty for the greater good (ie, roads, electric grids, airports...et al)? It's talking about:

    What would be outlawed, said Rep. Mickey Michaux, D-Durham, would be cases where "private property was being condemned and sold to private developers."

  • jonesmw Feb 4, 2015

    Finally, the legislature is doing something that makes sense! About time.

  • 68_dodge_polara Feb 4, 2015

    View quoted thread

    You realize there wouldn't be an electric grid if private property couldn't be taken for utilities right?

  • 68_dodge_polara Feb 4, 2015

    Why does this even need to be written in to law? Guess now a days it does.

  • hp277 Feb 4, 2015

    This makes sense - especially if it applies to pipelines owned by foreign oil companies.

  • Michael Hart Feb 4, 2015
    user avatar

    ah the GOP.... can't seem to get on the same page as the Majority in the House/Senate that are allowing a Foreign Business to claim Eminent Domain for personal profit....I.E. Keystone Pipeline