Sanford To Tighten Eminent Domain Laws

By: Kristen Cosby
By: Kristen Cosby

December 5, 2005
South Carolina’s governor was in Aiken on Monday promoting a plan he says will protect your property. It is a response to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on eminent domain. That ruling made it easier for governments to seize homes and land for either government or business. News 12 investigates Governor Sanford’s plan.

It’s some of Aiken County’s most majestic land. You might remember this place, it’s New Bridge Polo Club, where September’s popular Gold Cup Polo Tournament was played.

But the government can take this land because of the recent Supreme Court ruling on eminent domain. If land can make more money doing something else, like holding an amusement park or airport, it’s Uncle Sam’s.

“It makes me feel very sad that that could happen,” said Eugene Gibelli, New Bridge property owner.

Eminent domain takes a lot of agricultural land, and here in Aiken the fear is that horse farms could be taken as well as popular spots like Hitchcock Woods and the Steeplechase grounds.

These aren’t pie in the sky ideas of what could be seized, according to realtor Jane Page Thompson.

“Any good lawyer can justify any reason the Supreme Court gave to seize land, that’s a very real and scary scenario,” Thompson said.

In this January’s legislative session, South Carolina’s Governor Mark Sanford wants to narrow who can seize your land. Right now appointed and elected people can; Sanford wants to make sure only those elected have that right.

“An eminent domain bill that would narrow the scope of what you could condemn for, narrow the number of entities that can condemn,” Gov. Sanford said.

Jane Page thinks Sanford’s plan is the right solution.

“I’m glad that the governor of South Carolina has really stood up and said South Carolina is going to really come down and define specifically what eminent domain is and is not,” Thompson said.

The hope is that changing the laws will mean more security for Aiken horse country and other places across the state.

Closely tied into eminent domain is the hot topic in Aiken County, Tax Increment Funding, or TIF. Governor Sanford says he’ll also look into changing the wording in the TIF bill.

Visit the American Farmland Trust and the National Association of Realtors for more information.

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