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HARRISBURG, PA-House Bill 2054, which provides for limitations on the use of eminent domain throughout the state, won overwhelming approval of the state House of Representatives. It is expected to do the same when the state Senate convenes on Nov. 14.

Submitted in reaction to the now-famous Kelo case Supreme Court decision, this bill “is a little more tempered than some that have been submitted in other legislatures across the country,” David B. Snyder, a partner and eminent domain lawyer in the Philadelphia office of Fox Rothschild, tells GlobeSt.com. For information on eminent domain legislation on the federal level, click here. For previous eminent domain coverage, click here. To read about eminent domain case in New York, click here.

While the bill states, “eminent domain for private business is prohibited,” it sets forth some exceptions which essentially limit the use of eminent domain to abandoned properties or ones that are “blighted” by conditions that make them “unsanitary, unsafe, vermin-infested or … unfit for human habitation.” In order to acquire multiple units of property for eminent domain, the condemnor can declare an area within or outside of a redevelopment area to be blighted “only if a majority of the units of the property” meet the above exceptions.

“Some municipalities have introduced legislation that has no such exceptions,” Snyder says. “This bill is very focused and still allows government to take property for private use if it’s blighted, and it gives a more limited definition of blight than some bills introduced elsewhere.” Under this bill, “you could not do a Kelo in Pennsylvania,” he says, “because the Kelo property was not blighted.” Under previous Pennsylvania law, he says, the answer might have been “maybe.”

Snyder says this bill would have not have an impact on the planned expansion of the Convention Center in Philadelphia because the Convention Center Authority is not a private entity. Yet he questions whether it might not have an effect on a sports stadium, such as those recently built in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. “They are technically owned by the teams, which are private, but they are also community projects,” he explains and anticipates that minor league baseball stadiums planned in some municipalities in Pennsylvania may be litigated on that basis.

Clifford B. Levine, a partner with Pittsburgh-based Thorp Reed & Armstrong tells GlobeSt.com that the bill “will have dire and drastic repercussions. It would eliminate the necessary powers granted for urban development throughout the state and throw out 60 years of allowing one of the most important redevelopment opportunities available. It offers a restrictive and narrow view of blight,” He adds that “absolutely, this is an overreaction (to Kelo). If people are unhappy with the transformation of Pittsburgh as a smoky town into the Golden Triangle complex, which was done under the redevelopment act of 1945, they will like this bill.”

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