Given that the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling permitting governments to take private property in the name of higher tax revenue effectively guts federal constitutional protections against condemnation, the policies and practices of local governments on eminent domain are all the more relevant. Peoria is the only city in Arizona, and perhaps the nation, that has a formal eminent domain policy.
On its face, Peoria’s policy acknowledges the “the private property rights guaranteed by the Arizona and United States Constitutions.” The policy takes a step in the right direction by giving limited deference to owner-occupied housing, acknowledging the severe injustice in taking someone’s home by force.
Unfortunately, the policy also goes out of its way to outline procedures for condemning property for “third party development projects” – the very sort of eminent domain abuse at work in the recent Supreme Court decision.
A truly responsible eminent domain policy would forbid, not direct, this sort of legitimized theft.
At the very least, the policy should explicitly reflect the language of the state constitution which states that the authority to take private property only extends to matters of “public use”; it does not allow eminent domain for private use or what the city calls “public purpose.” This means abandoning the sections of the policy that permit the city to give condemned property to third parties and relying strictly on the constitution’s “public use” requirement. The difference between “use” and “purpose” is large; as large as a new condo complex built on top of an old neighborhood.
Goldwater Institute Study: Alternatives to Eminent Domain