Somin Comments on Virginia Condemnations

Commenting in an article about an eight-year-long dispute between the City of Alexandria and the Old Dominion Boat Club (ODBC) in which seizure of a parking lot through eminent domain is a potential outcome, Somin remarked on the manner in which condemnations can be accomplished in Virginia.

"Virginia has one of the worst state constitutions in the entire country with regard to property rights," Somin said. "Most state constitutions say you can only take property for a public use. But what the Virginia constitution currently says is you can condemn property for any reason the legislature defines as a public use."

Last year Virginia voters approved an amendment to the state's constitution allowing land owners to seek damages from local governments under certain conditions. 

City Leaders Consider Eminent Domain if Boat Club Rejects Final Compromise, Alexandria Gazette Packet, September 5, 2013. By Michael Lee Pope.

"Now city leaders are in the awkward position of conducting a public negotiation with the boat club, even as members consider the city's final offer before possibly using eminent domain to take the parking lot. So far, the club has not yet responded to the request. But members of the club have a long history of rejecting offers from the city, and tensions over the waterfront plan linger at the waterfront club. That means that members of the Alexandria City Council are likely to consider eminent domain in a closed-door executive session this fall.

"'Eminent domain is something that should be very rare. The classic example is President Eisenhower using it to build the interstate system,' said Vice Mayor Allison Silberberg. 'This is not the interstate.'"

Read the article