Proposed eminent domain amendment protects ‘the little guy’

November 6th is fast approaching, and many people are still not aware of the property rights constitutional amendment and how its passage (or lack thereof) will affect them. Below is another example of eminent domain abuse in Virginia that appeaered in last week’s edition of News Leads, a press release of the top stories in Virginia agriculture sent to media across the state by Farm Bureau’s Communications department.

If the amendment doesn’t pass, Snively’s story could happen again to someone else. Please remember to Vote Yes on Question 1 on Nov. 6, and please encourage your friends and family to do the same.

Joel Snively served 22 years as a Marine in posts around the world. Ironically, he said, one of his toughest battles was defending his private property rights at home.

Five years ago Snively was approached to allow a utility easement on Stafford County land zoned for agricultural use.

“In my case they offered me a certain amount of money for an easement for an underground power line. They almost acted like they were renting the property from me for the purpose of putting a line in,” he said.

But when he didn’t agree to the request, a local court moved immediately to condemn the land through eminent domain.

“My land was condemned by a judge with no hearing. I never even got my day in court before the condemnation. They rammed the case through and then decided to sort out who got what,” Snively said. “They said I could farm this land, but they told me I couldn’t raise certain crops. My point is now I can’t use my land as I see fit. … In reality they own it except in title. They can restrict my movement on it, they can put up a barrier saying you can’t come onto the property, but under current law I still have the tax burden on it.”

After four years of legal wrangling Snively reached a settlement and has relocated to Augusta County to pursue his dream of starting a small farm operation. But he said his case is one of many that prove Virginia’s constitution needs to be amended.

“It’s not what they take that’s so valuable as what they take from your future,” Snively said. “They limit what you can do with the property in the future. … This amendment will help balance the scales when the little guy goes up against a big utility or government body in an eminent domain dispute.”

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