The "Public Use or Benefit" justification for the seizure of private property through Eminent Domain in North Carolina
Eminent Domain is the legal process through which the government has the power to take a person's private property. If the government exercises its eminent domain power to take your land, it does so through a "Condemnation Action". A condemnation action is a lawsuit brought by the government against the owner of private property. Like any other lawsuit, you have the right to defend yourself against the government's lawsuit.
One way to defend yourself is by looking to the protections afforded by the 5th Amendment, and by our state's statutes. The Constitution requires the government to offer "just compensation" when it takes private property. If the amount of offered compensation is insufficient, a condemnation attorney can help you get a better offer.
In North Carolina, our laws go a step further, requiring that the Eminent Domain power must also serve a "public use or benefit". [N.C. General Statute §40A-3] This mean that you can challenge a taking based on how the government plans to use your property. "Public Use" requires that the public will have a definite right to use the condemned property. Public uses are things like schools, roads, parks, and other government purposes. "Public Benefit" requires that a condemnation will result in some direct benefit to the public. Public benefits are broad, and can include things like shopping centers or commercial developments. In either case, the primary and paramount purpose of a condemnation should serve public interests.
Whether a taking serves a "public use or benefit" is a legal question that N.C. courts must interpret on a case by case basis. The government employs teams of experienced condemnation lawyers to make a strong case for public use or benefit. As a result, defendants in condemnation actions are at a serious disadvantage if they try to defend a case on their own. It's important to make sure that you've got an experienced advocate to help you evaluate and argue against condemnation. The attorneys at Speaks Law Firm are available to help you protect your property rights. For more information, call (910) 341-7570 to find out how we can help.