What Counts as Public Use Under Eminent Domain Law?

Eminent domain, also referred to as condemnation, is the taking of private property by local, state or federal government for a public use, providing the payment of just compensation to the owner of that property.

Definition of Public Use

Public use is a legal requirement under the takings clause (“nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation”) of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Public use requires that private property only be taken for a use that benefits the interest of the public rather than particular individuals.

However, the term does not necessarily imply actual use, but is instead designated as any project beneficial to the public. Over the years public use has been broadened to include more and more purposes, such as for-profit development projects.

In Kelo v. City of New London (2005), the U.S. Supreme Court authorized the use of eminent domain to seize private property to sell to private developers. The court ruled private redevelopment plans qualified as public use on the grounds that the economic growth benefits the community.

Examples of Public Use

Under eminent domain law, private property can be acquired for such public purposes as to expand a highway or airport, build a school, construct a community park, create a new pipeline route, or to provide enhanced utilities, as long as the taking authority compensates you.

Here are some common examples as to what constitutes as public use under eminent domain law:

Pipelines: Pipelines crisscross the country, creating an enhanced network to transport natural resources. Pipelines can run through your business, home, or agricultural property, potentially impacting resale value and land use.

Transmission Lines: Transmission lines run over and through residences, farms, and businesses. Our attorneys recognize that transmission lines can impair aesthetic views and property use, making it more difficult to sell or develop the land.

Road Widening/ Reconstruction: Private property is often condemned when a city or state expands a road or highway to improve traffic flow and safety or meet the infrastructure demands of a growing community.  As such, residential, commercial, and agriculture property owners in the path of the road improvements may be required to surrender their properties for this public use.

School Expansions: School districts can seize private property through the power of eminent domain for expansion and construction. Eminent domain can be used to take all or only part of a property.

Airport Expansions: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) encourages airports to use land currently owned by the airport authority whenever feasible to construct or expand an airport. However, if additional land is needed for such purposes, then private property may be acquired through the power of eminent domain.

Bridge Replacements: Eminent domain if necessary is used to secure an easement or the acquisition of private property for bridge replacements and improvements. Thus, residential, commercial, and agriculture property owners are obliged to relinquish their properties for public use.

Railways: Many states allow private companies in certain industries that build public infrastructure, such as railroads, the authority to take private property using eminent domain.   An authorized railroad company may exercise the power of eminent domain to acquire land for railway easements and construction.

Contact Krause and Kinsman Today

Eminent domain is a complex process and can be a confusing topic for landowners facing possible condemnation. The attorneys of Krause and Kinsman are ready to stand by your side and defend your property rights. We strive to increase the odds of just compensation for your home or business.

Contact Krause & Kinsman today at (844) 212-3370 to schedule a FREE consultation.

Note: The content of this website is for general purposes only. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. Please consult a condemnation lawyer at Krause and Kinsman for advice about your individual situation. Feel free to get in touch with us via phone, email, or live chat.