To the editor:
The proposed home rule charter fails Washington County landowners. As a member of the charter board, I was concerned about two items the board failed to include. The proposed charter offers county residents no protection from eminent domain abuse and it offers no broader protections for property owners.
Eminent domain allows government to take private property for public use, provided government provides just compensation and obeys due process. But as the infamous 2005 Kelo v. New London Supreme Court ruling made clear, government often abuses its eminent domain power, seizing private land and redistributing it to developers.
Public outcry over Kelo resulted in many state and local governments adopting laws to reduce eminent domain abuse. As part of that movement, I recommended a similar protection be placed in the proposed charter. Unfortunately, the majority of board members refused to grant county residents that protection. The board disagreed on the legality of this clause, since eminent domain is generally a prerogative of the state. It should have been included and if it were not legally enforceable, then the county council could ask the court to take it out.