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House of Representatives
Session of 2013 - 2014 Regular Session


Posted: June 13, 2014 12:02 PM
From: Representative Angel Cruz
To: All House members
Subject: Extending the Time to Contest an Eminent Domain Seizure
In the near future, I will introduce legislation to extend the length of time an owner has to challenge the seizure of their property under eminent domain.

My legislation would extend the time to file preliminary complaints from 30 days to 90 days after being served with a notice of condemnation. This extension would provide property owners with a more sufficient amount of time to retain a lawyer, understand their rights and decide how to move forward.

Under Pennsylvania law, there are two main requirements for properties being seized under eminent domain: that they are blighted or necessary for public use. A 2005 Supreme Court case, Kelo versus City of New London, held that private redevelopments could be permissible public use under the Fifth Amendment. Pennsylvania and a number of states responded by modifying their legislation to include more specific definitions of blight and public use. Pennsylvania law was strengthened by making it more restrictive. Philadelphia, however, was temporarily exempt from the new definition through Dec. 31, 2012.

As a result, 19 property owners had a combined total of 33 lots taken from them by the City of Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority to build a 45-unit residential project in the Kensington neighborhood of my legislative district. That seizure set off a heated battle between residents and Philadelphia City officials. The primary complaint among the property owners was that Pennsylvania’s eminent domain law only gives a person 30 days to contest a seizure. Many argued that they would have filed to contest if they had known their rights early on. I sympathize with these property owners and believe it is only fair that they be given ample time to understand and respond to notices of condemnation.

By co-sponsoring this legislation, you will join me in protecting property owners across Pennsylvania in a simple but important fix to our eminent domain law.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact my Harrisburg office at 717-705-1925.

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Introduced as HB2387