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Can any government entity use eminent domain?

In Georgia, any public entity - federal, state, county, city and quasi-governmental agencies like hospitals and power companies - can use eminent domain to seize land for public use projects.

After a 2017 law, your land, or land near you, can be seized by the government and flipped to a private developer for redevelopment. You can fight the move, but it's a long and costly battle, experts say.

A change in law

In 2017, the state legislature approved laws that help loosen the restrictions on using eminent domain. Citing a desire to attack blighted areas, lawmakers enacted a law that allows government to seize land and then turn it over to private developers.

The law loosens previous protections spurred by the 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision Kelo v. City of New London. In that ruling, justices said government had the right to seize private property under eminent domain and transfer it to others for economic development purposes. In response, 45 states - including Georgia in 2006 - passed reforms to restrict using eminent domain in the way approved by the Supreme Court.

The 2017 law steps back some of those reforms, specifically the one that requires government to wait 20 years between seizing a property through eminent domain and selling it to a private developer.

The idea is to fight blight. By seizing blighted areas and turning them over to private developers, cities can attract new residents and improve the tax base, proponents say.

What you can do

If a government entity wants to seize your property in the name of development, you can fight the process, experts say. Property owners can sue and show to a judge that their property isn't blighted. If they lose, they can go through the appeals process.

Landowners can also challenge the move by saying the taking is not in the public interest.

Since government is supposed to provide "just compensation" for the property, landowners can argue that the amount they receive isn't appropriate.

A conversation with an attorney can help clarify options open to landowners, neighbors of concerned citizens.

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