COMO YOU KNOW: Eminent domain

Wednesday, March 20, 2013 | 9:49 a.m. CDT; updated 7:12 p.m. CDT, Friday, May 9, 2014

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Believe it or not, city government has the authority to take land from private owners without their consent. They must follow stipulations set by Missouri statutes, but those stipulations can be somewhat subjective. The use of eminent domain is akin to the use of easements, which primarily allow the city government to acquire small parcels of land that are necessary for infrastructure development: the extension of sewer lines and roads, for example. Easements, however, require authorization from the property owner, whereas eminent domain does not.

The Missouri statutes require that the land taken by eminent domain be used for public benefit and that the owner be appropriately compensated; both are open to some interpretation. Land may not be taken solely for economic development purposes.

According to the city’s ordinances for Public Works and improvements:

Private property may be taken for public use for the purpose of establishing, opening, widening, extending or altering any street, avenue, alley, wharf, creek, river, watercourse, market place, public park or public square, and for establishing market houses, and for any other necessary public purposes. The council shall have the power to condemn private property for public use, occupation or possession in the construction and repair of public, district, joint district and private sewers in the same manner as other property is condemned within the city for public uses. This power of eminent domain shall include the exercise of the power of excess condemnation as authorized by the constitution or by law, and the power to condemn private property, real or personal, or any easement or use therein for public use within or without the city.

Links and sources

City of Columbia Code of Ordinances

Updated: March 20, 2013

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