Moving condemnation law forward

The government has the right to take private land for public use through its powers of eminent domain.

Landowners have the right to fair compensation.

There’s a gray area between those two rights, including definitions of “public use” and “fair compensation.”

That’s where the lawyers at Burnette Shutt & McDaniel come in. Our eminent domain attorneys can help owners who want to challenge the government taking of their land. If the condemnation is justified, we can help land owners get a fair price for the property. We also advise governments interested in acquiring property.

Through its powers of eminent domain, any government agency – local, state, or federal – can take land as long as the planned project is for public use. A 2006 constitutional amendment in South Carolina greatly limited the definition of “public use” to rule out takings for economic development projects. Generally in South Carolina, “public use” means something that’s open to everyone, such as parks or roads. Electric lines and sewer plants are allowed, because the public benefits.

If the government agency meets the “public use or benefit” standard, there’s little a property own can do to stop the condemnation. The government can’t, however, dictate the price. There are several ways property owners can go about getting the best deal. At Burnette Shutt & McDaniel, we can help you determine the best way to proceed.

You can begin by negotiating. Sometimes this alone will result in a boost on the initial low-ball offer. You can let the condemnation proceed. That process involves taking the matter to court or before an appraisal panel. Often, unless the condemner can prove the challenge was in bad faith, the landowner can recover legal costs.

There’s also the possibility of an “inverse condemnation.” Landowners can pursue this  when the government tries to take property without following procedure. This can be a physical taking or a regulatory change that restricts what the owner can do with the land. Land owners also can challenge unreasonable development restrictions through inverse condemnation.

At Burnette Shutt & McDaniel, we can help you decide which path is right for you.