In a unanimous decision Monday night, Columbia City Council voted to put a measure that changes how the city can exercise eminent domain on the April ballot.
With the City Council approval of a charter amendment to put the proposal on the ballot, voters will decide whether or not the city may transfer seized property to entities for private purposes. The amendment’s current wording prompted a discussion by city council pertaining to specifics of what does and does not qualify as a private entity.
Mayor Bob McDavid proposed one hypothetical situation and asked city counselor, Fred Boeckmann, how the amendment would affect the private development of and with a storm water abatement.
“Somebody wants to acquire it because they’re building a mall next door to it and they want to use it to abate the storm water demands. Would we be transferring them something for economic gain?" McDavid asked.
Boeckmann said: "Well I think it has more to do with why the city was acquiring the property. If you’re acquiring it so you could help this mall deal with their storm water problems that would be a different issue. That might be prohibited.”
City council probed for answers to this example and others, citing them as unintended problems that may arise if the amendment passes. According to city council, specific state-level constitutional provisions or statutes would decide whether or not the city could take the land on a case by case basis.
The public will vote in a special election on April 3.