St. Mary's Law Journal


Adrianne Archer


In Kelo v. City of New London, the United States Supreme Court extended the public use limitation to its most expansive definition yet. The Kelo decision enhanced the Fifth Amendment takings power by allowing the city of New London, Connecticut, to exercise eminent domain power in furtherance of an economic development plan. Notably, the city’s revitalization plan did not include a claim that the area subject to eminent domain was “blighted.” The Fifth Amendment provides that governments may wield the power of eminent domain and take private property for public use but only with just compensation. Generally, private property can be condemned in only extremely limited circumstances, and these condemnations must be for public benefit. In response to Kelo, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 7 (S.B. 7) limiting the government’s ability to seize land for a purely private benefit, though with an exemption likely to have adverse consequences for private property rights going forward. The community development exemption permits government exercise of eminent domain when it “eliminates existing affirmative harm on society from a slum or blighted area.” Under the current definition of blight, practically any defect on the property, no matter how small, could qualify as blighted and then be taken by eminent domain. In order to remedy the limited protections in S.B. 7 regarding areas of slum and blight, there are several limitations that should be included in the future amendments to chapter 2206 of the Texas Government Code. The present definition of blight allows interpretational latitude. It is important for the definition of blight to be comprehensive yet circumscribed. Additionally, if condemnation of the blighted property occurs, the unblighted property within the area should not automatically be included in the taking. This will effectively eliminate an intentionally overbroad designation of blight to encompass a large scope of property.


St. Mary's University School of Law