As part of the NFIB Legal Center’s Just Compensation Project, we are stepping up our efforts to defend the right of small business owners to receive full and fair compensation for eminent domain takings. This is a nationwide effort. In March we filed in an eminent domain case out of Westerville, Ohio. Now our fight for full and fair compensation takes us to the California Supreme Court in Stamper v. City of Perris.
Here the government is raising a down-right Orwellian argument in justification for a low-ball compensation award. The City of Perris initiated eminent domain proceedings to take a strip of land across a commercial property, but it is insisting that it should only be required to value the land in question as if it were used for agricultural purposes. That would be one thing if that was the only potential use for the property; however, in this case the owners could have sought to develop the property—which means the property should be valued substantially higher.
But this is where the curve-ball comes. The City argues that it would never approve a development permit for the property unless the owner agreed to dedicate the very land it is trying to take here. In other words, the City thinks that it should be able to get around the requirement to value the property in light of its most profitable potential uses by insisting that it would simply require the owners to give the government the property as a condition of getting a permit approval. Of course with that rationale government could systematically undercompensate landowners in eminent domain cases. Accordingly, we joined with Pacific Legal Foundation in an amicus brief urging the Court to reject the City’s Orwellian arguments. We believe this is important because other cities throughout the country will be taking note of what happens in the California Supreme Court here.