Come January, the Virginia General Assembly will revisit local delegate Rob Bell’s state constitution amendment to limit eminent domain, the process that contribtued to the creation of Shenandoah National Park as well as the destruction of Vinegar Hill during urban renewal. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who authored an eminent domain bill in 2007, is stoking the fires for Bell’s bill now.
Bell’s bill makes explicit the costs for reimbursing property owners whose land is seized for public use, but also states that any group condemning property must "bear the burden" of proving the public, rather than private, nature of the use. Cuccinelli told the Virginia NAACP convention that protection against eminent domain can be "chipped away" by subsequent assemblies if not "enshrined" in the Constitution.
"Right now, the people of Charlottesville are still hurting over the razing of the once-thriving Vinegar Hill, where many African-American homes and businesses were located," said Cuccinelli on Saturday. "Although that urban renewal project happened decades ago, city council has just drafted up a formal apology that they’ll vote on November 7. We need to make sure that what happened to Vinegar Hill, what happened in Roanoke and Norfolk and all over Virginia, doesn’t happen again-not now, not ever."
Do such specifications need to be codified in the state constitution? A February op-ed in the Times-Dispatch outlines a few instances of what the writer calls David v. Goliath cases, but a March follow-up suggested that perhaps the Davids and Goliaths were capable of rational negotations. Leave your thoughts on the eminent domain amendment below.