New eminent domain law helps protect churches
JEFFERSON CITY – Churches and non-profit organizations that may be at risk of having their property seized now have an additional level of protection through an eminent domain reform bill signed into law July 13 by Gov. Matt Blunt. The effective date for the bill becoming law is Aug. 28.
The new law is Missouri’s response to the findings of the United States Supreme Court in Kelo v. New London, a decision that gave local governments more license to go after church properties because they are not producing tax revenue. The new law rejects Kelo by prohibiting the use of eminent domain solely for economic development purposes and strengthening the property rights of churches.
It requires “just compensation” for condemned property to be determined by factors beyond fair market value, such as heritage value, according to the governor’s office. Condemning authorities will now be required to pay relocation costs to individuals who are displaced by eminent domain. It also contains a “landowner bill of rights” to help inform property owners about the eminent domain process.
Blunt formed the Missouri Task Force on Eminent Domain to tackle the issue. The new law contains 16 of the 18 recommendations by the task force.
Ceremonial bill signings took place in Jefferson City, LaPlata, St. Joseph, Webb City and Fair Grove.