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Eminent Domain Glossary

Appraiser A person who establishes a value for property through the preparation of an appraisal report. While there are no special licenses required for an individual to appraise properties in eminent domain proceedings, insuring that an appraiser understands the eminent domain rules is critical to obtaining a correct calculation of damages when property is taken from an owner.

Access The ability to enter or exit a parcel of property from a public roadway.

Condemn To take private property for a public use.

Condemnation The process by which a governmental or quasi-governmental agency takes private property for a public use.

Consequential Damages See severance damages.

Constitutional Rights Rights guaranteed to citizens by either the federal or state constitutions. One such right is the payment of just compensation to any owner who has property taken by the government in an eminent domain proceeding.

Contiguous Parcels of property that physically adjoin one another.

Direct Damages The value of the land and any improvements to the land which are actually taken by a governmental entity in an eminent domain proceeding. The market value must be determined based upon the highest and best use of the land and improvements which are being taken.

Eminent Domain The power granted to governmental or quasi-governmental agencies to take private property for public use.

Fair Market Value The value of property based upon the price that a willing a informed buyer will pay for the property to a willing and informed seller in an arms length transaction.

Highest and Best Use The use for a parcel of property that produces the highest value for that property in the marketplace. (See Situation #1 for an example.)

Indirect Damages See severance damages.

Inverse Condemnation Actions by the government which effectively result in a property owner losing the value of his /her property even though the government does not actually acquire any title to that property. (See regulatory takings.)

Just Compensation The amount of money to be paid to a property owner to compensate that owner for the damages caused to the owner by the taking of the ownerÕs property. Just compensation should result in the owner being in the same financial position after the taking as the position that existed before the taking.

Necessity The test to determine the amount of property needed to adequately undertake the public purpose. If a public road requires a 100-foot wide strip of land, a strip of land 200 feet wide could not be taken because it would exceed what was necessary to accomplish the public purpose and thereby fail the test of necessity.

Partial Taking An acquisition by the government through the use of its powers of eminent domain that involves less than the entire parcel of property owned by the owner. (See Situation #1-6 for an example.)

Property Something which is owned. It is divided into two categories: real property and personal property. Most eminent domain cases only allow compensation for real property. Real property consists of land and all of the improvements that have been constructed on the land and permanently affixed to it.

Public Purpose The justification which the government must establish in its powers of eminent domain to acquire private property. Examples of endeavors which satisfy the public purpose include roads, parks, schools, other public buildings, or any other endeavor where the purpose of the project serves a public good or need.

Regulatory Taking An owner’s loss of all beneficial use of a parcel of property caused by the enactment of a statute, ordinance, or other governmental regulation where the governmental entity does not actually obtain title to the property.

Relocation Benefits Payments which the government must make to any occupant of a parcel who is forced to move to a new location because the taking will not allow that occupant to continue to utilize the parcel of property. Relocation benefits are not limited to owners. Tenants or other occupants who are not owners are also entitled to these benefits. Relocation benefits are intended to compensate an occupant for costs that that occupant incurs in moving a household or business to the new location where those costs would not have been incurred in the absence of the relocation.

Remainder That portion of a parcel of property which the owner still owns after the government exercises its powers of eminent domain to acquire a partial taking from that parcel of property.

Severance Damages The loss of value to the remainder above and beyond the value of the land and structures taken by the government.

Taking The land and structures upon the land which a governmental unit acquires through an eminent domain proceeding. Where an owner loses access only, but no land or buildings, the loss of access will constitute a taking.

Total Taking The acquisition of an entire parcel of property by the government through its exercise of its powers of eminent domain.

Uneconomic Remainder A remainder which has little or no value in the marketplace because the partial taking from the original parcel left the remainder without any access or with an irregular shape or size that makes the parcel unusable.

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