A Silver Lining!
Yesterday the Missouri Supreme Court issued an opinion that offers a glimmer of hope for the thousands of property owners across the state whose properties have been labeled "blighted" by local authorities. The unanimous decision held that property owners have a right, under both the state and federal constitutions, to recover damages resulting from blight designations placed on their homes and businesses, even if the authorities have not proceeded with the condemnation. The court did say that it would be difficult for the owners to prove that the damages were the result of the blight designation, because it will (incorrectly) presume that cities only place blight designations on areas that are already in decline, but held that where a property owner can demonstrate that economic losses have resulted from the city’s action, both constitutions demand that property owners be compensated.
This decision is a welcome development. As we have noted before, Missouri has become the worst state in the nation in terms of abusing eminent domain, and thousands of property owners have suffered immensely because one government agency or another determined that their home or business was in a "blighted" area. Previously, the Missouri Supreme Court had suggested that those affected had no hope of recovering their losses unless the General Assembly passed laws requiring cities to compensate those whose property values were damaged by a blight designation, so it is extremely heartening to see that, when directly faced with the question, the Court recognized the constitutional imperative that cities must put property owners "in as good a position" as if the blight designation had never happened.
I regard this case as a strong step in a positive direction for folks in this state, as well as a sign that the Missouri Supreme Court may be warming up to the protection of citizens’ property rights, despite their decision earlier this year in the Tourkakis case.