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Arlington Wary of Eminent Domain Amendment

Arlington County has been warily monitoring the progress of a proposed amendment to the Virginia Constitution that would place additional restrictions on governmental usage of eminent domain.

The amendment proposal, which has the strong support of Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, passed the state Senate and House of Delegates this week, by votes of 24-16 and 83-14 respectively. It’s expected to be put to Virginia voters as a referendum in November.

The amendment would make it harder for governments to seize private property via eminent domain. It specifies that property may only be taken for public uses, and not for the purpose of economic development. It would also provide property owners with compensation for “lost profits and lost access,” in addition to the fair market value of the property.

“This is really a goldmine for attorneys,” County Board member Jay Fisette said during yesterday afternoon’s Board meeting. Fisette cited a statistic suggesting the amendment could cost the Virginia Department of Transportation at least $40 million due to lawsuits.

The amendment could also have implications for Arlington, which recently threatened to seize a Courthouse office building via eminent domain.

“I can tell you that local governments throughout Virginia have raised numerous concerns that seem to have fallen on deaf ears,” Fisette said.

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