I came across this letter, in our local newspaper, written by a local rural land owner who was upset with officials who wished to place a water pipeline through his property by requesting that he agree to an easement through his property.  He was not opposed to the pipeline or the easement.  What he was upset about was that he wanted to be compensated at a fair market value.  The people with the rural water district stated that they were only willing to pay him one dollar compensation and if he would not agree, then they would seize the land through the use of “eminent domain.”

Eminent Domain, by definition is “The power to take private property for public use by a state, municipality, or private person or corporation authorized to exercise functions of public character, following the payment of just compensation to the owner of that property.”

Federal, state, and local governments may take private property through their power of eminent domain or may regulate it by exercising their Police Power. The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires the government to provide just compensation to the owner of the private property to be taken. A variety of property rights are subject to eminent domain, such as air, water, and land rights. The government takes private property through condemnation proceedings. Throughout these proceedings, the property owner has the right of due process.

To exercise the power of eminent domain, the government must prove that the four elements set forth in the Fifth Amendment are present: (1st) element requires that the property that is being taken is private.  The (2nd) element refers to the “taking” of physical property, or a portion thereof, and the (3rd) element is “public use” requires that the property taken be used to benefit the public rather than a specific individual.  The final or (4th) element mandates that the amount of compensation awarded when property is seized or damaged through condemnation must be fair to the public as well as the property owner.

This last element of the law is the crux of the issue, in this situation.  The rural water district officials say that anything over the one dollar compensation will cause an increase in rates for those potential users of that water provided by said pipeline.  The land-owner, on the other hand, states that he is a former veteran and that he feels that this is totally unfair.  He says that he fought again tyranny in Korea and Desert Storm, and now he is faced with this local tyranny.  He can argue his case in court, but while the legal proceedings are occurring in court, the landowner gives up any right or ownership to any land, in question.

Most of the time, the state, municipality, and private person or corporation; who is authorized to perform operations for the public good are going to win out in “eminent domain” cases.  The rural water district is most likely going to prevail in this situation, but it is unfortunately that a more fair compensation can not be reached.  The good of the many are always going to outweigh the needs of the few.  Government always wins out over the individual and in this case, the landowner is probably going to lose out.

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