Who Has Eminent Domain Power in Alabama?

The term “eminent domain” refers to the inherent power of the local, state or federal government to take privately owned land for public use. In exchange, the government must provide “just compensation” to the property owner whose property is taken. The legal process of notifying property owners and obtaining the land is known as condemnation. For property owners in Alabama, it’s useful to have a basic understanding of what entities or agencies have the power of eminent domain so that you won’t be blindsided if you receive a condemnation letter in the future.

Considering Public Use

The power of eminent domain can be used only for projects that are intended for public use. For example, building a new highway would be an acceptable reason to invoke the condemnation process. Most of these projects involve transportation (such as the construction of expressways or railways), the transport of natural resources (like developing a pipeline to transport oil), or the expansion of power lines. However, the definition of “public use” has been stretched over time, and other projects, such as the development of a new shopping mall or a privately-owned administrative building.

Revisiting a Landmark Case

In the 2005 case Kelo vs. City of New London, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that privately-owned land could be taken and used to build a large pharmaceutical campus in Connecticut. However, the project was ultimately abandoned, leaving many former property owners with razed lots for no reason. Many states took swift action to enact legislation that offered more protections for property owners. Alabama was among the first to do so, and the state has a proud history of making sure that those entities who wish to invoke eminent domain must demonstrate ample evidence that their reasoning is indeed intended to benefit the public.

Looking to the Future

As the term “public use” can be interpreted fairly broadly, it’s important to be aware of any potential situations where an entity may attempt to initiate the condemnation process and acquire your property. At Sewell Sewell Beard LLC, our experienced eminent domain and condemnation law attorneys are dedicated to helping Alabama property owners understand their legal options. If you’ve heard that your land may be taken for a city, county, state, or federal project, call (205) 544-2350 to discuss your situation with a member of our experienced team today.

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