COLUMBIA — A proposed charter amendment would prevent the city from using the power of eminent domain to acquire a property for development, unless it was blighted.
The amendment, which will be formally addressed by the Columbia City Council on Oct. 8, would define "blighted property" as land that meets the following three requirements:
- The land contains a structure that was found to be a public nuisance following an administrative hearing.
- The owner of the structure has failed to resolve the problem within a reasonable period of time after the hearing.
- The cost to reduce the nuisance exceeds 50 percent of the market's value of the structure.
The amendment also defines the city's acquisition of property for economic purposes as having the intent to transfer it to a person or entity for private use.
Declaring an area blighted is one of the requirements to establish an enhanced enterprise zone — a measure that has been heavily discussed over the past year.
Jeremy Root, a local attorney who serves on the EEZ Advisory Board, said the proposed amendment, which must be passed by the council and then approved by a public vote, wouldn't have been considered by the council unless there was public concern about eminent domain abuse.
"If the council or the public at large is uncomfortable with establishing an EEZ without these protections, it may make sense to postpone the ultimate decision on the EEZ until after the proposed amendment has been presented for a public vote," Root said in an email.
Monta Welch, head of "A People's Visioning", said the proposal could be an attempt to help calm worries regarding blight and its association with enhanced enterprise zones.
"In at least one sense, they're trying to get rid of peoples' fears with eminent domain and the EEZ," Welch said. "Presumably, they think that changing this blight designation is going to make people think they don't have to worry about it."
A public vote will be held April 2, 2013 if the amendment is approved.
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.