Eminent Domain refers to the legal right of a city or state over all property within its boundaries, even private property, for the betterment of the public or the community. The process is also known as “condemnation” and the land taken by eminent domain must be acquired from the owner at a reasonable compensation (fair market value) and meet requirements related to the degree of public use or community improvement that will be served.
Eminent domain often comes into play when a city or state acquires property to build or improve a road, park, or utility system or to redevelop a blighted neighborhood or area and the property acquired may be complete, partial, temporary, or the obtaining of an easement or right of way.
The definition of what development meets “public use”, what constitutes “blight” in an area, and whether an offer truly meets “fair market value” is a matter of strong public debate, especially when property owners don’t want to sell.
Courts in several states have recently determined that using eminent domain for economic development purposes is inappropriate in situations where the city attempts to acquire property for developers from owners who didn’t want to sell. Several states are considering legislation that may restrict and/or prohibit the use of eminent domain in cases involving economic development.
An attorney who practices in eminent domain can advise, negotiate, and advocate for property owners facing eminent domain efforts.