Connecticut Times

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Connecticut Times

Connecticut Times

The power of eminent domain was created to authorize the government or the condemning authority, called the condemnor, to conduct a compulsory sale of property for the common welfare, such as health or safety. Just compensation is required, in order to ease the financial burden incurred by the property owner for the benefit of the public. During the American revolution the power of eminent domain was used to seize the land of the colonists who were loyal to Great Britain, and to obtain various goods for military consumption. Other colonies discriminated in favor of their own residents and against people whose patriotism was questionable during the revolution. It was in this context that the Eminent domain clause was drafted.

Eminent domain is the power to regulate or acquire private property for public use. In the fifth clause in the fifth amendment it limits the government’s authority to seize private property. When government seizes private property for public use it is known as taking, and the taking clause restricts eminent domain. Private property should not be taken for public use without just compensation. Throughout American history the government has relied on the power of eminent domain to take land for projects such as roads, railways, and dams. The just compensation clause was intended to prevent this practice from continuing in the United States.

In 2005 one of the most controversial Supreme Court rulings was the decision in Kelo vs. New London. Suzette Kelo and fourteen other property owners refused to leave. New London Connecticut proposed to revitalize its economy by encouraging private development. The court said it was a public use because the hotel and business center would result in many jobs being created. More tax income would allow the city to better serve the needs of the public. Therefore the particular use of eminent domain was fully constitutional. The city countered that the private development would be for the “benefit of the entire community.” The city’s attorney pointed out that hundreds of jobs would be created, tax revenue increased by $680,000, and greater public access to the river would be created. The court agreed with the city of New London. The court explained that the term “public use” could be interpreted as an “public benefit”.

Why "Eminent Domain" ?

Kelo vs. New London

The True Meaning

Elements of Eminent Domain

To exercise eminent domain, the government must prove that the four elements set forth in the fifth amendment are present. The four elements are (1) private property (2) must be taken for (3)public use with (4)just compensation.The first element private property requires that the property taken must be private. The second element taking refers to the actual taking of property. The price of the property must be reduced because of the noise or accessibility problems. The third element public use requires that the property taken must be taken to be used to benefit the public rather than specific individuals. When a use is considered "public" it is ordinarily a question decided by the court. The fourth element is just compensation it mandates that the amount of compensation awarded when a property is seized or damaged condemnation must be fair to the public and to the property owner.

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In the United States, this power of eminent domain is held by 51 different sovereigns: the federal government and each of the fifty states. The power of each of the states, of course, is effective only within its borders. The eminent domain power of the federal government is effective nationwide. For example: if a state wanted to build an extension on a highway and the best/ easiest way was to build right through a persons farm the state could easily take that land away from the owner. This is because eminent domain states that the governemnt has the right to take private property for a public use.

April 28,1938 four towns in Western Massachuesetts ceased to exist. Seventy years later, the Quabbin's importance as one of the nation's largest manmade water sources is unchallenged. There has been billions of gallons of water from the quabbin resevoir that has supplied Boston for decades. But many people living in the four towns who are now in their 70's or older were forced to leave for the public good. The name of the four towns are Enfield, Dana, Prescott and Greenwich and they are now underwater.

Quabbin Reservoir

How Eminent Domain made a DIfference


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