First bill filed would prohibit condemning
property for economic development
By SANDY SEMANS
first proposed piece of legislation filed in the new session of the
North Carolina General Assembly – HB3 -- is an attempt to add a
proposed amendment to the North Carolina Constitution that would
prohibit taking private property for economic development.
bill was introduced by Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson. If voters
approve the amendment in a future election, North Carolina would join
more than a dozen other states that have passed such measures in
response to the case of Kelo v. City of New London. In that case, the
U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of the city to take property,
including an occupied home, and sell it to a private developer because
the anticipated increased tax base would serve a perceived public
McGrady’s proposal, if passed, would
rewrite portions of GS 40-A to also limit eminent domain to projects
that result in public “use,” such as schools, roads, libraries, etc.
Currently, the statute includes language that states that eminent
domain can be used for public use or benefit. Use of the latter word
was interpreted broadly by the U.S. Supreme Court and is struck out in
the new proposed language.
A similar proposed
amendment was first introduced by McGrady in the 2013 session and cleared
the House with a 110-8 vote but became stuck in a Judiciary Committee on
the Senate side.
The proposed Constitutional amendment portion of
the bill also would provide property owners the right to request a jury
trial to ensure that property owners have the opportunity to be fairly
Private companies and
corporations, such as utility companies and bridge builders, may use
condemnation to gain access to land needed to provide service to
customers. The proposal adds “facilities related to the distribution of
natural gas” to the list of allowed uses.
And, if approved by voters, the following new subsection would be added to GS 40-A:
of Customers. – For the public use, private condemnors, local public
condemnors, and other public condemnors in subsections (a), (b), (b1),
and (c) of this section shall possess the power of eminent domain and
may acquire by purchase, gift, or condemnation any property for the
connection of any customer or customers."
bill is passed by both chambers and signed by the governor, the
existing statutes would be changed, but the proposed Constitutional
amendment would have to win approval by voters during a future general
McGrady couldn’t be reached for comment.
Semans is a retired newspaper editor and reporter who now works as a
free-lance writer. She lives in Stumpy Point. Her update on the
goings-on in this session of the General Assembly will appear weekly in
The Island Free Press, usually on Friday.)