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When government power and property rights collide

When you own a piece of land, you expect to control everything that goes on within its borders. After all, that is what it means to own something.

But hanging above your property rights is the right of the government to take your land for use related to the public good. This is known in the law as eminent domain. Rarely used, this controversial power generally requires the government to compensate you fairly. But many landowners resent being forced to give up some or all of their property, particularly when they are giving up their homes or farms.

Public good, private business?

A Missouri state representative is opposing the possible use of eminent domain for the Mark Twain Transmission Project, a project by power company Ameren to extend 95 miles of transmission lines in several rural counties.

Rep. Nate Walker has proposed prohibiting the use of eminent domain to help Ameren, a private company, complete the project. He says that area farmers are concerned that eminent domain would harm their production and land values, according to Missourinet.

Instead, Walker proposes using easements along the edges of property. An easement is essentially legal permission granted by a landowner to a non-landowner to affect a portion of the land. In this case, that would probably mean Ameren would get easements to put power lines through private property.

Learn more about your property rights

Protecting your property rights starts with understanding what your rights are. If you are in a conflict over title, or buying a piece of property and want to make sure of what you are getting, a conversation with an experienced real estate attorney can be very helpful and save you money in the long run.

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