What Cannot Be Blighted?
Last month, half of Columbia was declared blighted. This produced concerns of impeding eminent domain, even leading to the creation of a citizen group, CiViC, composed of residents who rightly fear casual use of blight. Their fears are not without reason: we have seen blighted properties seized before. Here are some great photos of ordinary homes from around the state declared blighted and taken.
Last week, the Columbia City Council attempted to assuage fears of eminent domain. An advisory board:
recommended an ordinance that would safeguard against the use of eminent domain as part of the program by preventing the EEZ-related blight designation from being used to meet blight requirements for other laws.
Unfortunately, the recommendation does not provide full protection for Columbia residents. Other definitions of blight are exactly the same as the one the board used to blight half the city. What is to stop the city from blighting areas using statutes that expressly permit eminent domain?
The real problem Columbia residents face is the unconstrained use of blight. As long as the definitions of blight remain so broad, any property can be blighted and seized (except farmland). No residential or commercial property is safe. The definition of blight must be reformed.