No Eminent Domain for Bike Trails

Most people are generally familiar with the legal concept of eminent domain, whereby the government can take private property for public use, upon the payment of just compensation to the property owner.  It is found in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and similarly found in the Iowa Constitution at Article 1, Section 18.  The Iowa Legislature has provided that the power of eminent domain to be enjoyed by state agencies and local governing bodies shall be as delegated by legislative act.  In the Iowa Supreme Court case of East Oaks Development, Inc. v. Iowa Department of Transportation ("DOT"), 603 N.W.2d 566, (Iowa 1999), the Court determined that the Legislature has not extended this power of eminent domain for development of recreational trials, stating: "...the DOT has no general eminent domain authority for establishing recreational trails or bikeways."  Ultimately, the Court determined that the DOT could exercise eminent domain to re-develop a road by placing a bike trail next to it, since such placement of the trail helped improve traffic on the road.  The takeaway from the East Oaks case, however, is that the State does not have eminent domain power for the creation of recreational trails.

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