The State Of Property Rights In Virginiaby Doug Mataconis
In the second part of an editorial series, the Virginian-Pilot takes a look at the state of property rights in Virginia and finds that things are far from encouraging in the land that was once the birthplace of liberty:
For example, Virginia is one of only sixteen states that have not passed a law to prohibit the kind of takings that were upheld by the Kelo decision. Legislators have consistently rebuffed such efforts and claimed that Virginia localities simply don’t have the power to do what the City of New London did. Reality, however, appears to be far different. Consider these examples:
- Last year, the Supreme Court of Virginia permitted a condemnation by Alexandria to help rid a developer of an obstacle. To better arrange his land for condos, shopping and offices, the developer wanted to move a drainage culvert onto the land of an adjacent owner, who resisted. Alexandria officials acknowledged that the condemnation was done just to assist the developer. Not even the Supreme Court in the Kelo ruling went this far. It drew the line against takings that confer a purely private benefit on an particular private party.
- The Board of Supervisors in Halifax County condemned one personâ€™s land at the request of his neighbor, who wanted it for a paved driveway. The landowner even put the money up. Now, state taxpayers are maintaining the mile-long road, though it serves only one family. The local court upheld the taking and the Virginia Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal.
- During the construction of Route 221 in Bedford, the Virginia Department of Transportation used a new car wash as a staging area for its construction equipment. For a year, the disruption cost the owner half his business. In a hearing to determine damages, the judge refused to permit the owner to enter any of this into evidence before a jury and ruled the owner was not entitled to recover any money. The state Supreme Court refused an appeal. It could have been worse: The car wash owner could have been put out of business entirely, but legally would have no claim against the state.
There are others, and, of course, Virginia is not the only state where things like this are happening.Â It is distressing, though, in the land of Thomas Jefferson and George Mason. And, it should serve a lesson for the rest of the country. Don’t trust your legislators when they tell you that your home is safe and that you don’t need to worry about Kelo happening in your backyard.