SJR 37

Joint Subcommittee Studying Eminent Domain Issues

August 29, 2000, Richmond

The Joint Subcommittee Studying Eminent Domain Issues, continued from 1999 by SJR 37, held its first meeting of the year on August 29. The meeting consisted of an election of chairman and vice-chairman, staff reports on the 1999 study and 2000 legislative session, and discussion of issues to be studied in the coming year.

1999 Study

The joint subcommittee established by SJR 271/HJR 491 in 1999 held three information meetings and three public hearings throughout the Commonwealth during the 1999 interim. The information meetings featured presentations by experienced practitioners of eminent domain law; by a professor emeritus of law at Loyola University; by real estate appraisers; and by representatives of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and the Attorney General's Office.

The public hearings featured comments from a number of citizens involved in the eminent domain process. The Salem hearing focused on condemnations by electric utilities installing high-voltage transmission lines. Comments at the public hearing in Manassas centered on highway condemnations. Redevelopment housing authorities were the main topic of comment at the public hearing in Newport News.

The joint subcommittee then held three work sessions to develop recommendations to the General Assembly and prepare legislative proposals. The joint subcommittee examined all comments from experts and the public before making the following recommendations:

1. Replace the current commissioner system with a jury system, with the requirement that a majority of the members of the panel be owners of real property.

2. Raise the statutory limit for compensation for a survey conducted by the condemnee from $100 to $1,000.

3. Expand the Uniform Relocation Assistance Act provisions in the Code of Virginia to apply to all types of condemnations.

4. Remove the caps on business relocation expenses, and raise the maximum payments allowed to businesses that cannot or choose not to relocate from $20,000 to $50,000.

5. Allow tenants that have leases of 12 months or longer to intervene in the taking proceedings.

6. Require condemnors to supply to the condemnee a copy of the title information they have on hand before filing a certificate of take.

7. Require VDOT to use licensed real estate appraisers in conducting its valuations for property acquisitions.

8. Require condemnors to provide copies of appraisals of the property with their offer to purchase.

9. Prohibit the Commonwealth Transportation Board from acquiring any existing business within 300 feet of the exit point of the interstate system solely for the construction of controlled access.

10. The joint subcommittee also approved a resolution that would continue the study for another year and a resolution directing the Finance and Appropriations Committees to examine whether land acquisitions should be transferred from VDOT to the Department of General Services and paid for from the general fund.

2000 Eminent Domain Legislation

  • SB 453, which implemented a majority of the joint subcommittee's recommendations.
  • SB 63 incorporated the joint subcommittee's recommendation that application of the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act not be restricted to projects carried out with federal or state financial assistance. It also removed the $10,000 cap on payments for business relocation expenses and raised the existing cap on payments for the dislocation of a business or farm, in lieu of actual relocation expenses, from $20,000 to $50,000.
  • SB 110, which prohibited the Commonwealth Transportation Commissioner from exercising the power of eminent domain to acquire any portion of the property of an existing commercial establishment or any interest therein if the sole purpose of such acquisition is to control or limit access to commercial establishments located within 300 feet of any segment of the interstate highway system.
  • SJR 37 continued this joint subcommittee's study of eminent domain procedures for a second year.
  • SJR 38, which incorporated the joint subcommittee's recommendation that the Senate Finance and the House Appropriations Committees be directed to examine the feasibility of transferring the responsibility for acquiring property for highway purposes from the Department of Transportation to the Department of General Services. The resolution was rolled into SJR 170, which requests the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission to study the financing of highway maintenance and construction by VDOT.
  • HB 1123 and SB 452 required the Commonwealth Transportation Commissioner to notify the owner of a building, structure or other improvement if the commissioner intends to condemn property in a manner that would result in a taking of such improvement.
Carried Over
  • HB 1145, which required that real property identified by a housing authority for redevelopment be acquired by the housing authority within 36 months after the announcement of the redevelopment plan. The bill was referred to the House Committee on General Laws, which acted unanimously to carry the bill over to the 2001 Session.
  • HB 85 provided that a city or town may condemn property outside of its boundaries only if the property is located in a contiguous locality. The bill was carried over to 2001 in the House Courts of Justice Committee, and that committee requested this joint subcommittee to examine the bill in its study.
Though a divided joint subcommittee did not vote to introduce legislation allowing condemnees to recover litigation expenses from the condemnor, Senator Marye patroned SB 111, which is substantively identical to the draft that was presented to the joint subcommittee at its January 10, 2000, work session. The bill was passed by indefinitely in the Senate Committee for Courts of Justice.

2000 Work Plan

The joint subcommittee had a lengthy discussion about issues for examination in the 2000 interim. A number of issues were tabled in 1999 for further study, including payment of condemnees' litigation expenses, compensation for business losses, compensating the condemnee for the cost of an independent appraisal, and communicating public concern about VDOT's attitude and practices to VDOT by letter. The joint subcommittee also decided to review HB 85, procedures for notifying a landowner of a potential condemnation, and VDOT's process and time frames for completing a condemnation and providing payment to the condemnee. The joint subcommittee agreed to look at a VDOT proposal that would include state agencies in that list of exemptions of condemnors not required to rely upon an appraisal when the value of the property is less than $10,000, and will continue to monitor the results of legislative changes to eminent domain practices made in the 2000 Session.

The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, October 23, 2000, at 1:00 p.m. in Senate Room B.

The Honorable Madison E. Marye, Chairman
Legislative Services contact: C. Maureen Stinger