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Eminent Domain Restrictions

Citizens Count Editor

Generally, eminent domain law allows the state to take private property for public use as long as fair compensation is offered. Eminent domain is used by the government to take private land for the greater public good, usually for road and highway projects.

For instance, the massive $269 million Little Bay Bridges project in the Seacoast region involved land takings in order to widen the Spaulding Turnpike through areas of Newington and Dover.

Eminent domain in NH

A 2006 New Hampshire constitutional amendment forbids the government from using eminent domain for private development.

The procedures for eminent domain are laid out RSA 498-A and PART Tax 210 of the Board of Tax and Land Appeals Administrative Rules. The state board offers further explanation here.

Recent developments

Eminent domain re-entered the spotlight in 2012 with the Northern Pass Project. Spokespeople for the project said that there was no plan to use eminent domain, but some residents felt their land was at risk. 

The state Legislature ultimately passed HB 648, which forbids the use of eminent domain for regional electricity projects when costs and benefits cannot be shared across the ISO - New England network.  ISO - New England is responsible for moving electricity throughout New England, including New Hampshire.

Some argue that HB 648 should be expanded to forbid eminent domain for all projects that do not directly benefit New Hampshire. Some HB 648 opponents are also concerned that the bill is too reliant on a non-governmental entity, ISO - New England.

Others support the narrow language of HB 648 because projects that do not benefit New Hampshire directly may still benefit the state by boosting the regional economy. 


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Do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few? It’s an age-old discussion. If you’re a Trekkie, you know that Spock advocated this logic. The same holds true for eminent domain. If the government needs your land for improvements to roads or infrastructure that are going to benefit the public, of course they should be allowed to pay you fair market value for your property in order to make that happen. As an individual, you are paid a fair price, while avoiding the hassle of negotiation. And you are saved from perhaps becoming overly greedy in the process (greed is bad as it affects your fellow taxpayers!). This way we all live long and prosper; It’s only logical.

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