About Eminent Domain
Eminent domain is the legal authority for a governmental entity, or a private entity authorized by the government, to take private property for public use.
A government authority or private entity authorized by the government can condemn, or take, private property for a variety of public uses. However, the 5th amendment of the United States Constitution does not allow “private property [to] be taken for public use without just compensation.”
The Condemnation Process
Condemnation is the process by which private property is taken. It is a process where there is not a willing buyer and a willing seller. Condemnation is a “forced” legal transaction. In Texas, both the eminent domain and the condemnation processes are governed by Chapter 21 of the Texas Property Code.
The condemnation process has several stages:
a) A good faith negotiation is attempted between the condemnor and a private property owner. If a landowner and the condemning authority cannot reach an agreement after the final offer, the condemnor may file a petition in the county court where the property is located;
b) Once a suit is filed, a judge will appoint three disinterested property owners to serve as Special Commissioners within the county to hear evidence and assess compensation to the landowner. A hearing is conducted where appraisals are presented by both parties and an award of compensation is determined by the Commissioners;
c) If either party is dissatisfied with the Special Commission’s award or wish to pursue other matters before a court, they may continue through the process and appeal the Commissioners’ decision by proceeding with a civil condemnation suit.
Condemnation continues to be a burdensome proposition for landowners who are often not made “whole” through this legal process – and there are many inequities at all stages of the process that need to be remedied.
Despite some progress made in recent legislative sessions to make eminent domain law more protective of private property owners’ rights, much remains to be done to make the process more fair to landowners.
This website provides basic information about some of the problems and potential solutions in the condemnation process. We stand in solidarity with organizations around the state working to reform eminent domain.
NBC5-Dallas – 01/2022
Texas Supreme Court Hears Bullet Train, Eminent Domain Case
CNN – 12/2021
Land Seized for Border Wall Returned to Texas Family
Denton Record-Chronicle – 11/2021
City Pays $4.1 million for Home in, Eminent Domain Dispute
Spectrum News One – 07/2021
Bill to Make Eminent Domain More Transparent
Local Profile – 04/2021
Local School Clashes with City over Eminent Domain
Longview News-Journal – 01/2021
Family Restaurant of 20 Years Target of Eminent Domain by City
Houston Chronicle – 11/2020
Surfside Beach Residents Fight to Keep Pipeline and Export Terminal Out
CBS 11-Dallas – 10/2020
North Texas City Threatens Taking of Church Property
KXAN-TV – 8/2020
Kinder Morgan Forced to Reroute Pipeline around Blanco River
Houston Chronicle – 06/2020
Brazoria Landowner Wins Eminent Domain Fight Against Texas Giant
Ft. Worth Star Telegram – 05/2020
DFW Planners Want $4.4B Reservoir Northeast Texas is Pushing Back
Texas Agriculture Law Blog – 03/2020
Texas Supreme Court Reverses Ruling for Landowner in Easement Width Case