Property Owners Threatened by Land Condemnations

Posted on August 16, 2002 | Type: Press Release
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Study Recommends Repeal of 1997 Redevelopment Statutes

Phoenix, AZ-Are property owners in danger of having their land taken by the government to make way for hardware stores and strip malls? In a study released today by the Goldwater Institute, land use and zoning attorney Jordan Rose argues that takings for private use are on the upswing in Arizona. Rose blames the 1997 redevelopment statutes, saying they have "gutted the Arizona Constitution's prohibition against taking private property for private use."

Under the 1997 statutes, an area can now be targeted for redevelopment if, among other reasons, it is deemed to have a predominance of "defective or inadequate street layout," or insufficient "diversity of ownership." More generally, the statutes allow an area to be redeveloped if it "substantially impairs or arrests the sound growth of a municipality" or "retards the provision of housing accommodations."

Rose argues that such open-ended language has given municipalities "the power to act as strong-arm real-estate brokers in what should be private land transactions." Rose cites several examples of takings for private use. In some of these cases, the original house or business has been razed, but the land sits vacant. In other cases, properties designated for redevelopment have languished in a kind of real estate limbo: waiting for their properties to be condemned, the owners can't sell and are discouraged from making improvements.

To stop this abuse, Rose argues that the state legislature should revoke the 1997 redevelopment statutes in their entirety. She also argues that the legislature should require municipalities to hold at least two public hearings prior to any condemnation. Currently, a general plan amendment requires two public hearings, but condemnations are generally not discussed in public hearings.

Short of legislative reform, Rose suggests that Arizona property owners use political opposition and litigation to fight unlawful takings by municipalities. As an example of political opposition, she cites the Coach House's successful effort to resist condemnation by the Scottsdale City Council. Rose believes that litigation, such as the suit involving Bailey's Brake Service and the city of Mesa, can help all landowners by limiting municipalities' powers to take for private use.

For a hard copy of the study, contact Tom Jenney, (602) 744-9603 or write to tjenney@goldwaterinstitute.org.

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