Boston’s Bid to Host the 2024 Olympic Games and Eminent Domain: Should You Be Concerned?

There is quite a bit of buzz surrounding Boston’s bid to host the 2024 Olympic Games. The bid has stirred conversations regarding the funding required for transportation and security in connection with the games and, more importantly, how the city will acquire the land required for the facilities needed to host the games.

Andrew Zimbalist, professor of economics at Smith College and author of Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and World Cup hypothesizes that much of the land used for the games would be private property and, moreover, that property may be taken via eminent domain. The term “eminent domain” often raises red flags in the minds of property owners, but few people have an understanding of exactly what the process entails.

Eminent domain is a term which refers to the government’s taking of private property for public use. The government cannot simply take one’s land whenever it sees fit. There are constitutional and state laws by which the government must abide before it can seize private property.

The government can only take someone’s private property if there is a legitimate public purpose or need. For example, the government may be able to take someone’s property to build a public road or to implement environmental protection measures, such as the expansion of dams.

More importantly, the government must provide the landowners with just compensation for the property – in other words, fair market value, which is, in essence, the price that a willing buyer and an unrelated willing seller would agree on to effectuate the purchase and sale of that property (United States v. Miller, 317 U.S. 369, 374 (1943)).

There is no need to fret quite yet: the taking of land by eminent domain is quite rare and, more importantly, Mayor Marty Walsh has openly stated that the city is unlikely to utilize its powers of eminent domain to seize property, but rather to negotiate with property owners for the right to use or purchase properties.

If you have any questions about eminent domain or any other real property matter, please contact us. We are here to help!