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You have heard about eminent domain in your town or city but likely never think that it will affect you. Then one day, you receive notice that there is a project being planned that will require the use of all or part of your land to complete. Suddenly, you have to worry about losing your home, farm, or commercial property.
While you may not think eminent domain will be used in your neighborhood, you may not realize the wide variety of projects that make use of condemnation actions. These actions either seek an easement for use of part of your property or seek a taking of all of your property. This is permitted by the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as long as the project is for “public use” and the government provides just compensation to landowners. A common question is: what kinds of reasons constitute “public use” that can justify eminent domain?
Public works projects – There are many public works projects that will greatly benefit the public and need to make use of eminent domain, including building or expanding the following:
-Police and fire stations
-Mass transit rails
Utilities – In order for utilities to reach all the necessary customers, they must lay pipe or hang wires that cross over private lands. This means that utilities commonly use eminent domain as a way to obtain easements to legally use part of a piece of private land for both construction and for maintenance of poles, wires, pipes, etc.
Blight – Some areas have a serious issue with vacant houses and buildings, which are often in a state of disrepair and can invite crime. To rejuvenate an area, a city may seek to obtain these properties to tear down the rundown structures and replace them with a more vibrant and beneficial development for the community.
Private developments – Since the 2005 Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. New London, private developers can use eminent domain if they can prove their development will bring economic or another type of benefit to a community. Many states have passed laws limiting this power for this reason, however.
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