Since it's going to come up sooner or later, here are the paragraphs of the Oklahoma Constitution pertinent to eminent domain:

Private property Taking or damaging for private use.

No private property shall be taken or damaged for private use, with or without compensation, unless by consent of the owner, except for private ways of necessity, or for drains and ditches across lands of others for agricultural, mining, or sanitary purposes, in such manner as may be prescribed by law.

Private property Public use Character of use a judicial question.

Private property shall not be taken or damaged for public use without just compensation. Just compensation shall mean the value of the property taken, and in addition, any injury to any part of the property not taken. Any special and direct benefits to the part of the property not taken may be offset only against any injury to the property not taken. Such compensation shall be ascertained by a board of commissioners of not less than three freeholders, in such manner as may be prescribed by law. Provided however, in no case shall the owner be required to make any payments should the benefits be judged to exceed damages. The commissioners shall not be appointed by any judge or court without reasonable notice having been served upon all parties in interest. The commissioners shall be selected from the regular jury list of names prepared and made as the Legislature shall provide. Any party aggrieved shall have the right of appeal, without bond, and trial by jury in a court of record. Until the compensation shall be paid to the owner, or into court for the owner, the property shall not be disturbed, or the proprietary rights of the owner divested. When possession is taken of property condemned for any public use, the owner shall be entitled to the immediate receipt of the compensation awarded, without prejudice to the right of either party to prosecute further proceedings for the judicial determination of the sufficiency or insufficiency of such compensation. The fee of land taken by common carriers for right of way, without the consent of the owner, shall remain in such owner subject only to the use for which it is taken. In all cases of condemnation of private property for public or private use, the determination of the character of the use shall be a judicial question.

[Amended by State Question No. 624, Legislative Referendum No. 278, adopted at election held on Aug. 28, 1990; text shown is the amended text.]

The current statute (27 O.S. 13) reads as follows:

Any person, acquiring agency or other entity acquiring real property for any public project or program described in Section 9 of this title shall comply with the following policies:

  1. Every reasonable effort shall be made to acquire, expeditiously, real property by negotiation.

  2. Real property shall be appraised before the initiation of negotiations, and the owner or his designated representative shall be given an opportunity to accompany the appraiser during his inspection of the property, except that the head or governing body of the entity acquiring real property, if so mandated by federal law or regulation, may prescribe a procedure to waive the appraisal in cases involving the acquisition by sale or donation of property with a low fair market value as such value is defined by federal law or regulation.

  3. Before the initiation of negotiations for real property, an amount shall be established which is reasonably believed to be just compensation therefor and such amount shall be promptly offered for the property. In no event shall such amount be less than the approved appraisal of the fair market value of such real property. Any decrease or increase in the fair market value of real property prior to the date of valuation caused by the public improvement for which such property is acquired, or by the likelihood that the property would be acquired for such improvement, other than that due to physical deterioration within the reasonable control of the owner, will be disregarded in determining the compensation for the property. The owner of the real property to be acquired shall be provided with a written statement of, and summary of the basis for, the amount established as just compensation. Where appropriate, the just compensation for the real property acquired and for damages to remaining real property shall be separately stated.

  4. No owner shall be required to surrender possession of real property before the agreed purchase price is paid or deposited with the state court, in accordance with applicable law, for the benefit of the owner of an amount not less than the approved appraisal of the fair market value of such property, or the amount of the award of compensation in the condemnation proceeding of such property.

  5. The construction or development of a public improvement shall be so scheduled that, to the greatest extent practicable, no person lawfully occupying real property shall be required to move from a dwelling, assuming a replacement dwelling, as required by the Oklahoma Relocation Assistance Act, will be available, or to move his business or farm operation without at least ninety (90) days' written notice from the date by which such move is required.

  6. If any owner or tenant is permitted to occupy the real property acquired on a rental basis for a short term or for a period subject to termination on short notice, the amount of rent required shall not exceed the fair rental value of the property to a short-term occupier.

  7. In no event shall the time of condemnation be advanced, on negotiations or condemnation and the deposit of funds in court for the use of the owner be deferred, or any other coercive action be taken to compel an agreement on the price to be paid for the property.

  8. If an interest in real property is to be acquired by exercise of power of eminent domain, formal condemnation proceedings shall be instituted. The acquiring authority shall not intentionally make it necessary for an owner to institute legal proceedings to prove the fact of the taking of his real property.

  9. If the acquisition of only part of the property would leave its owner with an uneconomic remnant, an offer to acquire that remnant shall be made. For the purposes of this section, an uneconomic remnant is a parcel of real property in which the owner is left with an interest after the partial acquisition of the property of the owner which has little or no value or utility to the owner.

  10. A person whose real property is being acquired in accordance with this title may, after the person has been fully informed of his right to receive just compensation for such property, donate such property, any part thereof, any interest therein, or any compensation paid therefor, as such person shall determine.

  11. As used in this section:

    1. "Appraisal" means a written statement independently and impartially prepared by a qualified appraiser setting forth an opinion of defined value of an adequately described property as of a specific date, supported by the presentation and analysis of relevant market information; and

    2. "Acquiring agency" means:

      1. a state agency which has the authority to acquire property by eminent domain pursuant to state law, and

      2. a state agency or person which does not have such authority, to the extent provided by regulation.

Now, of course, the big question: Are these laws sufficient to avoid a situation similar to Kelo v. City of New London, recently heard by the Supreme Court? Berman v. Parker (1954) seems worrisome in this context, but it pertains to the District of Columbia, which is not a state.

As the owner of a small parcel of land with a house on it, I contribute a bit less than a thousand dollars a year to the local taxing authority (Oklahoma County). This parcel is not located on an arterial street, so it's unlikely that anyone would want to locate a business there. But there are plenty of residences on arterial streets in this area, and if I owned one of them, I'd be sweating Kelo right about now.

The Vent

  1 March 2005

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 Copyright © 2005 by Charles G. Hill