May 17, 2023

Today, the R.I. House Finance Committee will be having a hearing on an amendment to the budget which would give the R.I. Department of Housing, under Director Stefan Pryor, the power to take property through eminent domain.

This bill does not limit the use of eminent domain to only blighted properties or to non-residential properties. The bill also does not require that the property acquired through eminent domain remain owned by the government. In fact, the bill specifically allows the R.I. Department of Housing to enter into contracts with for-profit businesses for properties acquired through eminent domain.

Republican Party of R.I. Chairman Joe Powers has the following comments:

“It is not bad enough that Speaker Joe Shekarchi, a land use attorney, is pushing bills that override local control in a way that could benefit his past, present or future clients. Now we have legislation which would allow Stefan Pryor to take someone’s home, although it is not blighted, and give it to someone else for housing. This is not only unfair, but probably unconstitutional.

This bill also has inadequate safeguards regarding the use of eminent domain. This bill does not prohibit property seized through eminent domain from being transferred to a private developer or to be used for a development which is a mix of commercial and residential. In fact, under this bill, Pryor could use eminent domain to seize property and then transfer it to a developer, who is a client of Shekarchi.

A couple of months ago, Shekarchi stated he did not want to run for Congress because he did not want to give up his law practice. With bills like these making their way through the General Assembly, we know why Shekarchi did not want to give up his law practice.”


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