There are few things more important to folks here in Colorado than their ownership of a piece of land. However, sometimes the local, state or federal government will step in with a claim of eminent domain so the land can serve the purpose of public use (such as creating a road). The government can do this under the Fifth Amendment’s Taking’s Clause, but the property owner still has the right to challenge. They can dispute that the government needs the land or argue that the government did not offer just compensation.
Like everything involving government, there is a process involved in eminent domain. While these will vary among the governing bodies, there are three general phases.
Notice of eminent domain
The government will start the process by issuing a notice of eminent domain. At this time, the government will describe the piece of property involved (it may require a portion, or the whole parcel) and the amount that it plans to pay for the land. Ideally, the two sides are to negotiate in good faith to arrive at a fair and equitable solution.
If the two sides do not reach an agreement, the government will move forward with condemnation proceedings. This is a formal phase where a judge, jury or commission hears from each side. The landowner will likely have an appraiser and an attorney to argue their side of the matter. The landowner may argue that:
- The government’s actions will substantially reduce the value of the adjoining property they still own.
- The government is asking for much more property than they need, which is known as excessive takings.
- The owner can dispute that the government needs the parcel.
Valuing the property
It may turn out that the government meets all the criteria for legally taking the land using eminent domain. The owner is then entitled to reasonable market value or just compensation for the land. This process can only be stopped if the court determines that the land will not be used for legitimate public purposes.
Attorneys useful throughout
An attorney with experience handling eminent domain cases can be a tremendous help in protecting the property owner’s interests. Those who receive an eminent domain notice will serve their best interests by immediately consulting with an attorney to protect their rights in this matter.