Eminent Domain gives all levels of government the right to appropriate or seize private property for public use, the good of the people. The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires the property owner(s) be paid just compensation (fair market value) for the loss of their property. Some projects considered public use include hospitals, schools, parks, government offices, highways and roads. The government has extended the use of eminent domain to include some private business, public utility companies are an example.
There are many debates concerning the use of eminent domain. Advocates for property owners believe that since the words “eminent domain” do not appear in the U.S. Constitution, the use of it is illegal. However, the Fifth Amendment states, “[no person shall] be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” The US Supreme Court has made several rulings in the past that have merged public use and public good. In the case of Kelo vs. New London, the court expanded the use of public good to include private economic developments for the purpose of generating more tax revenue. Many states have since enacted, or are currently enacting laws which limit the use of eminent domain, particularly in cases of private economic development.
The State of Florida administers eminent domain much like the federal government, including allowing its use to certain public and private companies, such as utility companies which allow or aid other eminent domain functions. There are two limitations to eminent domain in Florida. First, it is only allowed if the use of the land is for a public good. Second, if it is for a public good, under Florida law you are entitled to receive not only just compensation (as under federal law) but full compensation, a significant difference. Under Florida law, full compensation is more than fair market value. The property owner is also entitled to additional payment(s) for their property; some examples are any equipment and improvements made, business damage, the cost of moving or selling inventory at a loss, attorney and appraisal fees, etc.
Economic affects of eminent domain are vast, and in my opinion are dependent upon the project(s). For example, new roads could open the door for new communities, businesses and government services. All would add to the local economies and tax revenues. Condemning a rundown community to build a big private business on the other hand, may increase tax revenues and improve the community’s appearance, as well as bring in other business which would have the same affect.
The use of eminent domain under most circumstances is acceptable, provided it is a government project. However, when a public or private business is granted eminent domain power, there must be other factors involved. Increasing tax revenues should not be a sole consideration. The property owner(s) should have a say in the fate of their assets, and Florida law should be applied in all cases nationwide. Owners and residents should be heard and a majority vote should determine the fate of an area with multiple properties. Affected areas should include neighboring communities, as many property values can be affected by nearby developments.