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The government’s ability to seize privately owned land through the power of eminent domain is well-established. This power, transported to the United States from English common law, is limited by the 5th Amendment1 of the United States Constitution in several important ways. In order for an exercise of the government’s power to be legitimate, the landowner from whom the property is taken must receive “just compensation” and the property must be taken for some “public use.”2 Of course, these terms are not self-defining, so it has been up to the courts to determine what exactly they mean in certain situations. In addition, the ambiguity of these terms also provides many property owners who are facing a condemnation proceeding ample opportunity to mount legal challenges to the government’s attempted exercise of its eminent domain power.
What is a “public use?”
Generally speaking, a “public use” is one that confers some benefit upon the public. Obvious examples of a taking that would be for a public use would include the expansion of a highway, the building of other infrastructure, schools, libraries, or police or fire stations. The courts, however, have taken a very broad and deferential view of what the term “public use” actually may entail. For example, the land taken does not need to be open to the public in order to constitute a public use. For example, a redevelopment project carried out by a private party could constitute a public use, as could any number of uses that may simply spur economic development in the area.
Contact an eminent domain attorney today to schedule a free consultation
Anyone who is facing the appropriation of their property through eminent domain should discuss their options with an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Fortunately, in some cases, an attorney can successfully stop the government’s exercise of its eminent domain power. Furthermore, even if the condemnation ultimately takes place, an experienced eminent domain lawyer can often have a significant impact on the amount of compensation a landowner ultimately receives. To schedule a free case evaluation with one of our attorneys, please call Sever Storey today at 888.318.3761.
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