Farming may be a way of life for your family, or it may be a passion for you specifically. Whether you inherited your farmland from your parents, took over your grandparents’ farm or purchased property to pursue your dream, your land is your lifeline and your source of income.
The idea that the government could come and lay claim to your property is an insult to all the work you have invested in establishing your agricultural operations. Unfortunately, farmers can lose some of their property to eminent domain claims in Georgia. Is your farmland at risk?
Proximity and the purpose of the project determine your rights
If one farmer purchases acreage along a little-used state road, the risk is always there that the state may come through and turn that two-lane road into a four-lane road, eating into their property significantly. Even properties seemingly in the middle of nowhere could be vulnerable to development requests for anything from utility infrastructure to pipelines.
The likelihood of a successful eminent domain claim against your property depends on the project and the location of your property, but it is a risk farmers cannot ignore. In Georgia, eminent domain claims must be in the public interest or performed on behalf of the public. Recognizing that could help you fight back against development plans that would truly only benefit one business.
Additionally, the ability to compel you to sell your property depends on how crucial your land is to the project. If an adjacent parcel would work just as well as yours, you may be able to refuse and demand that they alter their plans slightly to accommodate that. In cases such as road front property with an upcoming expansion or infrastructure projects, such challenges may be more difficult to bring.
What do you get in an eminent domain scenario?
In theory, before a government agency or developer initiates condemnation for an eminent domain claim, they should try to cooperate with you first. Making a fair market value offer on your property is a reasonable way to compensate you for the loss of some of your farmland.
You should take your time to evaluate an offer so that you can counter it when it is too low given the actual price of acreage in the area. You could also discover that eminent domain laws don’t actually apply to the project, meaning that they won’t be able to compel you to sell if you don’t successfully negotiate with them. You also have the option of fighting the condemnation in court.
Learning more about how eminent domain could affect your farm can help you protect your property.