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What do we do when the use of our property has been taken for someone else's private use?

Saint Paul, MN |

We experienced a regulatory taking of our property for someone else's private use -- a private airstrip -- which has prevented the conforming use of our R1 property by restricting subdivision for single family houses. There was no due process, even though the required due process is clearly articulated in the airport zoning statutes. Our township officials say they will not remove the restrictions on our property because they already accepted "gifts" from the people using the airstrip. The zoning rules restricting our property apply to public airports, not private -- no zoning is required for private airports. Yet, the municipality continues to tell potential developers that there are restrictions on our property and we have lost many potential sales

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Attorney answers 3


This one is over my head. Harry is a friend of mine from law school. He practices with his father, who is a prominent eminent domain attorney--probably Minnesota's preeminent lawyer representing landowners in this area of the law. See


Was the airstrip there first?

Small airports have this issue. If the airstrip was there first and you purchased you had notice. If you owned the land and the airstrip went in later, what was the process the township notified the surrounding property owners.

You may file an appeal with the local zoning Board of Adjuster or whatever they call it

Good luck

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The airstrip was there -- but we did not know because it was winter and they were not using the airstrip and airstrips were a prohibited land use so we never suspected and it cannot be "grandfathered-in". However, the airstrip more recently received a conditional use permit (against neighborhood objections) so we asked for a hearing with a board of adjustments, but were denied.


First - you need to seek the advice of a land use attorney in your area licensed to practice law in your state who can advocate for you at the local level. This type of situation involves local zoning law (and politics), possibly state law, and at least an understanding of FAA noise regulations as to how they may or may not apply.

There have been cases around the country where local governments, which own and operate public airports have been successfully sued under the theory of inverse condemnation where low flying aircraft over private property cause noise, vibration, and other typical nuisance-type problems. Inverse condemnation occurs when there is a 'taking' of private property in violation of the 5th Am. of the U.S. Constitution - where the government has 'taken' private property without just compensation. The process of Eminent Domain is the legal process where the government lawfully takes private property for a public purpose and then compensates the private property owner. This can be a very complex area of law.

However, your situation sounds different because the airport is a private airport. There may be zoning laws that apply anyway and these zoning laws may or may not be the cause of a regulatory taking. However, because of the way you have explained your facts, it sounds as if you are in a situation where your property rights might be affected by another private land owner's acts. In addition, it's possible you may need to seek legal action against both the local government and the private owner of the airstrip - but you need an attorney to examine your situation to know for sure.

Here is a helpful website that focuses on typical issues between neighboring property owners and airports (public and private). This website focuses on Federal law and some state law. This site appears to have accurate legal citations, but we have not checked to be certain. The site can at least inform you of generalized issues you may be dealing with:

It's imposible to give you specific advice here because of the complex nature of your case and the need to know more details. Consult a land use attorney in your area. Good luck!

My answers on are intended to help clarify the legal process in your situation to the extent possible on this website. Criminal law can be very complicated and very serious. Every case is different and my answers are not intended to serve as legal advice unless so stated. If you have been charged with a crime you could be placed on probation or face incarceration. Please contact an attorney if you think you need legal advice in a criminal matter.