Last month, an article was published in the Huffington Post, discussing the plight of a Colorado couple fighting to keep ownership of their land situated in the White River National Forest, from the county government.
According to the article, Andy and Ceil Barrie own a small cabin situated on a 10-acre parcel of real estate in Summit County, Colorado. The county government, purportedly concerned that the couple drives an ATV up an old mining road to reach the cabin, is trying to claim the land under their power of eminent domain.
Eminent domain is the power to take private property for public use by a local, state or national government under certain circumstances. Property taken by eminent domain may be taken by the government or delegated to third parties to be put to public use or for economic development.
Commonly, private property is seized by eminent domain for construction of government facilities, public utilities, highways, or railroads. Less frequently, private property is taken for economic development by private parties. One notorious example of such a taking was addressed in the landmark Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005).
In that case, the city of New London, Connecticut, took non-blighted private property by eminent domain, and then transferred it to a private developer for the purpose of increasing municipal revenue. The decision in Kelo sparked a public outcry against eminent domain powers as being too broad.
In, 2011, the U S. Forest Service informed the Barries they weren’t permitted to use any motorized vehicles to access their land due to it being situated in the White River National Forest. Summit County asked to buy the land, but the Barries refused to sell. In the fall of 2013, the Summit County commissioners voted to condemn the Barries’ property finding that “public motorized access” to the property could damage the alpine tundra and streams, as well as habitat for the endangered lynx.”
According to the attorney for Summit County, Jeff Huntley, the county was forced to act because the Barries insisted using motorized vehicles to access the cabin. Huntley commented, “People in this community are very intent on preserving the back country.”
Under Illinois law, the government is permitted to seize private property by eminent if the proposed taking is either for a public purpose, such as a highway or park, or a public necessity. In the event the government takes private property by eminent domain, it is required to pay the owner “just compensation.” Further, attorney’s fees may be recoverable under certain circumstances, such as if a court determines that the government is not allowed to acquire the property through eminent domain.
The Barries’ situation highlights the importance of property owners having knowledge of their real estate rights or obtaining the services of a professional that does. If you have questions your real estate rights, or need additional information about real estate transactions, contact the experienced real estate attorneys at The Slater Firm, Ltd. today.