Eminent domain bills protect Pa. agriculture

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HARRISBURG, Pa. – Two Pennsylvania eminent domain bills signed May 4 by Gov. Edward Rendell will place stricter limits on local governments from seizing private property.
One of the bills, S.B. 881, prohibits taking land in order to use it for private enterprise.
Its companion bill, H.B. 2054, revises land condemnation procedures, and provides reimbursements to displaced farms, nonprofit organizations and small businesses.
They will be eligible for up to $12,000 for moving-related expenses.
Limits on payments covering loss of net earnings also increased from $20,000 to $60,000.
In addition, the bill requires an Agricultural Lands Condemnation Approval Board to first approve any agricultural lands seized by eminent domain.
“These provisions should protect farmers from having decisions made about their property by agencies that are unfamiliar with the unique characteristics in farming,” said Pennsylvania Farm Bureau President Carl Shaffer.
“Farm families were especially vulnerable to eminent domain abuse because they own large amounts of land and their farms are often located in prime locations coveted by developers,” he said.
In writing. The new condemnation procedures require written notice to be given within 30 days after filing a declaration. The notice must be made by registered mail to the last known address, and when that isn’t possible, it must be published in a general circulation newspaper and the county’s legal journal.
The notice must explain the condemning process and how the condemnee can challenge it.
In cases where a challenge is successful, the bill requires the condemnor to reimburse the owner for reasonable appraisal, attorney and engineering fees, and other costs and expenses incurred because of the process.
Blighted. The new laws also expand the criteria used to take single, blighted properties.
These extensions include properties that:

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