Bruce Stahl

More than a third of the state of Missouri — 24,870 square miles — is in enhanced enterprise zones (EEZ), areas that must be declared blighted in order to be created. The enhanced enterprise zones cover an area the size of West Virginia. These zones are appealing to local governments because businesses in the area become eligible for certain state and local tax incentives. But regardless of the desirability of enhanced enterprise zones, the notion of blight has lost substantial meaning when it characterizes a third of the state.

Blight is not benign. It can lead to eminent domain abuse. As long as it is this easy to blight a property, no home or business is safe. This is the fear of CiViC, the citizen group that has arisen in Columbia, Mo., to resist the EEZ being considered there. The group fears the city’s blight declaration will lead to eminent domain abuse.

[caption id="attachment_37529" align="aligncenter" width="550" caption="EEZs are in red (zone boundaries as of 2011)"]EEZs are in red (map as of 2011)[/caption]

Consider: the definition of blight for the purpose of establishing an EEZ is exactly the same as the definition of blight for statutes explicitly granting eminent domain privileges. The implication is it can be just as easy to declare blight for eminent domain as it has been to declare enhanced enterprise zones in more than a third of the state.

Clearly, it is time to reform the definition of blight and separate it from the use of eminent domain. This separation has been granted to farmland, and it should be extended to all types of property.

About the Author