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Dallas Eminent Domain Law Blog

U.S. government faces land acquisition challenges

Eminent domain allows the government and other condemning entities the right to purchase private property for public use. Public-use projects must have some benefit to the general public, and can include roads, utilities, schools, pipelines, and more. Unfortunately for landowners, the eminent domain process compels a land sale to a taking authority familiar with the process and procedure, which can be to the detriment of the uninformed property owner. For Texas landowners who live along the border, it is necessary to understand what rights property owners have in the eminent domain process.

Was the condemnation of your property motivated by development?

There's a saying that progress waits for no person, and that can certainly seems to be the case when influential people or businesses develop a plan to profit off of property somewhere. Plans to construct anything from a school to a road will often require the acquisition of multiple parcels of property, which can complicate the process.

While some individuals are eager to sell and receive a fair market value offer for their real estate, others may intend to hold onto the property that the developer needs to move forward. When that happens, developers or planners may try to push local authorities into assisting them. They could also perform construction or development work on your property without your permission.

Could SpaceX use eminent domain to take a Texas neighborhood?

SpaceX is a company run by Tesla founder Elon Musk. The company's many goals include building a rocket that can get to Mars. The company has already been working toward this goal for some time.

This project is located in Texas and SpaceX built an experimental spaceport as part of the process. The site they selected is Boca Chica Village. It is a small residential neighborhood with "a few dozen houses."

Bullet train builders say they'll use eminent domain if necessary

The company behind a multibillion-dollar high-speed railway is touting the project as a revolutionary step in the state’s transportation network. What’s unclear, however, is how many property owners might lose some of their land to make this corporation’s vision a reality.

Texas Central is forging ahead with its proposal – a newly built railway that would get passengers from Houston to Dallas in about 90 minutes – even as legal questions linger. Texans along the proposed 240-mile route may find it particularly worrisome to read some recent comments from the company about the use of eminent domain.

What projects see the use of eminent domain?

Under eminent domain and condemnation laws, the government may have the rights to take your property, pay you a fair value for it and use it for a project that is deemed necessary for the general good of the country.

In a place like the United States, where personal property rights are generally very important, this can be a controversial move. Even though you receive compensation in exchange, you likely never wanted to make that sale in the first place.

Eminent domain allows for public works, but you do have rights

Essentially, the goal of eminent domain laws is simply to say that there are times, even in the United States, where the individual may have to sacrifice something for the greater good. This law allows the government to take private land for use in various public projects.

One of the most common examples is taking farmland to build or expand a highway. It may be impossible for the public road to go anywhere else or, even if it is possible, it may be unnecessarily expensive to circumnavigate that public property. To avoid this drain on taxes and to ensure that the roads are safe and efficient, the government will force the sale of the land.

What exactly is a regulatory taking?

From time to time, government agencies and private parties alike will approach individuals who own sizeable parcels of land to let them know of their interest in taking ownership of it. Both parties generally offer in-kind compensation for the property that they are looking to buy. This is where the similarities in approaches end, however.

The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States authorizes government agencies to seize parcels from landowners even if they are not interested in giving the land up. The amendment stipulates that the landowner must in return receive "just compensation," i.e., its fair market or an appraised value for it.

Know your rights when you receive a condemnation notice

You've received notice that your property is subject to condemnation, or eminent domain. That means a government agency wants to take your property for a public use, such as a road.

That's within the law. But what are your rights as a property owner when you receive that notice?

What projects qualify as public use for eminent domain?

One of the key pieces of eminent domain law is the idea of public use. For an authorized entity to condemn an individual’s property, not only must they offer fair compensation, but the final project must be beneficial to the public.

But what qualifies as public use? It’s somewhat of a tricky question.

Fighting for compensation with an inverse condemnation claim

Under eminent domain laws, which emanate from the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, private property cannot be seized by the government for public use "without just compensation." However, there are times when landowners don't receive compensation. It's called inverse condemnation.

That occurs when the government denies that the landowner's property has been taken. How is it able to do that? Let's look at some examples.

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