Participation Type

Paper

Presentation #1 Title

Eminent Domain and the Potential for Land Reform in Appalachia

Presentation #1 Abstract or Summary

Appalachia exhibits concentrated land ownership comparable to Hawaii in 1967. In six counties in southern West Virginia, the top ten land owners own over half of the land, and such concentrated ownership patterns are common throughout Appalachia. Most of these large landholders are corporations, often based outside of the region. These absentee ownership patterns allow far-removed corporations, rather than residents, to make decisions about how to use the land. West Virginian residents know the “evils of land oligopoly” and could benefit from land reform by eminent domain. These precedents would permit the use of eminent domain for land reform in West Virginia, where redistribution of concentrated ownership would empower local residents to have more autonomy and political engagement and would therefore advance community cohesion. The West Virginia legislature should consider the potential “public purpose” to be achieved by redistributing land from corporations to the state’s residents.

This paper reviews a range of court case, including Taylor v. Porter (1843), Bloodgood v. The Mohawk and Hudson Rail Company (1847), New York City Housing Authority v. Muller (1936), Berman v. Parker (1954), Poletown Neighborhood Council v. City of Detroit (1981), Kelo v. City of New London (2005), which have shaped the law around permissible use of eminent domain. Other key texts referenced include: Shultz, David A. Property, Power, and American Democracy. (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1992) and Joseph William. Property. 3rd ed. (New York, NY: Aspen Publishers, 2010)

At-A-Glance Bio- Presenter #1

Laura Rigell hails from East Tennessee and has been involved with the SAA since 2014 when she was interning with Coal River Mountain Watch in southern West Virginia. Laura has a bachelors degree from Swarthmore College and a Masters of City Planning from the University of Pennsylvania. Laura is now working in Philadelphia to advance solar energy as a tool for economic and racial justice, as the Solar Manager for the Philadelphia Energy Authority and an organizer with Serenity Soular.

Conference Subthemes

Economic Development

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Eminent Domain and the Potential for Land Reform in Appalachia

Appalachia exhibits concentrated land ownership comparable to Hawaii in 1967. In six counties in southern West Virginia, the top ten land owners own over half of the land, and such concentrated ownership patterns are common throughout Appalachia. Most of these large landholders are corporations, often based outside of the region. These absentee ownership patterns allow far-removed corporations, rather than residents, to make decisions about how to use the land. West Virginian residents know the “evils of land oligopoly” and could benefit from land reform by eminent domain. These precedents would permit the use of eminent domain for land reform in West Virginia, where redistribution of concentrated ownership would empower local residents to have more autonomy and political engagement and would therefore advance community cohesion. The West Virginia legislature should consider the potential “public purpose” to be achieved by redistributing land from corporations to the state’s residents.

This paper reviews a range of court case, including Taylor v. Porter (1843), Bloodgood v. The Mohawk and Hudson Rail Company (1847), New York City Housing Authority v. Muller (1936), Berman v. Parker (1954), Poletown Neighborhood Council v. City of Detroit (1981), Kelo v. City of New London (2005), which have shaped the law around permissible use of eminent domain. Other key texts referenced include: Shultz, David A. Property, Power, and American Democracy. (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1992) and Joseph William. Property. 3rd ed. (New York, NY: Aspen Publishers, 2010)