You asked: Amendment on Nov. 6 ballotPublished 12:45pm Saturday, October 27, 2012
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You asked: Can you explain the proposed amendment that will appear on the Nov. 6 election ballot concerning eminent domain?
BY STEPHEN H. COWLES/CONTRIBUTING WRITER
FRANKLIN—The amendment seeks to narrowly define when the government can use eminent domain to seize private property.
“This proposed amendment strengthens property rights for us in Virginia so the government can’t take property for highways or schools without just compensation,” said Gary Cross, president of the Southampton County Farm Bureau. “Any landowners should want to vote for this. It protects you.”
In 2007, the Virginia General Assembly determined that private property could be taken just to create more jobs, revenue or tax base.
The proposal on the ballot is the result, in part, of work from Farm Bureaus throughout Virginia.
Amanda Jarratt, president and chief operating officer for Franklin Southampton Economic Development Inc., agreed.
“Virginia already has eminent domain laws after the Kelo decision. This simply strengthens the current legislation in effect,” she said.
Cross, a Blackcreek-area farmer, said the bureau has been keeping the matter before General Assembly for two years.
So far eminent domain has not been a problem in Southampton County, Cross said.
“But the new Route 460 highway is going to disrupt this. A lot of nice farms will be forced to sell,” he said.
Cross was referring to the 55-mile, $1.4 billion toll road that will be built between Suffolk and Petersburg and will pass through Southampton and Isle of Wight counties.
Should the amendment pass then fair compensation is more realistic, Cross said.
“How do you put a price on how you earn your livelihood? Now it’s time for the voters of Virginia,” said Cross. “You don’t get an amendment to the constitution every election. I feel strongly we’re going to succeed.”
Election officials in Western Tidewater say not many are aware of the ballot question.
“Some people have mentioned they didn’t know about this,” said Franklin Registrar Jennifer Maynard. “I would say that out in the community, people I’ve talked to don’t know.”
“Most of our voters — about 95 percent — have no idea that it’s on the ballot,” said Victoria Lonsdale, assistant registrar for Isle of Wight County.
Southampton County Registrar Peggy Davis said that most of the voters than personnel from her office have spoken with didn’t know what the ballot question meant.