Another Small Step for Virginia’s Property Owners

Thank you to all who responding to our Legislative Alert for HB 652, which will give property owners more leverage in obtaining fair value and damages for their seized property as well as take in to consideration restriction of access to or from a property.

The bill has now passed the House Courts of Justice Committee and the House Appropriations Committee. It passed each committee unanimously and should head to the floor of the House soon.  Amendments were added, but they have not been released yet.

The importance of bills like HB 652 are summed up by the following words of Chuck Lollar, an eminent domain attorney with Waldo & Lyle:

“As you may know, in Virginia, governmental agencies spend a lot of taxpayer dollars lobbying for legislation that favors government and in effect deprives private property owners of the opportunity to be made whole in the condemnation process. It seems inherently unfair that government can spend your tax dollars to lobby for laws that make the condemnation process more difficult for the tax-paying citizens when their property is taken. One state, Louisiana, prohibits governmental entities from lobbying for this very reason.

We believe the right to be justly compensated for private property taken for public use, which is guaranteed by Virginia’s Declaration of Rights, (adopted before the federal Bill of Rights and now a part of Virginia’s Constitution) is a fundamental right which secures our freedom as much if not more than other individual rights. It necessarily means that the private property owner must be placed in the same position after private property is taken, in other words the owner must be made whole. Anything less falls short and erodes our freedom, one case at a time.

Many citizens do not realize that a loss of business is not compensable when private property is taken for public use in Virginia.  It is in Florida and other states. In addition, one governmental agency is notorious for taking private property without any clear understanding of whether it is really needed for a public project. Only after a property owner spends thousands of dollars proving damages resulting from the take does the agency belatedly conclude that it really does not need all the property originally taken. The agency then amends its condemnation petition with impunity, to eliminate the damages proven by the owner.  It then denies the property owner reimbursement for all the costs incurred in the process, so it is easy to see how the citizen falls far short of being made whole.”

Let’s continue to call our legislators and protect our property rights.

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