Many state and local governments reserve the authority to seize and condemn private property for projects that will benefit the general public. In fact, the U.S. Constitution allows the seizure of property by governments provided the property owner receives fair compensation in exchange. However, when an entity exercises eminent domain, it is not always easy to come to an agreement about how much compensation is fair.
Eminent domain is usually reserved to make way for highways, utilities, public buildings and similar projects. One Texas city is using its authority to extend a hiking/biking trail that would connect other trails in the area. The new trail will cut through two areas of a Montessori school, and the school’s owner does not think the project is important enough for that sacrifice. While other options for the trail are available, the city claims this one is the least expensive.
Property owner disagrees
The owner of the school says she has plans for every section of the property, such as parking and additional classroom space. She claims the easement through her property would prevent these expansions and create a safety hazard for her preschool students. She feels her only alternative would be to close her business, which will cost her about $2 million.
Apparently, both parties have tried to negotiate, and the school owner rejected several generous offers from the city on principle. The property owner has gathered signatures on a petition asking for a vote on the matter. This move would add hundreds of thousands more to an already high price tag for the city, resulting in the project costing even more than the other two options.