Eminent Domain is a law which gives the government the right to take your property for a public use. They have to provide financial compensation, but it often isn’t enough – and the financial compensation often doesn’t make up for being forced out of your property.
We talked to Randy Jones of Port Orchard, Washington about being forced to leave the home he loved.
“Eminent domain reminds me of when I had cancer, because it can go into remission – but you never know when it’s going to come back.”
“I bought my house when I was 18, in 1979. And I started rebuilding it over a 45-year period. My now-husband moved in about 30 years ago and we’ve loved living here.”
“Then, in about 2010 a City Councilman came down to tell me to start looking for another house. They were considering putting in a bike path, which meant they’d take my house through eminent domain.”
“The system is rigged against the homeowner, and politics makes it even worse. In the last election cycle, the mayor and the city councilwoman who spearheaded the project gave us a lot of assurances. I went to a city council meeting where they showed a drawing with the bike path going around my house and they told us they weren’t going to take anyone’s home. After they were reelected, I found out from a story in the newspaper that they were going ahead with the original path – which meant taking my house.”
“They looked at old comps to determine the value of my home, and offered me $725,000 when it should have been over a million. Plus, since it’s a duplex, I rented out the other side of the house as a vacation home which brought in about $9,000 a month. That income is gone now, too. They finally came up with another incentive package to get it up to $975,000, which helped – but what I wanted was to keep living in the house I loved in the neighborhood that was home.”
“I can no longer afford to buy in the area where my house was in the current market, so I had to find something else knowing that it would mean a change in lifestyle. A change I didn’t want. I loved living near the water. We finally found a great house that we’re living in now, but it’s not my house.”
“There needs to be a support group for people who have gone through or are going through eminent domain. Since this started, I have trouble sleeping and I still have nightmares. That the government can just come and take your house just seems impossible.”
“I guess your home really isn’t your castle.”
This is only one story, but similar scenarios are playing out across the state. Even in Port Orchard, Jones’ home isn’t the only property threatened for the bike path project. Other homes – and the parking lot for a local restaurant – all face destruction.
Port Orchard, Washington
Phote: Randy Jones (right) with his husband.