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Can you challenge eminent domain?

On Behalf of | Mar 30, 2024 | Eminent Domain |

It’s one of those things that doesn’t seem right. You have your property, which may have been in your family for years, and now the government is saying they will take some of it. But they’ll be sure to compensate you.

Thomas Jefferson stated that “A right to property is founded in our natural wants.” Therefore, it stands to reason that we prefer the government not to take our property. So, can eminent domain be challenged?

Understanding eminent domain

Eminent domain is part of the Fifth Amendment and states that government entities can take private property for public use, provided the owner is fairly compensated. This concept was designed to serve the greater good, such as providing roads, schools or utility projects. However, it can sometimes lead to disputes between Tennessee’s property owners and the government.

Nonetheless, property owners have rights and can challenge the process. Here are some of the avenues a property can take in fighting eminent domain:

Public use requirement

One of the primary grounds for challenging eminent domain is questioning whether the proposed project truly serves a “public use.” The project must benefit the public directly or indirectly. In New London, Connecticut, homes and businesses in poor neighborhoods were seized so a pharmaceutical company could build a research facility. When the ruling was challenged, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it. 

Due to the fallout, Tennessee lawmakers have passed several laws protecting the rights of property owners and limiting the power of private industries to take land.

Just compensation

Another common challenge revolves around the issue of “just compensation”. Property owners have the right to receive fair market value for their property, considering its highest and best use. Disputes often arise over what constitutes fair market value, with property owners having the opportunity to present evidence supporting a higher valuation than what the government entity offers.

Procedural issues

Challenges can also be based on procedural aspects of the eminent domain process. Tennessee law requires that specific procedures be followed before property can be taken, including proper notice and an opportunity for a hearing. If these procedures are not adhered to, the property owner may have grounds to challenge the eminent domain action.

While eminent domain is a powerful tool for facilitating projects for the public’s benefit, it has flaws. Tennessee property owners can challenge eminent domain; however, it’s not an easy process. It’s crucial they work with someone who can ensure their rights are upheld.