Eminent Domain: Explanation and the Cause/Effect on a Community
Prepared by : Kent Sakamoto
In relation to real property, some of the most common governmental powers include police powers, eminent domain, and taxation. Eminent domain is often the most intriguing of the three “big” governmental powers, and also is the most scrutinized. What exactly is eminent domain? According to Diaz and Hansz in their “Real Estate Analysis: Environments and Activities” book, eminent domain is the government’s right to take private property for the benefit for the benefit of the public. The government is required to provide just compensation to the owner of the property being taken. The scope of this article is to inform individuals of the governmental power of eminent domain, and also discuss how a specific case in Fresno, California could have positive and negative effects on a community.
There are numerous benefits that a community benefits from because of governments exercising their power in eminent domain. Public transportation, schooling, and new developments are all examples of just causes that will potentially benefit the public. Most interstates and freeways would not be completed if eminent domain was not exercised. Schools and universities of would also not be as affluent if it were not for eminent domain. California State University, Fresno was most certainly built on land that was taken through eminent domain. CSU Fresno brings numerous jobs and attracts businesses to Fresno, which in turn, helps stimulate their specific economy. Lastly, new developments are another benefit of eminent domain. Shopping centers bolster local economies through services and jobs provided. Grocery stores, pharmacies, and restaurants are all examples of benefits for growing economies.
The first negative that eminent domain presents through its action, is the absence of property rights for the land owner that is being appropriated. To further elaborate, removing a person’s right to own real property is essentially taking away that specific individual’s rights. Is just compensation really fair? There are arguments that emotional attachment to property can’t be justly compensated through monetary payments. Furthermore, fair market value of the property at the specific time of this government action, often does not “fairly” correspond with the amount of money or emotions invested by the owners. Lastly, the government’s enforcement of eminent domain demonstrates that they ultimately own all property, since they can confiscate parcels at their will. With every cause, there is an affect, whether good or bad.
Eminent domain cases strike close to the California State University, Fresno community. Fresno unified school district has plans on building a $20 million dollar southeast elementary school. The project requires the acquisition of 20 different parcels. The project experienced a hiccup when it came to the properties of two churches, more specifically Foursquare Gospel Church and La Promesa Church. With an agreement with Foursquare Gospel Church, La Promesa Church stilled loomed over the project by not agreeing to the $440,000 of just compensation. If an agreement is not reached in the next few months, the district will most likely result to eminent domain to acquire the property and proceed with the elementary school. The pastor at La Promesa Church has stated that the compensation is not sufficient in finding a suitable replacement location.
In a perfect world, eminent domain would not exist because government and private property owners would always mutually agree on fair market value for their property so it could be converted in to a beneficial public use. In the case in Fresno, California, a new school in the Fresno Unified School District would present more jobs to community, as well as numerous other benefits. The negative that it does present, is the condemnation of religious property that can emotionally effect hundreds, if not, thousands of people in the community. When eminent domain affects you or somebody close to you, it is clear to see how emotions can not be purchased for a “just” cost. So is eminent domain fair and necessary? The answer to that question lies solely within each individual.
Hansz, Andrew J, and Julian Diaz III. “Real Estate Analysis: Environments and Activities. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall Hunt, 2010.
General Benefits (Eminent Domain) Law & Legal. (No Date) Retrieved March 17, 2011
Listing Negatives of Eminent Domain. (No Date) Section: “Negatives of Eminent Domain.” Retrieved March 17, 2011