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David whips Goliath: Man vs. the state page 2
Mary Walsh's op-ed column on eminent domain.

 A constitutional amendment can help to preserve the American dream of homeownership and property rights.
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Date published: 10/14/2012

continued

How do the actions of local government go so far beyond the limits of its authority as to post deputies on a person's property while bulldozers rape the land without the necessary permit? Does the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution ring a bell here?

Dale Swanson sued the county and settlement talks are stalled because they want her to sign a "gag" rule. How many rape victims are put under a gag rule?

Finally, the Spotsylvania Department of Erosion Control figured that the necessary permit to disrupt more than 2,500 square feet was not in place. There was no authority to do what was done to Dale Swanson's property. None. But David didn't give up. The indefatigable Dale Swanson garnered the support of neighbors, and with 511 signatures protested to the Board of Supervisors dressed in orange trash bags to represent the "trashing" of their property rights.

The tide turned. Then-Attorney General Bob McDonnell issued an opinion in response to Del. Mark Cole on the matter, putting the final nail in the CDA's coffin. McDonnell wrote in his Oct. 20, 2008, opinion:

Because local governments are subordinate creatures of the Commonwealth, they possess only those powers conferred upon them by the General Assembly. An ultra vires act is one that is beyond the powers conferred upon a county by law. Such acts are void ab initio, from the beginning. Because I conclude that a county is not directly or 'by necessary implication' authorized to enact an ordinance permitting petitioning landowners to withdraw from an Authority once it has been created, I must also conclude that enacting an ordinance containing such unauthorized provision an ultra vires act. Therefore, such an ordinance is void ab initio.

David stopped the bulldozers.

The right to own private property is inextricably linked with freedom. Throughout history, one of the first things tyrants do is confiscate private property. Property ownership encourages responsibility and freedom and less dependence on government. "The Real Story of Eminent Domain in Virginia," published by the Virginia Institute for Public Policy, is a powerful lesson in government gone wild.

Protect your home and property. It's your castle that's at stake here. It doesn't matter whether you live on a 600-acre farm, in a quaint downtown shop, in a small house by a babbling brook, or in busy city condo. Your home and your property are yours. The government must respect that and only you can hold them accountable by your vote. No one should have to endure Dale Swanson's seven-year nightmare. Vote "yes" on the Virginia Eminent Domain Amendment (Question 1) on Nov. 6.


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Mary Walsh is a freelance writer who lives in Spotsylvania County.