Back to Basics: What is Eminent Domain?

In this blog series, we aim to get back to basics – that is, to explain some foundational concepts about what we do here at Hansen, Howell & Wilkie.

Today, let’s look at the term “eminent domain.” What does that mean?

Eminent domain is the power of the government to take private property for public use. The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires payment for such government takings, declaring “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

The process by which private property is taken is called condemnation.

Here in North Carolina, the State possesses the power of eminent domain, as do many of its municipalities.  For example, the NC Department of Transportation frequently acquires property to build or improve roadways.   Likewise, the City of Raleigh has used eminent domain to construct greenways, install sidewalks, and build a train station, among other projects.

North Carolina has also vested the power of eminent domain in certain private entities, such as utility companies and railroads.

Federal and State laws have put restrictions on how the power of eminent domain may be exercised, including setting rules about what constitutes “public use” and “just compensation.”   We’ll explore those topics in future posts!

Remember, the attorneys at Hansen, Howell & Wilkie offer free, no-obligation consultations on eminent domain cases across the state of North Carolina.  Contact us today to schedule a time to talk!

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