Families throughout Georgia are getting letters from railroad companies claiming that they need to use their land to expand their lines. They may argue that the move is beneficial for the community, but is it? And can these companies move forward with their plans and take your land?
There are situations when the government can take a private individual’s land. This is generally justified by an argument that the government’s taking is best for the public. In a recent example, landowners argue that a railroad company is attempting to take land not for the greater good but for their own profit. The proposed line would serve to help move granite and other products from a mine to a larger line for transportation.
Can a railroad company take private land?
On its own? Generally, not. As explained well in a recent report on Georgia Public Broadcasting, in order to take the land the railroad company would need to convince state regulators that the use of the land will meet the needs of an economically distressed area. If the railroad company is successful in building this argument, it could move forward with the taking through the use of eminent domain.
What is eminent domain?
Eminent domain is essentially the legal ability of the government to take private property. In exchange, the law requires the government provides “just compensation” for the land. This process is often used for power companies or to build highways. It allows the state to essentially force the transfer of land through a negotiated sale or condemnation of the property.
Land is more than just a place to live. It is an important part of building wealth. Many of these landowners explain that although the financial side is relevant the fight is about more than wealth because the property has been in their family for generations. Taking of property can impact both a person’s ties to their history and drastically alter their financial wellbeing.
Those who find themselves in this type of situation are wise to seek legal counsel. An attorney experienced in eminent domain can discuss your situation and legal strategies to fight back which could include disputing the claim and negotiating for a better price.