Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Eminent domain, "blight" and historic properties

The Greater Ohio web site reports that the Ohio Legislature's Eminent Domain Task Force has issued its recommendations on how the State of Ohio should approach the taking of public property for public or private development by state and local governments. The recommendations of the report include:

  • Affirming the right of local governments to use eminent domain to seize blighted property, even if the property is eventually transferred to a private party
  • Prohibiting government eminent domain takings solely for the purpose of generating added tax revenue or declaring blight solely on the basis that additional revenue could be generated
  • A constitutional amendment establishing a definition of blight for use by all local governments
  • Requiring that at least 50% of the property must be blighted for eminent domain to be used
  • Keeping the property in the hands of the owner until all appeals are exhausted, except in cases of "quick-takes," a special category that allows the state to seize land for roads and other emergencies
  • Compensating the property owner for loss of business, moving expenses and attorney's fees if not fairly compensated

One key concept in all this is the definition of "blighted areas" and "blighted parcels," which are contained in pages 29 through 33 of the final report. Here it appears that such considerations as "Age and obsolescence," "non-compliance with codes," or "inadequate street layouts" could be used to declare a parcel or neighborhood blighted. The language is very vague and could be applied to historic homes and districts, where age, obsolescence and out-moded layouts are commonly found.

The lack of attention to historic preservation could stem from the fact that the rooster of committee members does not appear to include any historians or historic preservation. I'm wondering where the Ohio Historical Society was in this process.


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