Old Dominion University in Virginia is seeking to use its eminent domain authority to seize land. Why? It wants to build a shopping mall. How can it do this? The University is declaring the area “blighted.” Under Virginia law, if an area is blighted, regardless of whether that particular unit of land is blighted, eminent domain can be used to take the entire area of land.

So what is this terrible blight next door to the university? The land being taken belongs to a defense contractor that has been repairing the Navy’s communication systems at that location for 50 years. The company has been in business for 75 years. I doubt this is the kind of taking that was intended when the Virginia legislature enacted its eminent domain statutes.

Texans used to be subject to this same kind of taking. However, with the passage of a constitutional amendment last year, a blight designation can still be used to take a property, but it has to be done one property at a time; which makes it harder than it was in the past to take property in this way. Texas’ eminent domain laws still require more work, but at least we are moving in the right direction.

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– Ryan Brannan