The state’s 17 largest chambers of commerce say there’s no need to make it tougher for cities and counties to claim land for development. The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled on an “eminent domain” case, saying governments have broad powers to condemn and seize property, despite a land-owner’s objections, for development projects. Jay Byers is a vice president at the Greater Des Moines Partnership — the Chamber of Commerce for the Des Moines metro. “The Iowa Chamber Alliance opposes any changes to Iowa’s eminent domain law that would restrict urban renewal efforts,” Byers said. “We have yet to hear of any instances in Iowa where this power has been abused.” Byers says Iowa governments have used their authority “sparingly and judiciously” — primarily for road development and gaining the right-of-way to a property under development. The Iowa Chamber Alliance contends current law provides more than fair market value compensation for land-owners and allows for redevelopment of Iowa communities, especially slum and blighted areas. Byers says current law gives landowners the right to appeal government land seizures. But Republican legislators plan to pass a bill that would make it harder for cities, counties and the state to seize property from landowners. The Iowa Chamber Alliance will resist that.Byers says a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on this issue doesn’t change Iowa law, or require a response from the legislature. The Chamber Alliance, however, would support a bill that would remove the current prohibition that forbids governments from condemning agricultural land for biking and hiking trails. “Current law has significantly restricted efforts to connect public regional, multi-use trails networks,” Byers says.
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