By A.J. Hazarabedian
City Council members in Sierra Madre decided Tuesday to add an eminent domain ballot measure to April’s City Council elections. The measure will seek to ban the use of eminent domain for private purposes.
Taking of property from a private owner to give to another to further economic development has been a topic of wide debate in the last few years. The Kelo v. New London decision made headlines and brought the issue of eminent domain for private use to the front lines.
Sierra Madre wants to prevent such an event from happening in their city. The ballot measure, if passed, could provide some ease for property owners within the city. The measure only applies to eminent domain for private purposes, not public. However, it does also “prevent the city from funding or cooperating with the use of eminent domain by another city agency, such as the Redevelopment Agency,” as stated by Councilman Don Watts in the Pasadena Star News article “Sierra Madre residents will vote on eminent domain.“
In the article it mentions that City Council members, such as a John Buchanan, support the measure, stating that “taking one person’s private property to hand it to another is morally questionable, to say the least.”
Come April’s elections we will see where Sierra Madre residents stand on the measure.
Commentary from A.J. Hazarabedian:
Under both the Federal and State Constitutions, eminent domain is already limited to “public use.” Thus, eminent domain for private use is already technically prohibited by Federal and State law. While Courts have broadly interpreted the term “public use” to include such things as redevelopment, it is unclear how the City’s addition of a prohibition on eminent domain for “private use” – given that eminent domain for private use is already prohibited under Federal and State law – will be any more clear than existing law. Since it is the City Council which decides when or whether to use the City’s eminent domain powers, perhaps the City should just consider using eminent domain only when it is for a proper public use, rather than imposing an unnecessary duplication of existing law on themselves.