Missouri Town Once Declared 60 Percent “Blighted” Votes to Ban Eminent Domain for Private Gain

Residents in Columbia, Mo., overwhelmingly voted this week to amend the city’s charter to restrict the use of eminent domain. Passing with almost 70 percent approval, Proposition 1 “prohibit[s] the City from using eminent domain to acquire property for economic development.”   The amendment also ensures that designating someone’s property as “blighted” will not trigger eminent domain. Like constitutional amendments, Proposition 1 can now only be overturned by a future ballot initiative.

In 2012, Columbia’s city council approved a resolution that “declared 60 percent of Columbia as blighted or having conditions that lead to blight.” By declaring these homes and businesses blighted, Columbia officials hoped to qualify for an “Enhanced Enterprise Zone,” a state-run program that provides tax incentives. Fortunately for property owners, that blight resolution was rescinded a few months later, after a public backlash.

But the rest of the Show-Me State is in dire need of eminent domain reform. Cities can condemn “blighted” property for vague, flimsy reasons like “inadequate street layout” and “obsolete platting.” No wonder Missouri received a D from the Institute for Justice for its lax eminent domain laws.

— Nick Sibilla
Nick Sibilla is a writer at the Institute for Justice

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