HB 317: Heightened Standards for Eminent Domain
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Years ago, the city of Farmington was planning to take a man’s farm using the power of eminent domain. This taking was being considered in order to build a park and additional soccer fields that officials felt the city couldn’t be without.
It may surprise you to know that government entities have the ability to take property for such a purpose using what’s called eminent domain. This power can be a jarring one, especially when the project for which private property is being taken is a park or recreational facility.
Utah law states that property may only be taken by the power of eminent domain if the taking is necessary for public use. The problem is, it’s not clear what it means for a property to be necessary. On top of that, courts generally give deference to the government entity whenever questions of necessity are raised.
This combination makes it extremely difficult to defend your property from being taken on the grounds that it’s not truly necessary.
Representative Mike Peterson is sponsoring House Bill 317, which will ensure property owners have another line of defense against eminent domain takings for the sake of recreational purposes. Local entities looking to take property for such a purpose will be required to provide clear and convincing evidence that they could not otherwise achieve their purpose without forcibly taking property.
Eminent domain, if used at all, should be regarded as a last resort. This bill treats it as such and is, therefore, a step in the right direction.