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No One Immune to Eminent Domain Doctrine

No One Immune to Eminent Domain Doctrine
Various developments leave farmers in the lurch.

If the government decides that it needs your land, or a public utility needs your land, or a highway needs your land, and it's for the public good, it will acquire your land, whether you're a willing seller or not. It's known as the power of eminent domain. In a state known as the 'crossroads of America' partly because of all the Interstates that were and are being built here, plus a good slug of electric utilities and underground pipelines, Hoosier farmers and landowners are no strangers to eminent domain.

The principle will be on people's minds who visit the Indiana Farm Management Tour this year. The tour is slated for June 28 and June 29 in southwestern Indiana. For the first time, The Indiana Prairie Farmer/ Purdue University College of Agriculture Master Farmers will be recognized during a special evening session of the tour. That event is scheduled to be held in Vincennes.

Two of the hosts for the farm management tour, Don Villwock, and Tom Boyd, have direct experience with losing land to 'progress.' In Villwock's case, it meant moving his entire farmstead to a location he purchased several miles away. He was up against the Edwardsport utility station, under major expansion to convert to a cleaner coal-burning plant. Or at least that was the plan. The plant is still in the midst of construction. All that remains of Villwock's original homestead is a lone toolshed that the buyers decided to use for storage at the time.

While Villlwock settled and moved the hosues, he's noted on numerous occasions that it's hard to put a value on uprooting and relocating a home and farmstead. Appraisers don't put special values on sentimental things, like a fireplace made from a log that came from the farm.

Currently, Tom Boyd, Washington, has lost land to the Interstate 69 project. He sold land to the state, and the part he sold is under construction right now for conversion to a stretch of the highway.

However, he still has not settled on another piece of land closer to town. The dispute is whether it's commercial ground or farmland.

When the two parties can't get together, eminent domain kicks in. The process gets hazy as attorneys dig their tentacles deeper into the negotiations. It's a drawn-out process. The landowner will lose the land—the questions is how much will he get paid for it in the end.

Look for these signs of change when you visit southwestern Indiana for the tour. You'll have to decide whether what you see is progress or not.

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