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Public Control Over Private Property

Public control over the use of private property involves uncompensated losses on property owners. For example, zoning limits land to specified uses.

Public control over the use of private property is not eminent domain. Eminent domain is the government taking property for public purposes.

Municipalities, with public input, set local zoning regulations. However, if the most profitable land use is not among permitted uses, a loss is actually imposed on the land owner. No compensation has to be paid to the land owner. In essence, the community takes partial ownership of the  land, without ever paying the land owner.

What makes this practice legitimate? Police power.

The term may be misleading, but simply put, police power is the right of the community to regulate activities of private parties to protect interests of the public. This phrase is often associated with words like health, safety, and welfare.

Historically, police powers have lead to conflict with land owners and government. However, in recent years property owners have come to agree with municipal zoning practices.

There are number of factors affecting whether or not property owner would take issue with zoning requirements. Typically local Planning Commissions and Boards of Zoning Appeals have helped bring about better understandings of public control over private property and police powers.


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