DES MOINES — Legislation making it more difficult for governmental entities to take private land for recreational purposes sailed through the Iowa House 93-6 Monday.
House File 219 adds landowner protections to Iowa’s eminent domain law. The catalyst for the bill, which now goes to the Senate, was a plan for a 900-acre lake in Clarke County. The county called it necessary to flood farmland to provide drinking water to the city of Osceola. The county also claims it was needed to spur economic development and residential construction.
Landowners, including long-established farmers, disputed that, pointing to plans that at one time included boat ramps, recreational vehicle parking sites and a beach with picnic tables and bath house.
“It should be hard to condemn ground,” floor manager Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, said. “It should not be possible to condemn land for recreation purposes, and it should be illegal to condemn on deceit.”
Kaufmann is the son of former Rep. Jeff Kaufmann, R-Wilton, who was a champion of an eminent domain bill passed in 2006. It was vetoed by then Gov. Tom Vilsack, but the House and Senate voted to override the veto 90-8 in the House and 41-8 in the Senate.
Although there is no companion bill in the Senate, Kaufmann has been talking to senators of both parties and is optimistic House File 219 will be approved.
Rural water associations, local government organizations and the Department of Natural Resources voiced concern about the bill during subcommittee meetings. However, none registered against the bill.
The bill would make changes to eminent domain law in the areas of lake development, limiting when land can be taken by local and state government. It removes the DNR’s condemnation authority related to recreational projects. The bill also adds protection for property on the historic register.
All but one of the House’s 53 Republicans voted for the bill. Rep. Joel Fry, R-Osceola, did not vote because of a conflict of interest; he is a Clarke County landowner. All but six Democrats voted for the bill.