As Texas continues to grow, its need for basic infrastructure continues to grow. The need for roads, highways, rail lines, energy pipelines, electric transmission lines and other public projects has led the state to delegate its power of eminent domain to certain private companies.
The power of eminent domain, also called “condemnation,” is the power of a sovereign government to make the final decision on how land will be used. Just because the state of Texas or its delegate plans to condemn your property, however, does not mean they will get their way.
Both the U.S. and Texas constitutions rein in the power of eminent domain. There are two requirements for the government or its delegates:
- The property being condemned must be being put to a public use
- The property owner must be paid just compensation
When the government or a delegate like a pipeline developer decides to take someone’s property, they must first show that it has the power of eminent domain. It must then show that it is doing the taking for a public purpose. Finally, it must provide just compensation, which generally means the fair market value of the property when put to its highest and best use.
Can I stop an infrastructure company from taking my property through condemnation?
In some cases, yes. You may be able to show that the infrastructure company is not among those who have delegated eminent domain power from the state. Or, you may be able to show that the project is primarily for a private purpose.
If you do not succeed in stopping the company from taking your land, you have the right to just compensation. What would a willing buyer pay for your property on the open market if your property were put to its highest and best use? This is the essence of the question.
You will need an attorney to perform a though market analysis to determine the fair market value of your property. That analysis should take into consideration the diminution of value to any remaining part of the property that is not taken, or any other issues that affect the value of the property.
Often, infrastructure companies only want an easement
An easement is a special type of partial land grant. It assigns the right to use or cross a portion of your land to reach a project nearby. Another type of partial land grant is a right of way.
When the company comes to install transmission lines, roads or pipelines, they may approach you about an easement or right of way. They can obtain the easement or right of way through the power of condemnation, and you should be justly compensated for the value of that land grant.
You should work with a lawyer who knows how to minimize the impact of the easement or right of way on your remaining land while maximizing your continued use of the property.