OLYMPIA—The House Judiciary Committee will hear two government accountability bills tomorrow aimed at protecting landowners from losing their property to condemnation.
The measures, requested by Attorney General Rob McKenna and prime-sponsored by Rep. Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam, will help property owners by narrowing the ability of government to condemn property due to blight and by informing them of their rights in such situations.
The state’s Community Renewal law allows municipalities to eliminate “blight” using the power of eminent domain. The statutory definition of “blight” includes any physical deterioration, inappropriate uses of land, diversity of ownership, high levels of unemployment or poverty, crime, as well as factors affecting welfare and morals. Blight is also defined as an “area” affected by those conditions – a term McKenna says is too broad.
“The way the law is written now, an entire neighborhood that has some blighted parcels and some non-blighted parcels could fall under the definition of a blighted area,” McKenna said. “A landowner with a perfectly unblighted piece of property could be affected it if fell within one of these community renewal areas. These two government accountability bills will help protect those landowners from losing their property.”
House bill 2921, sponsored by Kessler, Rep. Jay Rodne, R-Issaquah, and Rep. Larry Springer, D-Kirkland:
• Provides that the Community Renewal Law may be used only to rehabilitate or redevelop blighted properties, not blighted areas;
• Removes the authority for municipalities to prevent the development or spread of blight from the Community Renewal Law;
• Removes the authority for municipalities to use the Community Renewal Law for purposes of public welfare, public morals, or economic development; and
• Changes public notice requirements for the adoption of community renewal plans.
House bill 2920, sponsored by Kessler, Rodne, Springer, Rep. Dave Upthegrove, D-Des Moines, Rep. Dawn Morrell, D-Puyallup, and Rep. Kevin VanDeWege, D-Sequim, requires the Attorney General's Office to develop an eminent domain brochure, explaining eminent domain law, the authority of government agencies to use the law and rights of landowners affected by the law. Government staff will be required to mail a copy of the brochure with each notice of planned final action in condemnation proceedings.
House Judiciary Committee hearings on HB 2920 and HB 2921 on eminent domain
1:30 p.m. on January 23, 2008
House Hearing Rm A, John L. O'Brien Building on the Capitol Campus in Olympia.
Contact: Janelle Guthrie, APR, Communications Director, Office of AG Rob McKenna, (360) 586-0725