Eminent domain is a legal action that is committed against private property owners for the sake of promoting public services. In some cases, the actions are not straightforward and must be challenged in court. Owners in Florida should first understand the main differences between public use and public benefit.
According to the Fifth Amendment in the U.S. Constitution, “Nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” The taking of one’s private property is permissible under certain conditions.
Eminent domain stands for the ability of the government to seize private property and turn it into public use. The original property owners must be properly informed of this action and have the right to challenge the decision in court.
Public use is the use of private property for public use. An example is using part of a former ranch to construct part of a highway. However, public use can be interpreted in many different ways. It could mean using the property to create a toxic landfill, an amusement park or a hiking trail. The property is used by many people but not in a way that is guaranteed to benefit everyone.
Public benefit is the use of private property that benefits the greater public. An example is the operation of a church or a nonprofit organization that provides social services, healthcare, education and performing arts to a wide community.
Private vs. public interests
Many eminent domain cases end up being challenged in court. A private property owner may bring up the issues of public use and public benefit. The private owner may claim that the property is not being used for the public’s interest. Nearby business owners may claim that the conversion will cause more harm to the community than good. It’s important to consider the meanings of public use, public values and public benefit in cases of eminent domain.