NC Constitutional Amendment to Restrict Eminent Domain, Strengthen Property Rights

RALEIGH – ‘Esse quam videri,’ our state motto, means ‘To be, rather than to seem.‘ Another, less formal motto would be that of the ‘First in Freedom state,’ on account of North Carolinians’ early recorded calls for independence from the British Crown.

Taken together, you’d think North Carolina would BE more about FREEDOM than most states, when it comes to the government simply taking your property, whether you want to sell or not.

Unfortunately, though, when it comes to eminent domain, North Carolina is one of the worst in the nation at protecting your property rights against abuse and unjust takings. In fact, we are the only state in the nation that still doesn’t include ‘Just Compensation’ guarantees in its state constitution for government takings.

For public use, for private use, property owners in North Carolina have little constitutional assurance that some connected real estate developer or a city council ‘greenways’ fanatic cannot force you out of your property, against your will, for whatever purpose a local bureaucracy deems appropriate. (See; theft)

That could be about to change, if Rep. Dennis Riddell (R-Alamance) is successful in getting his bill through the General Assembly and onto our ballots in 2022. House Bill 271 would present a constitutional amendment to voters that prohibits the condemnation and taking of land except for public use, requiring just compensation for such public use takings, and guaranteeing a property owner’s right to a trial by jury in all condemnation cases.

If passed by the legislature and approved by the people, it would be a big step toward walking the walk when it comes to Esse Quam Videri.

This legislation is necessary to prevent overreach of state government into property takings that are not for a public use, but rather benefit private development,” said Riddell in a statement. “We are currently the only state in the nation that does not have just compensation guarantees in our state constitution for government takings. That is a big concern for the people.

In some cases, VERY big concerns, as described in this piece from John Trump:

“[…] Last summer, Locke and N.C. Advocates for Justice filed a joint amicus, or “friend-of-the-court,” brief in support of a Wake County property owner, Beverly Rubin, who has spent the past several years in a legal battle with the town of Apex over a sewer line that the town installed across her property in 2015.

It was a taking for private purposes, the court has ruled, as opposed to a public taking. The state constitution forbids the former. Still, the battle continues.

“It’s very important,” Guze said in a CJ video interview, “that however this plays out, we need to vindicate that principle. We don’t want towns and cities, or any government, to be able to take property for a private person, only if it’s a public purpose.”

The N.C. Court of Appeals recently heard the case, the latest step in the protracted legal battle. Problem is, Apex already installed the line, which now serves a subdivision. […]”

Well, wasn’t that nice a nice profit-protecting move the municipality made for the developer of that subdivision? Ms. Rubin’s property rights took a back seat to the allure of more and more tax revenue to fund the ‘Peak of Good Living’ in Apex, a trade off made far too often across the state.

The case is still ongoing, but luckily Riddell’s bill has passed the House with a lot of bipartisan support. It now heads to the N.C. Senate, where similar proposals have died in previous years. If you’re interested in clarifying constitutional protections to your property rights, make sure your North Carolina senator knows you expect them to stand up and support this bill. To BE about those campaign talking points, instead of merely seeming like a politician interested in protecting your rights.

Follow the bill’s progress here.

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