Property Rights

Your home is your castle—unless the government thinks it should be a shopping center. Learn how citizens and local governments can protect homes and businesses from government takeovers.

<p>Your home is your castle—unless the government thinks it should be a shopping center. Learn how citizens and local governments can protect homes and businesses from government takeovers.</p>

When state and local governments violate federal constitutional rights (e.g., First Amendment free speech), they can be sued in federal court — except when that government action violates the Fifth Amendment's protections for property rights.

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With states and cities struggling with deficits, one fertile source of revenue has been money or property seized by police in possible connection with crimes. Not to be left behind, Illinois has pursued this tactic aggressively, using a law which encourages both police departments and prosecutors to take property for forfeiture, long before the accused ever get their day in court.

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A Mesa, Arizona businessman learned about eminent domain abuse the hard way. When Bailey said he didn’t want to sell his family-owned brake shop, the city tried to use its power of eminent domain to take his property and give it to a local developer in the name of economic development. Bailey won in court, and Arizona passed Proposition 207 to help protect private property from such abuse. The Goldwater Institute developed Proposition 207 and is monitoring its success, and is committed to ensuring that government respects private property.

The League of Arizona Cities and Towns is encouraging its members to adopt waivers in which the person seeking a rezoning or conditional use permit agrees not to seek claims for the specific action requested.

Pima County and Marana have used similar language in rezonings approved this year, Sahuarita is working on a waiver and Tucson plans to make the waivers standard.

But some cities are using broader waivers.

Strobeck said he suspects some of the waivers will end up in court.

Arizona governments have declared war on your property rights. Arizonans can fight back by voting yes for Proposition 207, the Private Property Rights Protection Act.

Arizonans know the story of Randy Bailey. The city of Mesa tried to take his family-owned brake shop and give it (along with a $2 million subsidy) to a developer to relocate a hardware store.

The courts struck down the city's action, holding that under the Arizona Constitution, the power of eminent domain must be for a genuinely public use.

Arizona has used a legal tactic known as civil asset forfeiture to confiscate about $65 million worth of private property over the past four years.

And the state's laws allow police to seize property allegedly connected to a crime without ever filing criminal charges against the property owner.

So whether you are a business owner, a partner in a business, a homeowner or the parent of a child accused of wrongdoing, your assets could be seized even if you are not personally involved in the alleged act.

East Valley municipalities have repeatedly used Arizona's eminent domain laws to seize private property for public redevelopment projects.

Often, those projects have led to battles among municipalities, businesses and homeowners. Just as often, the projects intended to blossom from eminent domain haven't developed as planned. Some haven't developed at all. With that as a backdrop, the conservative Goldwater Institute is releasing a study Friday claiming the state's eminent domain laws lead to abuses of private property rights.

Eminent domain is not for doling out sweetheart deals

Anyone looking for a reason to tighten up on municipal governments' use of the power of eminent domain need only go to the corner of Mesa and University drives and look to the southwest, where three blocks designated as a "redevelopment area" and razed to make way for a grandiose time-share resort project bake barrenly in the sun.

Arizona voters sent a resounding message to their government: hands off our property. Passing Proposition 207 by a 65 percent majority, despite doomsday scenarios from elected officials and bureaucrats, the voters put the clamps on regulations that exceed normal governmental purposes and diminish the value of private property.

Given that public officials are sworn to uphold the law, one might expect them to figure out how to comply with the new limits. But, of course, most of the ingenuity is being poured into how to evade them.