While a property owner has the right to challenge an eminent domain taking of their land or property rights, this is an uphill battle. In most cases, courts uphold government entities’ rights to seize private land for public (and sometimes not-so-public) purposes. Most often, the litigation concerns how much compensation the property owner is entitled to.
But there is another factor that property owners in North Carolina can sue the government over: whether the proposed taking matches the scope of the project behind it.
Two ways to challenge scope
Many eminent domain takings do not involve condemning an entire piece of real estate and forcing the owner to sell it to the government. A partial taking, such as an easement to put in a road or power lines, can take away some of the owner’s property rights but still leave them with a great deal of use and enjoyment of the remainder of the property. But over time, what began as a relatively small taking can expand and infringe on the owner’s remaining property rights. For example, drivers might start parking on the side of the road in a way that enters the owner’s property and damages their grass or fencing. An owner in this situation might choose to sue for injunctive relief (to get the activity beyond the scope of the taking stopped) or financial relief (compensation for the damage and reduced enjoyment of their property).
Another scope-related challenge available concerns the size of the proposed public project and whether the size of the taking is necessary to complete it. For example, a road along the eastern edge of your property probably should not require the government to seize your entire lot. This can be a basis to challenge the scope of the taking without challenging the taking directly.
Find out your legal options
You might have more options to take on eminent domain than you realize. With the right legal assistance, you are more likely to receive fair compensation or possibly defeat the taking.