Under Eminent Domain Can The Government Acquire Private Land For Public Use?

The power of eminent domain allows the government to acquire private land for public use under certain circumstances.

The power of eminent domain allows the government to acquire private land for public use under certain circumstances.At the local level, eminent domain is often exercised to obtain land to build sports stadiums.

Washington, D.C., condemns several private properties for professional soccer stadium

The legal process of exercising eminent domain is known as condemnation. Although it varies from state to state, the basic steps of the procedure are similar. Once the local government decides it needs a parcel of land to develop an arena, the first step is to contact the owner to negotiate a sales price.

For example, when Washington, D.C.’s professional soccer team D.C. United needed a new stadium, the local government chose the site of a salvage yard, as well as parcels owned by Akridge, Pepco and investor Mark Ein, for the project. The process of acquiring the land involved negotiations between stadium investors and the employee-owned Super Salvage. If the negotiations were stalled at any point, the local government had the ability to exercise eminent domain, which was used to seize 16 different properties to make room for the development of Nationals Park by Mayor Anthony Williams’ administration

The condemnation process under eminent domain

In the case of D.C. United’s arena, the government had no need to exercise eminent domain. However, if, in a given situation, the land owners do not agree with the sales price offered by the local government, and refuse the deal completely, they can then dispute the deal in court. If this happens, the local government will need to prove that it had tried to negotiate a deal with the land owner, and that the property will be developed for public use. If both of these can be shown to the judge, then a fair value appraiser will determine a price for the parcel and the owner will be paid that amount and evicted. Both sides are allowed to appeal the outcome.

There are many instances of cities taking private land for the benefit of sports franchises. For example, Arlington, Texas, used eminent domain in 2005 to condemn and destroy a series of homes on a parcel of land later used for the construction of a new stadium for the Dallas Cowboys. The following year, New York City exercised the right in order to take the properties of several private businesses for construction of a new arena for the then New Jersey Nets.

Local governments certainly do have the right to take land from private owners to build arenas for a sports franchise, and many cities, such as Washington, D.C., have shown a willingness to do so. For further questions on the eminent domain process, contact an attorney. There is a perennial rotation of franchises in the major American sports leagues described as candidates for relocation, and eminent domain is always a possibility when any one of these teams decides to move or upgrade its current stadium.

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Anthony R. Caruso is a business transactional attorney in New York and New Jersey with experience in structuring, negotiation and completion of legal deals involving business, entrepreneurs, athletes and performers.

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