Blighted Areas & Eminent Domain, Constitutional "Takings"

Eminent domain is the power of the government to compel the purchase of private property for public use/purpose. The constitutional basis for eminent domain by the State of Missouri is articulated in Article I, Section 26 of the Missouri Constitution: That private property shall not be taken or damaged for public use without just compensation. Under Missouri law, eminent domain is a power that belongs to the State government — not counties, municipalities or public service corporations. State ex rel. Mo. Cities Water Co. v. Hodge, 878 S.W.2d 819, 820 (Mo. 1994). Accordingly, for another entity to be able to exercise eminent domain, there must be a proper delegation from the State. Id. Courts interpret the delegations strictly and an entity claiming a proper delegation must be able to point to the statute which either expressly or by necessary implication confers that right. Id. at 821.Beyond the issue of delegation, a large, threshold issue in an eminent domain case is that the taking be for a public use/purpose. For example, Missouri case precedent establishes that a valid public use/purpose is the elimination of blight. State ex rel. U.S. Steel v. Koehr, 811 S.W.2d 385, 389 (Mo. 1991). In litigating and disputing eminent domain matters, therefore, it is important for the property owner to understand what the claimed public use/purpose is to ensure that the taking is proper. Contact us with questions.
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