St. Louis Public Radio News
6:08 pm
Fri December 11, 2009

Pre-filed legislation would limit eminent domain in Mo.

Jefferson City, Mo. – Legislation has been filed in Jefferson City for a proposed constitutional amendment that would limit the use of eminent domain in so-called "blighted" neighborhoods.

The resolution is sponsored by State Representative Belinda Harris (D, Hillsboro). She says it's designed to protect homeowners who are working to improve their properties from having local governments give them to a developer via eminent domain.

"The developers come in and buy these houses here and there, and let them go to pot, the windows are broke out and the roofs are leaking, and they have created this blight," Harris said.

According to Harris, the resolution would compel cities to use other measures besides eminent domain to combat blight, such as placing liens on properties.

"I think what you will find out is if you put that in place, developers would stop buying these houses and letting them go to rack and ruin and destroy neighborhoods that are trying to grow," Harris said.

Harris cited as an example developer Paul McKee's buying up of large parcels of land in north St. Louis and letting them sit untouched. However, she said her legislation is not in response to the controversy surrounding McKee's actions.

There is also a citizens' petition drive underway that would place the same limits on eminent domain. It's sponsored by Ron Calzone of the group Missouri Citizens for Property rights, an opponent of McKee's plans.

If either method succeeds, the issue would go before Missouri voters next November.