The Illinois Association of Realtors has called on the Illinois General Assembly to restrict powers of eminent domain, and has petitioned for state legislation that would strengthen Illinois law in this area.

 

Julie Sullivan, assistant director of governmental affairs for the Illinois association, testified today before the Illinois Senate State Government Committee hearing held at the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago. The hearing was called to review eminent domain laws in response to the recent U. S. Supreme Court decision of Kelo vs. City of New London.

 

In the 5-4 decision announced on June 23, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that the Fifth Amendment does not prohibit a local city government from using the power of eminent domain to take privately owned property to promote economic development.

 

“We oppose the taking of private property for non-public uses and oppose the widespread use of these extraordinary powers given to governmental bodies,” said Sullivan, representing the 55,000 Realtor member organization. “The Illinois Association of Realtors clearly opposes the taking of private property without just compensation, as directed by the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. We encourage the acquisition of property by purchase on the open market rather than by condemnation.”

 

In response to the hearing today, Illinois Association of Realtors President John Veneris stated, “We strongly believe in the right of individuals to own real property without the fear of a government taking. Illinois law clearly is a patchwork right now in regards to eminent domain and the spotlight that the Kelo decision has placed on this issue gives us the opportunity to clarify the law in Illinois. We oppose the widespread use of the power of eminent domain and support clarifying and strengthening Illinois state law regarding the issue.”

 

The Supreme Court in its majority decision in the Kelo decision stated, “Nothing in our opinion precludes any State from placing further restrictions on its exercise of the takings power. Indeed, many States already impose ‘public use’ requirements that are stricter than the federal baseline.” Some of these requirements have been established by state constitutional law, while others are provided by state eminent domain statutes that limit the grounds upon which condemnations may be exercised. Property owners in some states may be legally protected against the type of eminent domain action at issue in the Kelo case.

 

“This is a historic opportunity for the Illinois General Assembly to further strengthen and safeguard the rights of Illinois citizens,” said Sullivan. “We believe that since eminent domain impacts the constitutional rights of property owners, it should be exercised carefully and only in special circumstances.”

 

House Bill 4091 has already been introduced that prohibits the exercise of the power of eminent domain for private ownership or control, including for economic development, unless it is specifically and expressly authorized by law by the General Assembly.

 

The Realtors association is calling upon the Illinois General Assembly to adopt a general state statute that would uniformly apply to all condemnation actions in the state and would further strengthen and safeguard the rights of Illinois citizens. 

 

The statute would include the following elements:

 

  • A clearly defined term for “public use”;

  • A prohibition of the condemnation of private property when any of the property to be taken will ultimately be owned, leased to, sold or developed under any other proprietary arrangement by a private party; i.e., a non-governmental entity or person, unless specifically and expressly authorized by a 3/5 vote of each chamber of the Illinois General Assembly;

  • Codification of the procedures adopted in the House for the use of quick-take for all eminent domain actions;

  • In determining whether a taking is for a public use, consider the intended use of each parcel to be taken and not the project as a whole;

  • Require that the payment of “just compensation” as directed by the Fifth Amendment, must cover the additional costs incurred by property owners affected by condemnation actions above and beyond the loss of the subject property.

“In light of the Kelo decision, we hope the Illinois General Assembly stands ready to strengthen state law as it relates to eminent domain,” said Veneris.

 

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