Brooks: Takings Bill Came Shockingly Close to Passing

June 16, 2014

Inside Insight

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no trespassing“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

Actually, John Locke used the word “property” rather than “happiness.”

In your pursuit of happiness or property, have you worked hard and saved money to acquire your  TV, furniture, car, house or land?

How would you feel if someone came and took these things from you?  A bill introduced in the 2014 legislative session, S.375, proposed to do exactly that. The bill came dangerously close to passage: It made it all the way through the Senate, then died in the House when time ran out.

S.375 is essentially this: eminent domain property seizure cloaked in the veil of zoning ordinances. After government seizing your land, they could give it to someone who could make improvements to it and sell it. And if the seller didn’t make a guaranteed 10 percent profit, the property owner could legally be charged for the difference. If your property doesn’t meet some government ordinance, it could be seized and sold without your consent – and you could end up owing money to the seller.

There are a host of unanswered questions in this legislation. Will the property owner be compensated at all, or is the property free to the government “receiver” who decided it did not meet a government ordinance?  If the property owner is compensated, will taxpayer money be used, as is the case in most eminent domain takings – so essentially taxpayers pay for our neighbor’s property to be stolen?  Will the county lose tax revenue and eventually raise taxes on the rest of us working stiffs?  When non-consenting land owners fight to keep their property, who pays for county litigation and legal representation?

But perhaps the most disturbing thing about S.375 is that only eight senators voted “No” on it.

What can be done about eminent domain here in Greenville County?

  • Minimize the amount of land the county can acquire through eminent domain.
  • Require the county to use fair market value for the land and properties being acquired.
  • Require the county submit itself to binding arbitration in the resolution of legal disputes resulting from the acquisition of land/property via eminent domain.

Supporters of S.375 and similar bills claim that by opposing the acquisition of land via eminent domain, we are against the environment and we don’t want to give up property for the betterment and beautification of our community and humanity. Take a look at any piece of government-owned property and ask yourself: Who has the strongest incentive to protect, preserve, and beautify property – government or individuals?

In a word, can the government simply keep its hands off our property?

Editor’s Note: Brooks is a resident of north Greenville County.