What is Public Use in Eminent Domain?

When the government takes your property, it must be for public use. But what is considered to be public use in North Carolina?

What is public use in eminent domain?

Eminent domain is the right of the government to acquire your property and use it for the good of the public, or for “public use.” Public use can loosely be defined as anything that is intended to enhance the lives of the people who live, work, or visit the area, such as projects related to safety, health, government interest, or convenience. Other terms used to describe this purpose are public good, public necessity, and public purpose.  Eminent domain public use must be for the general public, not a use by (or for) particular individuals.

What are eminent domain public use examples?

Traditionally, eminent domain has been invoked to facilitate transportation, construct public buildings, aid in defense readiness, implement infrastructure and irrigation projects, establish national parks, and preserve historic sites.

Here are some common examples of public use in North Carolina:

  • Expansion and construction of railroads, turnpikes, highways, streets, canals, and bridges
  • Construction of hospitals, public schools, and libraries
  • Erection of power-generating facilities and power lines
  • Building of pipelines originating in North Carolina for the transportation of petroleum products, coal, gas, limestone, or minerals
  • Installation of public sewerage systems and water treatment facilities
  • Building of police stations, fire stations, and prisons
  • Construction of military bases or other national defense buildings


Is public use ever abused?

Yes. The courts have allowed for a rather broad definition of “public use” – including eminent domain takings of private property for redevelopment. In some cases, property has been taken to allow for the construction of private commercial development as a means of increasing the community’s tax base.

If a project is expected to generate tax revenue and jobs, it’s presumably for the public good, right? This interpretation of the public use requirement has, on occasion, removed meaningful limits on the use of eminent domain.

An example of private developers benefitting from eminent domain

In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Kelo v. City of New London to allow the government in New London, CT to take a woman’s house, which was in good condition, for public use even though the surrounding neighborhood was not blighted. The land was then given to a private developer. This further opened the door to other cities and states using the power of eminent domain seemingly on behalf of developers – taking the land, and then allowing developers to build office building and strip malls or other uses which ostensibly benefit the public through tax revenue.

As a result of such rulings, many states have passed legislation curbing the use of eminent domain and narrowing the definitions for “public use.” North Carolina is one such state, enacting Session Law 2006-224, which allows the use of eminent domain for blighted parcels, but not for any surrounding unblighted land.

How can the NC Eminent Domain Law Firm help you?

The attorneys at the NC Eminent Domain Law Firm can help you understand if the government is taking your land for legitimate public use. You don’t have to feel powerless. If the government tells you that your property will be used for public use, a closer examination of the project may reveal that it does not constitute such use under the law.

We can help you take that in-depth look. We have several eminent domain attorneys who have worked for the NCDOT, and they may be able to put that experience to work for you. If the government is taking your property for public use, then we can help you fight for the compensation you may deserve.

Contact us online, or call the NC Eminent Domain Law Firm at 1-877-393-4990 today for a free case evaluation.

Get a free case evaluation

Get a free case
evaluation today.

There are only a handful of attorneys in NC who practice eminent domain exclusively, and even fewer with NCDOT experience. We have several. That’s why its worth getting in touch with us for a free case evaluation.

Here’s how it works:

1) Tell us about your situation.

2) We research your property as needed, using DOT maps, our own technology, and experience to see the exact effects.

3) We let you know what we think a fair offer would be. This evaluation is free, and there’s no
pressure or obligation to hire us after.

But please don’t wait to act. Waiting can hurt your case, and the cost is the same: free.

"*" indicates required fields

* Indicates required information

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.