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Thursday, March 27, 2008


In a decision that essentially maintains the status quo, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled 6-1 on March 18 that all Missouri municipalities may use eminent domain to aid in the redevelopment of blighted property. The decision overturned a circuit court's ruling that under the Missouri Constitution only charter cities can use eminent domain for redevelopment.

The case was brought Homer Tourkakis, an Arnold dentist challenging the city's effort to seize his office as part of a larger redevelopment. Because the constitution specifically says that charter cities can use eminent domain to combat blight but does not grant such power to non-charter cities, Tourkakis argued Arnold, a non-charter city, lacked the authority to take his property.

Charter cities derive their power from the Missouri Constitution, while non-charter cities have only those powers that the General Assembly gives them. The court's majority ruled that non-charter cities are authorized to use eminent domain for redevelopment under the state's tax increment financing statute.

The court's decision, however, doesn't necessarily mean Tourkakis will lose his property. In a 2007 ruling, the court made it more difficult for cities to prove blight, a necessary finding for using eminent domain for redevelopment. Previously cities had to show a property was either an economic liability (the property isn't generating as much tax revenue as it could if redeveloped) or a social liability (the property is conducive to crime or threatens public health). Cities now have to prove both factors to establish blight. As a result, Arnold might be hard-pressed to prove a dentist's office causes crime or is a public health threat.

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