Families Go to War with Railroad's Demand to 'Steal' their Land

May 7, 2023
World Net Daily

This story was originally published by the WND News Center.

A coalition of families in Georgia has joined with the Institute for Justice to fight a private railroad's demand that it take their land.

While condemnation routinely is for public projects, the IJ explained this railroad spur line would have no benefits for anyone except the private company.

The IJ explained the rail line would only "benefit private business."

IJ will represent Don and Sally Garrett, Blaine and Diane Smith, and Marvin and Pat Smith in a legal proceeding before the Georgia Public Service Commission against Sandersville Railroad’s attempt to use eminent domain to condemn and take their land.

Last month the railroad pushed a petition to the Georgia Public Service Commission to obtain the authority to condemn the land owned by the Garretts and the Smiths to build a rail spur to haul materials used for making concrete out of the Hanson Quarry, owned by Heidelberg Materials.

"The taking of the land—which would require parcels from some 18 properties nearby—would serve no public interest. It would simply allow Heidelberg to export materials via train instead of trucks.

"Taking people’s private land and handing it over to a private company for the benefit of a private business isn’t just wrong, it’s unconstitutional and against Georgia law,” said IJ Senior Attorney Bill Maurer. “The power to use eminent domain is limited to public uses and the public is not going to use this railroad—a private business is. Neither the Constitution nor Georgia statutes permit this kind of abuse of the eminent domain power.”

Sandersville Railroad is a powerful business with political connections. Meanwhile, the landowners in rural Sparta are fighting to save properties that have been in their respective families for generations. The Garrett family, for example, has owned the land since the 1800s.

"This is more than just land to our family – it’s where we’ve shared memories and built a life for ourselves for generations,” said Don. “We’re not going to let Sandersville just go in and take it from us."

"Our family has owned this land for 100 years, and we plan to continue owning it for generations to come,” said Blaine. “We refuse to let a private company come take the land that we hope to leave for our children and our children’s children.”

"It’s clear to anyone that Sandersville’s attempt to take land from the Garretts and Smiths serves no legitimate public interest,” said IJ Litigation Fellow Betsy Sanz. “We look forward to standing up for these property owners in their fight against this unconstitutional land grab."

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