Eminent Domain versus Private Property Rights

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BRYAN, Tex. (KBTX) - As cities continue to grow in Texas and companies, utilities, and governments build more roads, power transmission lines, and pipelines, many rural landowners are being forced to sell property they don’t want to sell. This can happen when those entities have the power of eminent domain to condemn private property for the public good. There’s a push in this year’s Texas Legislative Session for Eminent Domain Reform. Billy Howe works for the Texas Farm Bureau as an advocate for agriculture on water and eminent domain law.

“The legislature gave them the authority to take people’s property. So it’s the legislature’s responsibility to make sure that that authority is used in a manner that is consistent with people’s private property rights, and your private property right is the right to get just compensation for your property.”

Howe believes that current Texas Eminent Domain law tilts in favor of the entity condemning the property.

“If it were a willing buyer willing seller transaction anything that you had to spend on an attorney or an appraiser or any other professional to help you with the transaction you could kind of figure into what they ultimately pay you. You can get yourself reimbursed for those costs. Eminent domain no, because when you’re in court all the court considers is what’s the value of the property they’re taking and your damages to the remainder and that’s what you get and that’s it.”

Howe says there are other factors in a willing buyer willing seller transaction that would be taken into consideration.

“If your property is specifically situated in such a way that they really need your property for their project and so maybe that makes your property more valuable than what land’s going for generally in the area, that’s not taken into consideration.”

Howe maintains that’s the reason property values go up.

“I’m like really do y’all seriously think the public has a right to take people’s property without paying for it just because it’s too hard or too expensive? This is the exact reason why these rights are in the constitution. That’s why you have right to equal protection. That’s why you have a right to be compensated if you’re property’s taken for a public use because they knew that otherwise the majority was going to try to run over the minority.”