NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Abusive Property Condemnation in Arizona

September 10, 2002

The state of Arizona was once known for its strong protection of private property rights. Prior to 1997, takings of private property for public use were strictly limited and each case was subject to extensive judiciary review. But a 1997 redevelopment statute greatly broadened the power of municipalities so that specific areas could be targeted for redevelopment.

The 1997 redevelopment statute made it easier for municipalities to take private property that has a "defective or inadequate street layout" or if it lacks in "diversity of ownership." Targeted areas known as redevelopment zones are being taken by municipalities and handed over to other private entities. Under the 1997 statute the number of clearly abusive eminent domain cases has risen. For example,

  • Several small businesses including a grocery store condemned by the city of Phoenix in 1998 are vacant and the city has yet to accept a proposal for redevelopment.
  • Several businesses and dozens of homes in a 30-acre area targeted by the city of Mesa in 1998 for redevelopment sit empty because the developer is still seeking funding.
  • The city of Phoenix condemned Hi Dreams head shop in 2001 to redevelop the property for a less controversial business.

These abusive condemnation cases in Arizona may have an impact on private property owners across the nation, say critics. If they go unchallenged and precedents are set, the rights of all private property owners are threatened.

Source: Jordan R . Rose, "Eminent Domain Abuse in Arizona: The Growing Threat to Private Property," Arizona Issue Analysis 174, August 16, 2002, Goldwater Institute, 500 East Coronado Road, Phoenix, Ariz. 85004, (602) 462-5000.


Browse more articles on Tax and Spending Issues