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.”

VFBF Real Dirt: AG Cuccinelli Talks about Property Rights Amendment

Have you seen the latest Virginia Farm Bureau Real Dirt video? It features Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli talking about something very near and dear to our hearts: the property rights constitutional amendment. Feel free to share it with your friends through email or even display it on your Facebook page by clicking the Share button at the top of the video. If you need help doing so, please contact me at or 804-290-1293. And don’t forget to Vote Yes for Question 1 on Nov. 6!

From the Field: Farm Bureau staff and volunteers cover a lot of ground on eminent domain campaign

From the Field is a bi-monthly column written by Mark Campbell, Farm Bureau Field Services Director for the Central District. He writes about Farm Bureau member benefits and County Farm Bureau activities.

Virginia Farm Bureau’s campaign in support of a constitutional amendment on eminent domain is in full swing mode. Farm Bureau staff and volunteers have been using every opportunity available to inform members, the agriculture community, and general public about the eminent domain constitutional amendment and the importance of voting yes on question 1 on the Nov. 6 ballot. Things really picked up the first of August. The volunteers are pumped up about promoting this.

The Field Services and Governmental Relations staff have been promoting all of the available promotional and educational tools available to county Farm Bureaus, and the county Farm Bureaus have acted quickly in ordering supplies. There are a lot of events happening around the state now, and even more will be taking place going into the fall season. Farm Bureau is utilizing all of these venues to get the message out to the public.

Just to give you an idea of how many people we have reached from August 1-20; I surveyed our Field Staff about events and meetings were the campaign has been presented. The message has reached approximately 5,405 people at events such as county Farm Bureau annual meetings, county fairs, Virginia Ag Expo, field days, and meetings with county supervisors. This is only in three weeks. The message will reach even more people as we approach Election Day.

We have had a clear and concise message that is resonating with people. I am sure that those that have heard about the campaign will tell their friends and neighbors to support it with a Yes vote. The campaign signs arrived in county Farm Bureau offices this month. In some counties, signs have already been distributed to members.

So plan to hear and see more about the eminent domain constitutional amendment, and don’t be shy about spreading the message to your circle of friends and family. Also, don’t hesitate to ask them to join Farm Bureau, an organization that has done a tremendous amount on protecting private property rights.

Until next time,


Governor Signs Property Rights Bills; Coalition Officially Launches Campaign

Virginia landowners will be confident that their private property cannot be taken and given to another private owner under eminent domain if the commonwealth’s voters approve Question 1 on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Bipartisan legislation was signed by Gov. Bob McDonnell yesterday to place a proposed constitutional amendment on this fall’s ballot to protect the private property rights of Virginia’s farmers, small businesses and individuals. The amendment specifies that eminent domain cannot be used unless it is for a true public use and further ensures just compensation for the landowner, including the opportunity for lost access and lost profits to be considered as part of that compensation. The language in the amendment also clarifies what is a true “public use” and specifies that no more land than is necessary can be taken.

The “Private Property Rights” amendment and companion legislation was supported by Attorney Gen. Ken Cuccinelli and patroned by Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg; Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle; and Del. Johnny Joannou, D-Portsmouth.

At the July 16 bill signing, a coalition of private property rights advocates announced the launch of a campaign encouraging Virginians to “Vote Yes for Private Property Rights.”

“Our members are excited about the opportunity that this constitutional amendment will provide. No longer will our farms, homes or businesses be taken and given to another private property owner under Kelo-type eminent domain abuses,” said Wayne F. Pryor, president of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. Martha Moore and Trey Davis, Farm Bureau Governmental Relations staff, were also in attendance.

“Our members are grateful to Gov. McDonnell, Attorney Gen. Cuccinelli and the General Assembly for understanding that, while sometimes the government may want someone’s property for a well-agreed public use, taking someone’s home, farm or business so someone else can develop the land is just plain wrong,” said Nicole Riley, state director for the National Federation of Independent Businesses. “This amendment ensures that, if property is taken for a legitimate public use, private property owners will be justly compensated.”

Elected officials “have given Virginians the opportunity to approve this historical measure,” added Katie K. Frazier, president of the Virginia Agribusiness Council. “Our job now is to educate the public on what this constitutional amendment does and why it is important to them. We’ll be doing so through grassroots activism and communication.”

The “Vote Yes for Private Property Rights” campaign is supported by Farm Bureau, the NFIB, the Virginia Agribusiness Council, the Virginia Forestry Association, the Virginia Poultry Federation, Americans for Prosperity, the Family Foundation of Virginia and other advocacy groups. The coalition will be posting campaign signs, distributing literature and organizing other activities through the fall.

‘Vote Yes’ Campaign Signs Arriving Soon to a County Farm Bureau Office Near You

Virgina Farm Bureau Board of Directors
Thomas Graves

Photo by Kathy Dixon

The Virginia Farm Bureau Governmental Relations Department has been busy gearing up for the “Vote Yes on Question 1” property rights campaign this fall. The campaign is to educate voters about the property rights constitutional amendment which will appear as question 1 on the Nov. 6 ballot.

One of the tools we will be using is campaign signs. Your county Farm Bureau has been sent a sample “Vote Yes on Question 1″ 14″x22” campaign sign. They will be ordering more for distribution to Farm Bureau members in the next few weeks.

Please keep in mind that although the campaign signs are weather resistant, they are only built to last two or three months out in the elements at best. So if you are interested in hosting a sign or several signs on your property, please think about posting them around September to hit voters hard before Nov. 6.

To amend the Constitution of Virginia, a state senator and/or delegate must introduce a bill, in the form of a resolution, with the wording of the amendment. If the bill is passed by one house, it goes to the other house and goes through the same process. The bill must pass by a majority.

The bill must go through the same process the following year and be approved in exactly the same form. We achieved this last winter in the Virginia General Assembly. After this process, the amendment goes on the November ballot, where it must be approved by a majority of voters.

If the property rights constitutional amendment passes, it will make sure:

• Private property may be only taken for a true “public use,” and not taken and then given to another private landowner;

• In the unfortunate circumstances where your property is taken, you will be correctly paid for the loss of value to your property; and,

• No more of your property may be taken than that which is absolutely necessary.