The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, which is the state agency that runs the Amtrak Downeaster train, is looking to acquire land in Portland to build a service building. The Portland Press Herald reports that the owner of the land does not want to sell the land because they have future plans for a residential development on the site, and the building would be incompatible.
The Authority has the power to invoke eminent domain through the Passenger Rail Service Act. It seems unlikely that the property owner will be able to prevent the taking of the land, but there will certainly be a dispute over the value of the land. The owner of any land that is taken by the State must be compensated, but the actual amount of compensation is often highly disputed.
Currently the land, known as Thompson’s Point, is used mainly for industrial type businesses, though its location does suggest potential for residential development. The Authority will argue that compensation should be limited since they are only taking a small piece of the land. The owner’s concern is that the structure will be right next to the road that is the only access to the rest of the property, therefore impacting the value of the entire property. However, the law only considers property taken if it is actually acquired, or it loses all economic value. So even if the land the Autority takes is valued as residential property, only the amount of land actually taken for the building will be compensated for.