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Noncharter cities have power to exercise eminent domain for private redevelopment.

The Supreme Court of Missouri ruled that the state constitution did not limit eminent domain power to charter cities and that a noncharter city had statutory authority to condemn property for private redevelopment.

For more than 20 years, Homer Tourkakis practiced dentistry out of a building he owned in the city of Arnold. In 2004, the city adopted a redevelopment plan for a site including Tourkakis's property that involved replacing the area's 52 homes and businesses with a shopping mall and big box retailers. The city declared the area blighted pursuant to the state's tax increment financing (TIF) act, which permits municipalities to use eminent domain and tax abatements to redevelop blighted areas, subject to constitutional limitations. When Tourkakis refused to sell his property, the city sought to acquire it through eminent domain.

Tourkakis defended against the taking by arguing that only charter cities had constitutional authority to use eminent domain power for redevelopment and that Arnold, as a noncharter city, lacked the power to condemn his property. Under the state constitution, a charter city has all the powers that the legislature can grant; a noncharter city has no powers other than those expressly granted by statute, and thus no inherent power of eminent domain. The trial court found that Arnold's status as a noncharter city was a constitutional limitation that prevented its utilization of the TIF act to condemn blighted areas. The city appealed.

On review, the state supreme court began by examining the pertinent clause of the state constitution, which states that "[l]aws may be enacted, and any city or county operating under a constitutional charter may enact ordinances" to take property by eminent domain for the redevelopment of blighted areas. The court interpreted the phrase "laws may be enacted" to mean that the legislature, without limitation, could provide noncharter cities with eminent domain power by statute. The court held that the TIF act was such a statute and thus that Arnold had the power to take Tourkakis's property for redevelopment. Judge Richard Teitelman dissented from the majority opinion, interpreting the constitution to allow noncharter cities eminent domain power for redevelopment only when the legislature expressly authorizes the city to condemn property for a specific project. Finding no such law regarding the City of Arnold, Judge Teitelman disagreed with the majority's conclusion that Arnold had statutory authority to use eminent domain for its redevelopment plan. The trial court decision was reversed.

City of Arnold v. Tourkakis

Supreme Court of Missouri

March 18, 2008

2008 WL 713755 (Mo. 2008)

Alan M. Weinberger, JD, is a professor at Saint Louis University School of Law where he has been a law professor since 1987. Previously he practiced for twelve years with law firms in Detroit and Washington, DC, specializing in real estate transfer, finance, and development. Weinberger graduated magna cum laude from the University of Michigan Law School. He has published articles and chapters in the fields of real estate finance, partnership, and property law. He is coauthor of Property Law Cases, Materials and Problems, 3rd ed., published by West Group. Contact:
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Title Annotation:Recent Court Decisions; City of Arnold v. Tourkakis
Author:Weinberger, Alan M.
Publication:Appraisal Journal
Geographic Code:1U4MO
Date:Jun 22, 2008
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