Eminent Domain

Eminent Domain is the power of a state or a national government to take private property for public use. However, it can be legislatively delegated by the state to municipalities, government subdivisions, or even to private persons or corporations, when they are authorized to exercise the functions of public character.

The Fifth Amendment imposes limitations on the exercise of eminent domain: the taking must be for public use and just compensation must be paid.

Highest and Best Use

Highest and best use, (HBU), is a concept in real estate appraisal that shows how the highest value for a property is arrived at. In any case where the market value of real property is sought, that value must be based on its highest and best use. Highest and best use is always that use that would produce the highest value for a property, regardless of its actual current use. A piece of property that can be developed into a shopping mall will be more valuable than a property that can only be developed into a single family home. If your property becomes subject to eminent domain, your should consult the advice of an attorney to make sure your receive just compensation. Many attorneys will provide you with a free initial consultation, which could result .

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In the video below an attorney describes highest and best use in eminent domain.



The term "condemnation" is used to describe the formal act of the exercise of the power of eminent domain to transfer title to the property from its private owner to the government. This use of the word should not be confused with its sense of a declaration that property is uninhabitable due to defects. Condemnation via eminent domain indicates the government is taking ownership of the property or some lesser interest in it, such as an easement. After the condemnation action is filed the amount of just compensation is determined in trial. However, in some cases, the property owner challenges the right to take because the proposed taking is not for "public use", or the condemnor is not legislatively authorized to take the subject property, or has not followed the proper substantive or procedural steps as required by law.

The City of St. Louis approved blighting a part of North St. Louis in the hopes that the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) will build and relocate there.

Christina Walsh, the Institute for Justice's director of activism, said that if the NGA wanted to move to the North St. Louis site, it would utilize federal eminent domain powers. The city is "using the NGA as a pretext to condemn this neighborhood," Walsh said, possibly in an effort to give it to developer Paul McKee, who owns affected and nearby land as part of his NorthSide project.

The irony is that Paul McKee was allowed to purchase property at bargain basement prices, some directly from the city with tax subsidies and will now most likely sell back some of those same properties under highest and best use. The city will then, using tax dollars, pay to demolish buildings, and prepare the site for redevelopment under the guise of NGA selecting the site. If the NGA decides not to build it's new facility in North St. Louis, the city will most likely then sell the property to McKee. This could very well be a shameful land grab by the City of St. Louis in order to bypass an agreement McKee made with these very same landowners.

Missouri Law

Under Missouri law, 60 days before the filing of a condemnation petition, the condemning authority must provide the owner of record of such property with a written notice concerning the intended acquisition. The substance of this notice must adhere to RSMo 523.250, the “Landowners’ Bill of Rights.” Condemnation proceedings are generally covered under chapter 523 of the Missouri Revised Statutes.

If the property taken is your principal place of residence, you will usually have 100 days from the date of the award. Also, you have to be given notice sixty days before the filing of a condemnation petition. So, in almost all cases you will have at least 160 days from the day you receive the official “notice of intent to acquire” letter from the condemning authority.

Under the 2006 Missouri law passed by the legislature as HB1944, a condemning authority has to present a written offer to all owners of record of the property at least thirty days before filing a condemnation petition. The offer must be held open for the thirty day period unless an agreement is made sooner. You have a right to obtain your own appraisal for just compensation and make a counteroffer and to engage in further negotiations. Good faith negotiations are defined by statute in Missouri. House Bill 1944 provides the statutory definition:

“A condemning authority shall be deemed to have engaged in good faith negotiations if:

(1) It has properly and timely given all notices to owners required by this chapter;

(2) Its offer under section 523.253 was no lower than the amount reflected in an appraisal performed by a state-licensed or state-certified appraiser for the condemning authority, provided an appraisal is given to the owner pursuant to subsection 2 of section 523.253 or, in other cases, the offer is no lower than the amount provided in the basis for its determination of the value of the property as provided to the owner under subsection 2 of section 523.253;

(3) The owner has been given an opportunity to obtain his or her own appraisal from a state-licensed or state-certified appraiser of his or her choice; and

(4) Where applicable, it has considered an alternate location suggested by the owner under section 523.265.”

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