The idea of eminent domain is a very controversial aspect of the basic relationship that exists between individual rights and the rights of government. Many people cite eminent domain as a method that is used by powerful special interests to demolish and coopt minority neighborhoods. Others view eminent domain as an aspect of governmental power that, while extremely necessary, must also be subject to restrictions and regulation. Bob Norberg’s article “Smart OK’s Use of Eminent Domain to Close Rural Petaluma Crossings” (2013) features a case in Sonoma County California where the right of eminent domain may be used by the district government to gain easement access “to consolidate three rail crossings into one in south Petaluma” (Norberg, 2013, p. 1). The securing of easement would possibly involve restricting the property rights of several land owners.
The property owners who would be impacted by the use of eminent domain include both businesses and private owners. The businesses in the area would be obliged to now use a single railway crossing rather than having access to three separate crossings. The article discusses the fact that this change adversely effects the businesses in the area by making transportation more tedious and by driving down the property values. Additionally, the cost of the new railroad crossing and its equipment would be pushed onto the nearby property owners. The article remarks that “the cost of the road and the crossing improvements will be part of the negotiations with the property owners […] in most cases, the majority of such costs are borne by the property owners” (Norberg, 2). These infringements on the rights of property owners are among many that are commonly associated with the controversies of eminent domain. For this reason, the suggestion that eminent domain should only be used sparingly by government must be considered to be an accurate suggestion given the impact that eminent domain exerts on businesses and private residents.
Norberg, Bob. “Smart OK’s Use of Eminent Domain to Close Rural Petaluma Crossings”
(2013) The Press Democrat. accessed 1-24-13; http://www.pressdemocrat.