For over thirty years the Libertarian Party has consistently warned of the potential abuses of the government’s power of eminent domain that allows government confiscation of private property for public use.
Over the years, Libertarians have fought attempts across the country to confiscate private property for such things as commercial sport stadiums, shopping malls, private housing developments, and other projects that create windfalls for some at the expense of the
displaced property owner.
The Vermont Libertarian Party has noted the recent finding of the U.S. Supreme Court that, since “public use” is not defined in the U.S. Constitution, it is up to the individual states and localities to define “public use” when authorizing eminent domain confiscations. The Court decision allows such “public use” to include commercial use by private entities, if a state finds it in the public interest.
In fact, Vermont’s history includes several such unfortunate uses of eminent domain, including Urban Renewal projects in Burlington and Winooski as late as 1968, in which working-class residents were displaced from their homes to make way for upscale private re-development of their neighborhoods.
The Vermont Libertarian Party urges an amendment of the Vermont Constitution to eliminate such abuses of eminent domain in Vermont by limiting the definition of “public use” to preclude confiscation of property for later conveyance to private entities, commercial or otherwise.
The chair of the Vermont Libertarian Party, Scott Berkey warned, “Many of us in Vermont assume that eminent domain can only be used by the state for public works projects or similar traditional public uses. However, it’s clear that Vermont’s constitution does not confine state use of eminent domain so narrowly.”
Berkey noted that without a clause in the Vermont state constitution to limit the definition of public use, private property owners in Vermont remain at risk of losing their homes and land to government supported renewal and re-development efforts.
“Vermonters, rich and poor, have long enjoyed the proud and quiet dignity of owning their own home or farm,” Berkey said. “It would be an act of wisdom and foresight to ensure that our rights to our property be immune from encroachment by special interests disguised as public interests.”
The Vermont Libertarian Party calls upon members of the Vermont Senate to initiate amendment of the Vermont Constitution’s language as regards the state power of eminent domain.
Scott Berkey, Chair
Vermont Libertarian Party
PO Box 5475, Burlington, VT 05402 | (802) 728-6211 | www.vtlp.org