Columbia voters to decide on "blight" prop and the city's use of eminent domain

Mar 29, 2013

If approved, Proposition One would limit the city of Columbia’s ability to designate property as blighted for the purposes of acquiring it with eminent domain. It would also prevent eminent domain from being used to transfer the ownership of property from one private owner to another. Sixth Ward Councilmember Barbara Hoppe proposed the bill. She says that it will help sooth concerns about how the blight designation and eminent domain are used. “Well I think there’s just a general public concern about the overuse and misuse of eminent domaink," she says, "particularly after the Kelo vs. the City of New London’s Supreme Court decision.”

Kelo vs. the City of New London was a 2005 Supreme Court case that expanded city government’s use of the eminent domain.  Susette Kelo, the plaintiff, lost after suing the city of New London for misuse of its eminent domain power by giving her property to another private owner.

Second Ward Councilman Michael Trapp says that the proposition is more of a symbolic statement of intent for future city councils. “It does limit the city’s ability to pursue eminent domain for commercial development purchases," he says, "but only if we don’t use a state program. And there’s nobody on council – or ever in the history of council - that’s ever proposed such a thing, So it’s unnecessary and largely toothless.”

Both Trapp and Hoppe voted for the proposition to be added to the ballot. Columbia residents get the opportunity to vote on the measure in municipal elections, Tuesday, April 2.