Supreme Court considers limits to eminent domain

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of residents of New London, CT who are challenging the city's use of eminent domain authority.

The residents live on land that the city would like to clear for a developer with to build a convention center and mixed use development.

Specifically, the question presented to the Court is: What protection does the Fifth Amendment's public use requirement provide for individuals whose property is being condemned, not to eliminate slums or blight, but for the sole purpose of "economic development" that will perhaps increase tax revenues and improve the local economy?

The decision in the case may increase the standard of "public use" that must be met before a local government can exercise eminent domain. Learn more. A decision is likely in June.

In 1954, the Supreme Court decided the case of Berman v. Parker, in which the Court allowed the District of Columbia to use eminent domain authority to clear slums.

State courts have used the Berman case to expand the definition of "public use" to include economic development projects. In 1981, the Michigan Supreme Court decided that a local government met the "public use" standard of the Fifth Amendment in the case of a project to build a General Motors plant.

In 2004, the Michigan Supreme Court overturned this decision. The Court decided that Wayne County could not use eminent domain to consolidate control over 1,200 acres for a private development near the airport. Learn more.

This issue has direct impact on EDPros, especially those working in downtowns. For example, in Lincoln, NE, a hotel developer wants the city to use eminent domain to clear land for a new hotel. Read more.

posted by Ed Morrison |

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