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. 


Killed in the House

Establishes protections for property owners if a pipeline company takes their land through eminent domain. For example, this bill sets up a process for the pipeline company to pay for reloaction, temporary housing, and legal expenses.

Died in Conference Committee

Makes various changes to the laws regarding the use of eminent domain for pipelines. For example, this bill allows an owner whose property is taken under eminent domain to require the pipeline company to acquire the entire property, not just a part.

Killed in the House

Requires offers in eminent domain cases to be at least 300% of the determined fair market value of the property. If it is determined that a property was undervalued by 20%, this bill also states the condemning authority would be liable to the property owner for attorney's fees.

Killed in the House

Allows the condemnee to refuse an offer from the condemnor under eminent domain law.

Tabled in the Senate

Requires approval of "the appropriate legislative body" before publicly owned landed is seized through eminent domain.

Killed in the House

Requires public utilities to notify the governor and all state legislators of a proposed project, then wait until a full legislative session has passed before acquiring land by eminent domain. This would give the legislature the opportunity to ban the use of eminent domain for a particular project.

Signed by Governor

Originally written to require a pipeline company to purchase all of a resident's land when the land is taken through eminent domain.  The Senate rewrote the bill to instead increase the criteria for the Site Evaluation Committee to consider when approving pipelines.

Signed by Governor

Forbids the use of eminent domain for regional electricity projects when costs and benefits cannot be shared across the ISO - New England network.

Should NH do more to limit eminent domain?



Karen Keyes
- Stratham

Wed, 05/02/2018 - 7:37pm

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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Issue Status

The state is considering seizing up to six properties, using the power of eminent domain, in order to replace the bridge over Hampton Harbor. Eminent domain could be required for only one option the state is considering, a replacement on the east side of the current bridge - and then, only if residents and public officials could not come to an agreement outside of court. Rehabilitating the existing bridge or building a replacement to the west are also under consideration. 


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