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What is public use for the purposes of eminent domain?

On Behalf of | Apr 18, 2024 | Eminent Domain |

Eminent domain allows the government to claim a person’s property and pay them a fair price for it if the property is needed for public use. This means that the government can’t just take property for any reason it chooses.

While some may assume that public use means that the public will directly use it, that’s not necessarily the case. Instead, it has to benefit the general public.

Public use’s definition has changed over time

The definition of public use has evolved over the years. In the past, the definition was fairly strict and included projects like roads, parks and schools that were directly used by the general public.

That definition has changed in more recent times. A case that went before the Supreme Court, Kelo v. City of New London, and other similar cases have expanded this definition to include broader economic development purposes.

In the Kelo case, the Supreme Court upheld the city’s decision to seize private property for a development project to revitalize a depressed economic area. It ruled that the project served a public purpose under the broadened concept of public use.

Property rights are being affected by these changes

The newer interpretations of public use in eminent domain have caused concern among advocates for property rights. The concern is that the new definition enables the government to take private property in ways that might not actually benefit the general public. Instead, some are concerned that new definition will benefit third parties, such as developers, under the guise of benefiting the general public.

For property owners who are facing eminent domain claims by the government, swift action is critical because the time limit to file an appeal is 30 days. Seeking assistance in these matters is important because these are complex and consequential cases.