“Not Imminent in My Domain!” County Leaders’ Attitudes toward Eminent Domain Decisions


Michele M. Hoyman is an associate professor of political science and a member of the master of public administration program adjunct faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research interests include economic development, public sector personnel, and public sector labor relations. She has also been a professional labor arbitrator since 1987. She received her doctorate in political science from the University of Michigan.

Jamie R. McCall is a doctoral student in the Department of Public Administration at North Carolina State University. His research interests include economic development, public sector retirement trends, and public sector labor relations. He received a master of public administration degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Eminent domain is an urgent problem facing local government administrators and scholars throughout the United States. However, the literature is sparse regarding how local leaders make decisions on this hot-button issue. A 2006 Government Accountability Office report noted a lack of data about local governments’ use of their eminent domain authority. A survey of county managers in North Carolina was conducted to redress this apparent knowledge gap. Although the findings are primarily generalizable only to other Dillon’s rule states, such data demonstrate that eminent domain applies more often for “narrow” (public use) purposes, such as water and sewer systems, than for “broad” (public good) purposes, such as economic development. Current and future property considerations also influence eminent domain decisions.

[A] law that takes property from A, and gives it to B: It is against all reason and justice, for a people to entrust a legislature with such powers; and, therefore, it cannot be presumed that they have done it.

—Associate Justice Samuel Chase, majority opinion, Calder v. Bull (1798)