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Gov. McDonnell pushes for eminent domain constitutional amendment

Richmond, Va. (WTVR)–Governor Bob McDonnell has signed legislation to help protect property rights of Virginians, by putting a constitutional amendment on the November 6 ballot.

Virginia lawmakers passed legislation in 2007 that prevents governments from taking private property and giving it to another for private gain, private increasing jobs, tax revenues or economic development.

Despite the law, the governor argued property rights could still be chipped away without a constitutional amendment.

The amendment also ensures that property owners are not only compensated for their property, but for lost access to their property and lost benefits.

“These are important tenets of American democracy,” McDonnell said.  “If you work hard and achieve value in your property or business, then if the government takes it or you lose it through no fault of your own, you need to be properly compensated.”

Chesterfield resident John Farrar said he’s happy to hear about the legislation, although he fears it may have come too late for him.

Farrar’s property is among 180 homes that have fallen under the law of eminent domain.  Nearby Virginia State University is undergoing a major expansion project and has requested that several homeowners and small business owners sell their property.

“You feel kind of sad because you know sooner or later, you’ve got to go,” Farrar said.  However he fears he won’t be justly compensated for the property he paid off several years ago before retiring.

“Some people say they’re getting a pretty good price, others say they’re not,” argued Farrar.  “So you don’t know what to believe.”

Virginia lawmakers said they were motivated by the 2005 U.S. Supreme Court case involving a Connecticut homeowner who had his property taken as part of an economic redevelopment plan.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said Monday, “We have fought every year since the 2005 Kelo decision to strengthen property rights in the Commonwealth through various bills and three attempts at a constitutional amendment.  A property rights amendment to Virginia’s constitution is the ultimate protection,”  Cuccinelli said.

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