Tennessee Farmers Forced to Fight for Their Land Against Eminent Domain

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Another example of a government using eminent property to seize property from its citizens is here. The state of Tennessee seeks to seize land from farmers to benefit a private company.

Ford Motor Company started construction of an electric truck plant in BlueOval City about a year ago. This is a rural part of west Tennessee. The community was excited about the possibility of creating new jobs. The state government offered generous incentives to the company to set up a plant there, and was enthusiastic about the prospect of another source of income.

Tennessee’s government wants to purchase land in order to construct a road to improve access to the plant. According to Tennessee Lookout, the problem is that they use eminent domain in many cases to take land from their owners and severely underpay them.

Marvin Sanderlin is a local farmer with 400 acres. He told the news outlet that while he was pleased about the new plant, the state sued him to purchase 10 acres because it “lies in line of a planned roadway that would connect the facility to an interstate highway.” He claims that the government offers him $3,750 an acre, which is not normal.

“You cannot buy any land here for $3500 per acre. He said that he couldn’t afford to buy a swamp in the area for $3,500. I told them that this was the greatest ripoff. They want your land but don’t want to share in the wealth.

The article mentions that the route will “wind through predominantly Black-owned properties within Tipton, Haywood and Fayette Counties.”

The following is taken from the report:

The Tennessee Department of Transportation reports that the state is looking for 35 tracts to either purchase or eminently domain in order to build a series of roads connections and widenings to link the BlueOval Ford campus on 4,100 acres to the new I-40 Exit 39 to accommodate truck traffic and workers.

Nichole Lawrence, spokesperson, stated that the state has already taken control of 15 tracts. Two were obtained through court proceedings. Lawrence stated that the state is currently in negotiations with property owners for the 20 remaining tracks. It is not clear how many landowners the state has sued. According to court records, seven lawsuits were filed in Haywood County by the state seeking to seize property for the new interchange.

Ray Jones, another resident, was served earlier this year with an eminent title lawsuit to purchase an acre of his property. The cost of the acquisition was $8165. The land is situated over a natural mineral spring.

“My whole beef?” BlueOval is a great benefit to all the people. BlueOval is 100% our support. I will be sure to quote you on that. Then you’d like to take my spring and make pennies. Jones stated that it was an absurd situation.

These are just two examples of stories about farmers being railroaded in their country. It is all too common in eminent domain cases. The Constitution requires that the state provide “just compensation” for property taken by them. However, the amount the government considers “just” is often far less than the land’s actual value.

In the beginning, eminent domain was only to facilitate building roads, bridges, and other infrastructure that would benefit society. In 2005, Kelo v. City of New London was decided by the Supreme Court. This case expanded the scope of eminent domain to include economic development. The state can forcefully take land from someone to make way for major corporations or other entities, provided it can prove that it will benefit the public.

The government’s power to seize private property for public purposes is a serious infringement on citizens’ autonomy. Citizens should be able to use their possessions and not fear of being arbitrary confiscated. It is a violation of the fundamental principle of private ownership as well as the integrity of property rights when the government can take private property away without consent.

Even though eminent domain is not in the public’s best interest, it can be used to benefit an individual or group with political influence. In practice, the government may use eminent property to transfer land from less wealthy or powerful owners to more influential people or corporations that have a personal interest in the development of the seized properties. This is clearly against the spirit of eminent property, which should only ever be used when there’s a real public need that cannot otherwise be met.