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)