Local ballot referendum guide

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Whether you're voting absentee or going to the polls next week, there are a couple of referendums in Virginia Beach and Norfolk that might be confusing.

In Norfolk, the referendum will ask voters whether or not they want to amend the state constitution on eminent domain.

Eminent domain is defined as the government taking private land for public use, widely understood to be used for highways, railroads or schools. In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled cities could take private land for economic development, meaning that one business owner could lose his land so that another business owner could use that same land and make more money or create more jobs.

If passed, the amendment Nov. 6 would make that move illegal. It would make the right to private property a "fundamental right." The amendment says the taking or damaging of private property must be for a stated public use. It states the city could still take land considered a public nuisance but not if the primary use is for "private gain or economic development." This would stop someone from labeling a place a public nuisance just to get the land.

The referendum also states that the property owner must be paid for not only the land but for the profits, lost access and damages when land is taken. Opponents say that will make it a lot more expensive to build roads or public buildings, which they say would cost taxpayers.

In Virginia Beach, the question of light rail reads, "Should the Virginia Beach City Council adopt an ordinance approving the use of all reasonable efforts to support the financing and development of the Tide light rail into Virginia Beach?"

If you check the 'yes' box, you are saying that you support bringing light rail to the Beach and that you want the council to continue a study seeing how much the project would cost.

City council says the intent of the referendum is to see if voters have changed their minds on light rail since 1999 when they voted it down.

The vote on Nov. 6 is not legally binding, meaning that the city council can do what it wants.

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The referendum on eminent domain is a statewide question, not limited to Norfolk. There is another constitutional question for all Virginia voters as well.

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