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Condemnation, Eminent Domain, Land Use And Zoning

The state of Utah and the federal government have the power of eminent domain, which allows them to take private property for a public use. This power is limited by the Constitution, and when the state or a governmental entity does “take” property, the Constitution requires the government to pay “just compensation” for any taking.

This may seem straightforward, but this process can be extremely complex, implicating whether the use is considered public. Frequently, the most challenging issue is what constitutes “just compensation.”

Decades Of Experience With Land Use

I’m attorney Barney Gesas, and I have been working these complex cases for more than 45 years. My experience ranges from representing state agencies with condemnation matters to helping individuals and businesses whose land is being condemned or taken. I have helped resolve a broad spectrum of these issues throughout the Intermountain West and can provide knowledgable counsel for your project.

I have worked on matters involving roadway and highway construction condemnations and issues involving zoning questions in regard to subdivisions and Planned Unit Developments (PUD), as well as cases involving regulatory takings.

This tremendous depth of knowledge in these concerns means I can quickly analyze your circumstance and provide knowledgeable advice and counsel on these issues. If you or your business is facing a potential condemnation or taking by eminent domain powers, you need sophisticated assistance in determining if how to respond.

These questions can be very complex, and this is a very narrow area of law. Mistakes in responding to these cases can be costly, and I have the know-how and skill needed to explain your options and offer advice on how to effectively proceed.


Many think of condemnation in terms of demolition of derelict property. Generally, in land use, condemnation refers to any formal governmental taking of property for a public use.

Types of common public purposes include:

  • Roads and highway
  • Widening highways and roads
  • Schools
  • Parks
  • Fire stations
  • Government buildings
  • Airports

A frequent application condemnation may be in relation to road construction and alteration.

Streets, roads and highways are always in a state of flux as the regions need change. Local municipalities and the Utah Department of Transportation engaged in a vast array of construction and modification of roads throughout the state, meaning they are frequently altering the boundaries and layouts of these arteries.

I am well-versed in these issues and can assist with every aspect of a case, from initial due diligence to appearances before boards and commissions, all the way up to litigation in trial and appellate courts.

Regulatory Takings

A regulatory taking occurs when an ordinance or regulation effectively drains the value from a piece of land. While it sounds straightforward, proving up this assertion in court can be a challenge.

Because I have decades of experience working with zoning, land use law and the nuances of eminent domain, I understand what needs to be shown to develop a successful regulatory taking claim.

Land use law is much like three-dimensional chess, with multiple levels of regulation impacting the financial viability of a piece of property. You want an attorney who understands all levels, whether zoning, environmental, licensing, or some other seemingly unrelated law or regulation that can diminish the value of your land.

Throughout the Intermountain West, riparian rights or lack thereof can severely limit the value of the property. I am familiar with all of these matters.

Zoning Issues

Zoning implicates a host of issues related to real property. Most cities and towns and some counties have land zoned to specific uses in an area or district.

Zoning regulations can range from minimum lot sizes for single-family homes to height restrictions on buildings, setback requirements for city street fronts and residential homes. It may include floor-area ratios as well as LEED certification, bike parking or energy efficiency.

Because of the wide range and scope of these requirements and prohibitions, it’s important to have an attorney who understands how these regulations work together and can assist with your due diligence and direction of the project.

I can assist with projects and issues before a variety of public boards, including:

  • Planning Commission
  • Housing Advisory & Appeals Board
  • Community Development and Capital Improvement Program Advisory Board minutes and agendas
  • Historic Landmark Commission
  • Parks, Natural Lands, Urban Forestry & Trails Advisory Board

I have appeared before city councils, zoning and planning commissions and zoning appeal boards, assisting clients in obtaining special use and variances.

Contact Me

Contact me to discuss your dispute and determine if I’m the right attorney for your condemnation issue. I offer flat fee, hourly or blended rates, with flexible payment plans. To schedule an appointment, call my Salt Lake City office at 801-447-1149 or contact me by email.