Use of eminent domain [UPDATE]

In the April 2018 issue of The Village Record, the Village of Flat Rock’s newsletter mailed to all village households, there is an article on the greenway feasibility study that the village received a grant to conduct. In the article, it is stated (boldface added):

The study group will look at multiple potential routes to the park and most importantly engage landowners and determine their receptivity as the Flat Rock Council has no intent to use eminent domain to build a greenway.

At CLG:Flat Rock, we agree that the village should not use eminent domain to acquire property for greenways or bike/pedestrian paths.

Eminent domain (or condemnation, as found in N.C. General Statute, Chapter 136, Article 9) can be defined as: The power of the state, by virtue of its sovereign power over the lands within its jurisdiction, to seize private property for public use, with payment of “just compensation” to the owner(s).

Here are some important points to keep in mind about the council’s decision on this issue:

  • One council cannot bind another council. In other words, the current council can have as policy a ban on using eminent domain to acquire property for greenways, but any council elected after this one does not have to follow that policy. (And this council can also change its mind–there is no legal restriction that requires a council to always follow stated policy.)
  • The Flat Rock village council has voted to use eminent domain in the past. On October 13, 2011, in order to acquire property for the West Blue Ridge Road sidewalk, the council in a 5-1 vote did authorize the use of eminent domain to take property. [UPDATE: While the council did vote to use eminent domain, the landowner finally granted the village the right to his property so the use of eminent domain was not ultimately needed. The fact remains, however, that the village council was willing to use eminent domain to gain property for a sidewalk.]
  • While not using eminent domain themselves, the Flat Rock village council seems to have no issue with NCDOT using eminent domain for sidewalks for the N. Highland Lake Road project if it continues.

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