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Cities are sued for dragging their feet on eminent domain

A landowner can sue a city for announcing that it was going to take some property by eminent domain, and then doing nothing else for a long time. That’s the result of two recent decisions by the highest courts in Nevada and Missouri.

In the Nevada case, the city of North Las Vegas announced that it was going to condemn an acre of a business’s property for a flood control project. However, the city did nothing for a year, after which the business sold a 20-acre parcel that included the disputed acre.

The business eventually learned that the city had shelved the project for lack of funding, but hadn’t told anyone. The business sued the city for depressing the value of its property.

The city argued that it couldn’t be sued because it didn’t do anything, but the court said that announcing its plans to condemn the property and then dragging its feet was against the law.

In the Missouri case, a city declared that a shopping center was “blighted,” and entered into a redevelopment agreement with a developer. But the agreement fell through, and the city did nothing else for five years.

The owner of the shopping center sued, saying the city had depressed the value of the property by leaving a cloud over it, and by causing tenants to leave the center after it was declared to be blighted.

The Missouri Supreme Court said the city could be sued for “aggravated delay” in condemning the property.

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