CAAR Expresses Concern Over Pipeline Property Rights

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (NEWSPLEX) -- The Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors (CAAR) is expressing concern over parts of the plans for the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

CAAR officials aren't saying whether or not they support the pipeline, but they say they are worried about Dominion using eminent domain to seize land, because it may be unconstitutional. At least one local lawmaker agrees.

In a letter to Gov. Terry McAuliffe, CAAR says plans for the 550 mile natural gas pipeline through Nelson County bring up critical property rights issues.

CAAR's government affairs director Neil Williamson says the association wants Dominion to reach an agreement with all landowners in the pipeline's path, instead of using eminent domain to get on property without permission.

Virginia law allows companies that kind of access but CAAR says it may be unconstitutional.

"We have a concern based upon the 2012 constitutional amendment regarding property rights, that we supported, may be in conflict with a 2009 law," Williamson said.

State Sen. Creigh Deeds say he agrees with CAAR and even co-sponsored a bill to reverse the statute.

"It's akin to giving me permission to go in anyone's backyard just to look around. That's unconstitutional," said Deeds.

In the letter, CAAR also asks that all property owners impacted by the pipeline's installation be given fair compensation, and that existing rights of way be considered for the pipeline's route.

"The property rights must be respected," said Williamson. "The impacts of the pipeline on land rights, on property rights, really is the area of concern for the realtors, how those rights are maintained. We believe strong property rights equals a strong economy."

Deeds says, although the issues raised by CAAR in the letter aren't new, he supports their opinions.

"You or I have the right to tell somebody to stay off our property, and in Nelson County, just because somebody wants to put a pipeline there, doesn't mean they don't have those same rights," said Deeds.

Williamson says CAAR has not gotten a response from McAuliffe, but anticipates he will be fully supportive of the property rights concerns raised in the letter.

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