According to an article posted on the Channel 8 local ABC website, a sixth-generation farm and others will soon be subject to eminent domain due to a high-speed railway project approved by the federal government. Eminent domain is the power of a government, either municipal, state or federal, to acquire private property with the payment of just compensation. This is sometimes referred to as land acquisition.
The Federal Railroad Administration gave approval for the project to move forward, which is slated to begin construction next year. However, property owners have banded together to oppose the project, forming an opposition group called Texans Against High-Speed Rail to lobby and stop the creation of the bullet train. The bullet train that will cut through tracts of farmland, which decreases the value of the land and also presents other issues to the property owners, who fear that it will lead to more takings down the road.
Texas Central Railroad has yet to exercise its power over eminent domain, but it has already purchased 600 parcels. Eminent domain is exercised when a normal negotiation and sale with the property owner is not reached. A railroad company, though a private entity, is entitled to acquire land since the end use of a railroad is for a public purpose.
The “public use” component was broadened in 2005 with the landmark decision by the US Supreme Court in Kelo v. City of New London: a government body may take private property through eminent domain if it believes that it will generate more revenue. Whether the government keeps the property or re-sells it to a developer matters not. Unfortunately, as it is now not uncommon since this decision, the property in question sits vacant for lack of funding for the project.
This is one of the many outcomes the Texan property owners fear, and rightfully so.
Howerton, Matt. “140-Year-Old North Texas Farm Threatened by Bullet Train’s Latest Federal Approval.” Wfaa.com, 22 Sept. 2020, www.wfaa.com/article/news/local/140-year-old-north-texas-farm-threatened-by-bullet-trains-latest-federal-approval/287-51ba0a65-b7ed-41a5-a0c4-31b43cf3d93d. Accessed 30 Sept. 2020.
Adams, Rusty. “Courts, Trains, and Eminent Domain.” Texas A&M University: Real Estate Center, Texas A&M University, 2 Feb. 2017, assets.recenter.tamu.edu/Documents/Articles/2159.pdf. Accessed 30 Sept. 2020.
Kelo v. New London, 125 S.Ct. 2655, 162 L.Ed.2d 439, 545 U.S. 469 (2005).