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The Application of Eminent Domain Powers in Rhode Island for Economic Development Purposes.

Governments worldwide have commonly possessed the power to seize the property of private citizens for various reasons throughout time. In the United States, the Revolutionary War was fought partly because England was using this power arbitrarily to take the property of American colonists. After America gained its independence, Congress ratified the 4th Amendment, which forbade the federal or state governments from seizing private property from citizens and residents without just cause. The government’s power to take private property for just cause is generally referred to today as the power of eminent domain.

Under Rhode Island state law, the state or municipalities are entitled to take public property from a citizen if the taking is to serve a “public purpose,” and the citizen is fairly compensated for the taking at market value. State laws also allow government agencies and subdivisions to take private property for “economic development” purposes, however, such a taking must be compensated at 150% of the market value of the property. A group of Rhode Island property owners recently made a claim before a state court, requesting that they be compensated at the increased 150% rate based on a municipality’s taking of their private property to expand a local airport.

According to the facts discussed in the recently released judicial opinion, the plaintiffs in the case are a group of property owners whose property is situated adjacent to an existing airport. The airport and city officials proposed to expand the airport, using eminent domain powers to seize the plaintiffs’ property to complete the expansion. The plaintiffs were offered compensation for the fair market value of the property. In response to the offer, the plaintiffs instead demand compensation for 150% of the property’s fair market value, arguing that the airport construction was an economic development purpose that entitled them to the increased compensation.

In addressing the parties’ arguments, the court sided with the government parties, finding that airport construction is an infrastructure project that meets the definition of a public purpose under the statute. The plaintffs’ arguments that the construction would also support economic development (and the taking should therefore be compensated as such) did not persuade the Court. Importantly, the court found that if a taking served both a public purpose and economic development, it must be construed as to support a public purpose and only subject to a market value compensation under the relevant law. As a result of the recent opinion, the plaintiffs will only be compensated for the fair market value of their property.

Are You Facing an Eminent Domain Claim?

If you or a loved one is facing a government claim to seize your property under eminent domain, you deserve to be fairly compensated for the taking. In some instances, you may be entitled to challenge and prevent the taking. The amount of compensation offered for taking can vary greatly based on the application of various state laws, as well as the variances in property appraisal and valuation techniques. Seeking the advice of The qualified Rhode Island real estate attorneys with Bilodeau Capalbo, LLP can help you ensure that your property is only seized if it is necessary while ensuring that you obtain the maximum compensation for your loss. If you are facing the seizure of your property, reach out to our Rhode Island real estate attorneys today to discuss your options. If you have questions about a Rhode Island property law issue, we’re here to help. Call us at 401-300-4055 for a free consultation.


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