A Publication of WTVP

The Illinois Farm Bureau recently announced it supports limits on the authority of state and local government to use eminent domain in cases of private development. Current state statutes don’t spell out clearly what municipalities are allowed to do and what alternatives property owners have when the powers of eminent domain come into play.

There was proposed legislation in the Illinois General Assembly that would prohibit all takings under eminent domain by state and local governments unless the property is in a “blighted area.” It also would require government agencies to pay relocation and legal costs to displaced property owners. This legislation has the support of the Illinois Association of Realtors and the Illinois Home Builders Association, in addition to the Illinois Farm Bureau.

Farm Bureau members made it clear at the annual delegates meeting in December that they don’t approve when eminent domain is used to take property from one person and transferred to another’s possession for purely profit. A dairy farmer in Kane County addressed this issue at a news conference in Chicago. He was affected by eminent domain and knows how costly it can be.

State law concerning private property rights has been a concern following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of New London, Conn., allowing the city to take private property for economic development. Susette Kelo, a landowner, sued New London to keep her home, which was taken by the city through eminent domain.

There also have been several bills introduced that would address the issue of wooded acres property assessment. Last year, the Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR) started asking all county assessing officials to evaluate their property assessment practices for compliance with the existing Farmland Assessment Law and IDOR implementation guidelines for the 2006 assessment year. This was an effort by IDOR to seek equality and consistency on a county-by-county and statewide basis.

As part of this IDOR evaluation, an emphasis was placed on county supervisor of assessments to be in full compliance with the assessment law regarding land with timber on it. The IDOR guideline calls for classification of wooded acres as “farm” or “non-farm” property. The law provides that wooded acres that are part of a larger farming operation should be considered farm property, classified as “other farmland,” and assessed at one-sixth the value of cropland.

Wooded acres classified as “non-farm” property should be assessed using one of two approaches. If the property is enrolled in an approved Forestry Management Plan, the land should be assessed at one-sixth the value of cropland. If an approved Forestry Management Plan isn’t in place by January 1 of the assessment year, the property, by law, should be assessed at 33 1/3 percent of market value. When parcels are reclassified from “farm” to “non-farm” and don’t have a Forestry Management Plan, there may be a significant increase in assessed value.

As some supervisors of assessments have started implementing the long-standing law, some owners of non-farm wooded acres have seen a change in their assessment levels. In response to these changes, several pieces of legislation have been introduced to address this situation. IBI