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NC House Of Representatives Approves HB 271 To Limit Eminent Domain And Strengthen Property Owner Protections

State and local governments around the country have a long history of exploiting their power to help well-connected industrialists and real estate developers at the expense of the general public. 

On Tuesday, March 23rd, House Bill 271 was approved by the House Committee on Judiciary 1. It would allow North Carolinians to vote on whether to change the state’s eminent domain powers under the NC constitution. Under current law, the government is allowed to seize private property for public use or benefit. House Bill 271 aims to limit the government’s ability to seize private property for the “benefit” of the public.

What Is The Purpose of HB 271?

As Americans, our property rights and properties are the product of our hard work and investments. Every North Carolinian will be better protected under this proposal. By incorporating the following language into Section 1 of the North Carolina Constitution, HB 271 seeks to expressly prohibit the state from using its eminent domain power for anything other than public use: “Private property shall not be taken by eminent domain except for public use. Just compensation shall be paid and shall be determined by a jury at the request of any party.” A 2005 Supreme Court decision allowed for condemnation of private construction projects for “public gain,” but the justices also stated that states could prohibit such condemnations. In the years following the ruling, several states improved their property rights laws.

The proposed amendment would also make the right to a jury trial for compensation for condemned property permanent. Separately, the bill, which now goes to the Senate, will exclude references to public benefits from state laws governing condemnation proceedings.

Rep. Dennis Riddell, a primary sponsor, said in a news release that similar legislation has been passed by the House many times in the last decade since it protects important rights for North Carolinians. However, historically, legislation has died in the Senate. 

What is Eminent Domain?

Eminent domain is the government’s legal power to condemn privately owned property for a public purpose, like building a road or school. The entity exercising that power is called the condemner. But at times, governments have taken private property through eminent domain only to give it to another private owner who plans on developing the land in a way the government considers a “public benefit.”

Your land can currently be taken by the federal, state, county, and city governments, as well as private companies. They must be able to demonstrate that:

  • The condemnation is for a public use or purpose
  • They will pay “just compensation” for the land taken

The fair market value that must be paid to a landowner whose property has been seized is known as just compensation. This covers any losses to the landowner’s remaining property after the taking. The views of the property owner and the condemnor about what is “fair and rational” will frequently vary greatly.

When Will North Carolinians Be Able To Vote on HB 271? 

The bill would create a constitutional amendment referendum, so voters would choose whether to approve this language on the eminent domain law during the 2022 elections. HB 271 must pass both the General Assembly’s chambers before being sent to Gov. Roy Cooper for final approval.

Raleigh, NC Eminent Domain Lawyers

If you’re facing land condemnation of your home, business, church, or farm under eminent domain, you don’t have to face the government or big corporations alone.

At Henson Fuerst, we represent North Carolina property owners in all phases of eminent domain and land condemnation cases. Our eminent domain and land condemnation lawyers have a collective legal experience of more than 150 years. Contact us today by calling 919-781-1107 or by filling out a free consultation form online.