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Idea limits land grabs

March 24, 2006|By Kathleen Stinson

The Newport Beach City Council may soon join other local governments across the country and limit the power of eminent domain to take private property for commercial development.

Newport Beach City Councilman Keith Curry said Wednesday that he will introduce an ordinance to prohibit the use of eminent domain for the purpose of taking private property and transferring it to another private property owner. He plans to pattern the ordinance after proposed Measure A ? drafted by Orange County Supervisor Chris Norby ? which addresses the same issue and will appear on the June 6 ballot.

"The idea that the city would forcibly take someone's private property for a commercial development, or attempt to close down a church in favor of a department store is repugnant to me and repugnant to Newport Beach citizens," Curry said.

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City Atty. Robin Clauson said her interpretation of state law is the power of eminent domain can only be used for public use, not commercial development. However, under the state redevelopment law, there are provisions that authorize eminent domain for economic purposes such as private development.

Curry said the pending takeover of Santa Ana Heights Redevelopment Agency from the county could potentially raise this issue.

Councilman Steve Rosansky said he doesn't think the taking of private property for commercial development is an issue that would come up in Newport Beach. No one on the council would vote in favor of it, he said.

A while back, it was rumored that a developer wanted to buy properties in the Lido Marina shopping area to develop a new center, and some people feared the city would use its power of eminent domain, Rosansky said. Unofficially, the council made it clear the city would never take personal property for private development.

Statewide, a group called the Protect Our Homes Coalition is raising money to put an initiative on the November ballot to protect private property rights.

Curry said his proposed ordinance would not limit the city's power to use eminent domain for public purposes such as streets and water lines, health and safety violations and the construction of public facilities. He plans to ask the city attorney to comment on the feasibility of such an ordinance at the March 28 council meeting.

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