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What is eminent domain used for?

On Behalf of | Jul 2, 2024 | Eminent Domain |

The controversy around eminent domain laws usually just involves the power that the government has. Private property ownership is a fundamental right in the United States. But eminent domain means that there are situations in which the government can take this private property from citizens – though the government is required to pay fair market value for that property


So, with the understanding that the government can do this, when can eminent domain be used? Can the government just take land at any time? Do they have to prove that there is a justifiable reason to do so? Property owners likely have a lot of questions when facing potential action.

Traditional reasons

As a general rule, the government does have to show that there will be a benefit to the public if they take the property. Traditionally, this means that these powers are often used to:


  • Provide water or utility services 
  • Facilitate transportation services, like building railroads or interstates 
  • Constructing public buildings 
  • Constructing government buildings 
  • Preparing the nation for potential defense operations


For example, if a government official wanted to use eminent domain to take land and construct a private resort, they would not be allowed to do so. But if the government itself needed to take that land to construct or expand a military base, preparing the country for future defensive operations, then that may be allowed. There’s clearly a public benefit to the defense facility, whereas there is not a benefit with a private resort.


Of course, property owners often do not see eminent domain actions as necessary, even if the government does. They may also have disputes over the fair market value for the property. When these disputes arise, those involved need to know about all of their legal options.