The common school of thought amongst many in Greensburg is that a person’s home is his or her castle, with his or her property its surrounding kingdom. As such, no one could just come in (much less state or local government officials) and just take that away from you, right? In most cases, you would be correct in that assumption. However, the principle of eminent domain allows the government to expropriate private property for public use. Could your property be taken through this authority? Only by understanding how Pennsylvania regulates this right can that question be answered.
Typically, private property can only be acquired through the use of eminent domain authority if it is determined that doing so would contribute to the common welfare. That is why, according to Title 26, Section 204 of Pennsylvania’s Consolidated Statutes, it is prohibited for a condemnor to cite eminent domain if it is trying to acquire your property for private enterprise. There are, however, certain exceptions to this rule. These include:
- You agree to allow the property to be used for the condemnor’s purposes
- A threat to the health and safety of the general public exists on your property
- The property has been abandoned
- The property has been condemned as a public blight
- The property is necessary for the development of low- and mixed-income housing projects or new businesses authorized under the Urban Redevelopment Law
- The property is among other blighted properties found within a former military installation that need to be removed
The development of new roadways or public utilities, while not necessarily qualifying as private enterprise, presents another scenario where your property may be made subject to eminent domain. However, if your property is taken, the same constitutional amendment that authorizes eminent domain requires that you be justly compensated.