A legislative committee in Illinois this week approved a bill that seeks to limit the eminent domain power of local government to seize private homes and businesses, especially in cases that involve private developments, according to an announcement by a coalition that includes the Illinois Association of Realtors and the Home Builders Association of Illinois.

The Coalition to Protect Illinois Property also includes the Illinois Farm Bureau, AFL-CIO, United Food and Commercial Workers, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Outdoor Advertising Association of Illinois, National Federation of Independent Businesses, Illinois Retail Merchants Association, Illinois Property Tax Lawyers Association, Alliance for Responsible Taxation, Mobile Home Owners Association of Illinois, and Lawndale Business and Local Development Corp.

The legislation was first introduced by state Sen. Susan Garrett (D-Lake Forest) following a U.S. Supreme Court decision in Kelo vs. New London, which affirmed the eminent domain powers of local government to seize private property and turn it over to private interests.

Several other states, too, introduced legislation soon after the Kelo decision to weaken the eminent domain authority of local government and provide more protections for homeowners.

The Illinois House of Representatives Judiciary-Civil Law Committee approved an amended version of Senate Bill 3086, which had bi-partisan support in the state Senate, the coalition announced. The legislation “is the result of intensive negotiations between advocates for private property owners and municipal representatives, including the City of Chicago and the Illinois Municipal League,” according to the announcement.

State Rep. John Bradley (D-Marion), the House sponsor for the legislation, said in a statement, “I believe we have addressed any concerns among the municipalities that this bill would impede important economic development or public works projects, while providing meaningful protections that level the playing field between powerful government and private property owners.”

The bill is expected to be called for a vote by the state House of Representatives next week.

The House amendments to SB 3086 consolidate various existing statutes relating to eminent domain actions, the coalition announced.

The legislation would:

– Require municipalities to prove that an area is blighted before forcing owners to sell for private development projects;

– Require government entities to pay relocation costs for displaced residents and businesses consistent with federal law in all eminent domain actions;

– Allow a judge to set a valuation date for seized property that ensures owners will receive current, fair market value when they are forced to sell if the trial commences more than two years after the date of filing;

– Require the government to award attorney’s fees based on the net benefit achieved for the property owner when an owner successfully challenges the last written offer from the government, providing the owner has made an offer in good faith to settle;

– Require that government seizure of property for private development either have a written agreement with a developer or that it be part of an established plan to eliminate blight and that a written agreement or deed restriction is in place to ensure that the property is ultimately used for said purpose.

The coalition also noted that the bill applies only to actions begun on or after the effective date. “Municipalities fought for and won language that exempts burden of proof provisions in existing Tax Increment Financing districts where blight has been determined previously and property acquisition plans are already in place or moving forward. However, the legislation would not allow the area of an existing district to be expanded nor the completion date established to be extended,” the coalition announced.

“It is crucial that we have clear and transparent laws to protect property owners,” Garrett said in a statement. “The Supreme Court invited us to act and we have done so by codifying existing state and federal precedents. Now citizens will fully understand what their rights are.”

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