Over a year ago, I highlighted an eminent domain abuse case in Virginia. To recap: The Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority and Old Dominion University conspired to seize private property to support ODU’s expansion efforts. One affected property owner, Bob Wilson, was justifiably upset by the land grab and hung a banner on the side of his business protesting the city’s actions. City inspectors then found the banner to be too large, ordering Wilson to remove the banner or face a $1,000 per day fine. Wilson fought both the eminent domain condemnation and the banner take-down order, being represented by our friends at the Institute for Justice in the latter case.
Wilson’s First Amendment case is still pending, but fortunately he is now only fighting one battle against government overreach. Last week, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the city’s condemnations of property owned by Wilson and others was illegal, reversing a lower court ruling. ODU was ordered to return the property it had received through seizure to its rightful owners. The ruling now threatens other ODU land grabs, which have become endemic under the university’s aggressive expansion plans.
In a post-Kelo world, there is often little hope for those seeking to protect their property rights. Thank you, Virginia Supreme Court, for providing a bright spot in the otherwise dreary property rights landscape.