HB 198: Exempting Family Farms from Eminent Domain
This bill passed the house with a vote of 70-0-5, and passed the senate with a vote of 23-1.
Eminent domain is the government’s ability to take private property. And the legislature is considering a bill to limit their taking power when it comes to generational family farms.
Representative Susan Pulsipher is aiming to protect family farms by sponsoring House Bill 198. This bill defines a Century Farm to mean, “a piece of property that has been owned or held in the same family for a continuous 100 years or more,” and declares that Century Farms should be protected from trivial eminent domain takings, such as public parks. The family’s property rights, the historical value, and sentimental value of the land should supersede a municipality’s right to take Century Farms for public use as a park.
Note that this bill in its current draft only applies to Salt Lake County.
We helped bring awareness to this issue when Farmington resident Alan Bangerter was at risk of losing his family farm—that had been handed down for six generations—to the city who had access to other land, but wanted to turn Bangerter’s farm into soccer fields. Eminent domain law can easily conflict with Utah’s constitutional guarantee of each individual’s “inherent and inalienable right” to “acquire, possess and protect property.”
The protection of private property should be of the upmost concern for government. When private property needs to be taken for public use, it should be constrained by uses that are absolutely necessary, and not taken when other lands are available that will serve the same purpose: House Bill 198 helps to ensure these rights to Utahns.