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Georgia officials put eminent domain case on hold

When it comes to eminent domain in Georgia, most of the time a case involves a homeowner or other private landowner against the government. On rare occasions, though, governments might actually come to the aid of private property owners to prevent land from heading to condemnation proceedings for the benefit of a corporation.

In fact, just such a situation came up recently involving a pipeline project that would have affected a large number of parcels of land between Belton, South Carolina, and Jacksonville, Florida -- most of them within Georgia. Rather than going toward a local project, such as a road or something that would benefit the residents, the pipeline would have cleared the land, including some held by families for hundreds of years, but not offered any ongoing benefits to those living nearby.

Private entities can use eminent domain if they are granted permission by the appropriate authorities. In this case, the company was denied the certificate that would have permitted them to do so, and that decision was upheld by a judge from the Georgia Superior Court.

Beyond that, though, the state Legislature also passed a bill that would put at least a temporary stop to the pipeline project until next year. Lawmakers said that aside from protecting the rights of the property owners they represent, they were concerned about the safety of such a project. Two years ago, a pipeline managed by the same company leaked nearly 400,000 gallons of gasoline in South Carolina -- at the same site the new pipeline would have begun.

Not all eminent domain cases have such a groundswell of opposition. Working with an attorney experienced in condemnation proceedings is often an excellent way to level the playing field.

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