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NGCOA Takes Official Stance on Eminent Domain

It's not often the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution enters the world of golf, but it did so recently in the Village of North Hills, New York. That's where city officials moved to claim eminent domain over a private golf club. While disturbing in this instance, the possibility that similar actions could spread to courses in other parts of the U.S. is what should have golf club members and non-golfing taxpayers alike very concerned.

This is obviously of concern to golf course owners and operators as well. In response, the NGCOA Board of Directors recently adopted the following, official position. To further discuss the ramifications of such action, or how you may be able to prevent similar circumstances, contact Jay Karen, Director of Membership at jkaren@ngcoa.org.

Position Statement on Eminent Domain: Adopted April 2006

The National Golf Course Owners Association believes efforts by government to seize privately-owned golf courses for conversion to municipally-owned golf courses, and the seizure of privately owned-land to build new municipally-owned golf courses, in the name of economic development do not fit the "public use" qualifier of the Fifth Amendment.

The takings clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution states, "...nor may private property be taken for public use without just compensation," which denotes the right of government to seize private property.  The terms "public use" and "just compensation" have been interpreted by courts and elected officials in local, state and federal government in many different ways over the past two hundred years. 

NGCOA feels the term "public use" in the Fifth Amendment implies anticipated use by a vast majority of citizens.  While golf experienced storied growth during the twentieth century, and the number of facilities continues to grow, less than 15% of Americans regularly play the game.  Therefore, any efforts by government to enter the business of golf by commandeering an existing, privately-owned facility cannot be considered "public use". This applies to efforts by government to seize privately owned land in order to develop a new golf course.  The commandeering or building of golf courses by government through eminent domain actions should not occur simply for wanting a recreational asset.

Eminent domain is used by government as a means of providing essential services to a vast majority of citizens by condemning private property in the name of common good.  Examples have been the development of our interstate highway system and the establishment of military forts and bases.  Eminent domain, however, is sometimes used as a tool by government to boost local economy, implying that the responsibility of government to stimulate economic growth is sometimes greater than the responsibility of government to protect the rights of property owners and to safeguard free enterprise. Golf course owners and operators are custodians of large tracts of land, and as such are targeted for eminent domain actions. 

The NGCOA feels a gross encroachment of our free enterprise system occurs when government claims eminent domain over viable, privately-owned golf courses and other types of privately-owned land in order to undertake golf projects in the name of "economic development."  Without a check or balance to eminent domain actions against free enterprise, enterprise is thereby no longer free.

© 2000, National Golf Course Owners Association