Pooler City Council Votes to Seize Property Under Eminent Domain - Local news, weather, sports Savannah | WSAV On Your Side

Pooler City Council Votes to Seize Property Under Eminent Domain

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Imagine investing years of work and money into your private property, then having the city seize it for public use and -- without your consent.

Well it's an issue that one family in Pooler faces.

The process is known as "eminent domain" and it was enacted in 1791 under the Bill of Rights.

It's completely legal, and the Government is required to pay you.

Traditionally, eminent domain has been used to acquire property for the expansion of highways, railroads and public facilities.

Monday, history was made in Pooler as City Council voted to begin the process of eminent domain for the first time there.

For many of us, owning your own business is the American dream, and the Patel family had earned it.

They grew their business for more than two decades, but in a matter of hours, Pooler City Council voted to take it away.

"We all grew up together," says family friend Pranev Patel.

"We look out for each other. I just felt like I needed to be here for them today."

One by one—friends, neighbors and complete strangers--stood up on behalf of the Patel family. The property in question is located at 211 W. Highway 80. It will be purchased to make room for a new City Hall, keeping the police, fire and government complex together.

"I understand Pooler is trying to grow, it's a great idea to build a better City Hall; we need it. I'm not against it. I just want to make sure they don't lose everything in the process," says Pranev.

Residents pleaded with council to go with a different option, splitting up the government complex and moving City Hall to another location—but to no avail.

"Unfortunately it can happen to anyone," says family attorney Kenneth Royal.

"If the government needs property, or it needs to widen a road or build a new road, or to build a public building--- so long as the need is for public purpose. The government is within its rights to take the property."

As long as the city offers a fair and just amount of money in return, but the Royal says that hasn't happened---yet.

"Many people who have residential or commercial properties are what we call ‘upside down.' They own more money to the bank than what the actual fair market value of the property is worth."

But for the supporters, the Patels, their property and the businesses and tenants in the shopping center are priceless.

So just what can you do if the issue of eminent domain arises for you?

Unfortunately, not much, but an attorney would fight to get you fair compensation.

The Patels' property is being seized under the "Special Master Method" -- which is a 60 day process to allow negotiations--- but could take years once in the court system.

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