Eminent domain and generational property

On Behalf of | Oct 10, 2023 | Firm News |

Eminent domain allows both the state and federal government to take your house, your land and even the family farm for any public use. Commonly this is to build a road or highway, but it can also be for utilities, parks, schools or even to transfer to developers to build commercial or housing developments. 

Some find this idea unfair, but eminent domain is a power enshrined within the U.S. Constitution

Those Ohioans who have homes, land or farms that have been in their families for generations may wonder how these properties are treated in an eminent domain action. Is that generational ownership factored in or given any weight?

What is generational property?

Many of us have lived here our entire lives, and so have our families, which is why generational property is so important to us. The term “generational property” simply means that the same family has owned the property for more than one generation. This means that it has significant, historical, sentimental and even cultural value to both the family and the local community.

How does generational property affect eminent domain?

Unfortunately, even if your property does qualify as generational property, it does not stop the local or state government from taking it. It also may not automatically change the amount of compensation you receive for it. Though, it could become relevant.

Could affect public purpose

The taking must serve a legitimate public purpose. The generational aspect of the property and its value to not just the family, but also the local community, can be used to argue that the taking does not serve a legitimate public purpose. Depending on the use of the property too, like its historical nature (relevance to local history, civil rights, etc.), religious uses, etc., arguments can also be used that the taking would violate other constitutional rights, like due process, equal protection, religious freedom, etc. 

Just compensation

Constitutionally, property owners are entitled to just compensation. Usually, this is fair market value, but for generational property owners, fair market value is likely insufficient. You can argue this fact and cite the loss of income, business goodwill, any community benefits, etc.

Court cases

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled in Norwood v. Horney for the generational property owner. It found that economic development alone was not enough to justify displacing some families that had owned their homes for over 80 years. 

The court found the opposite in Clifton v. Blanchester. This shows that while generational property owners have additional arguments to make, these arguments are not always successful, but the arguments should be made.

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