Dan King
Dan King · August 31, 2023

ATLANTAExpert testimony submitted to the Georgia Public Service Commission last Friday casts doubt on the alleged benefits and feasibility of Sandersville Railroad’s plan to grab land from 18 different properties in Sparta, Georgia, for a private rail line. One expert called the project “unfeasible” and another highlighted that the project would not serve a “public use” as required under eminent domain law. 

In March 2023, Sandersville filed a petition before the Georgia Public Service Commission to obtain authority to condemn the land and take it through eminent domain, against property owners’ will. In May 2023, the property owners teamed up with the Institute for Justice (IJ) to fight back against Sandersville’s land grab in the proceedings.  

“Last week’s testimony proves what has always been abundantly clear: this is an unconstitutional land grab which would serve no legitimate public interest,” said IJ Attorney Betsy Sanz. “Sandersville cannot simply take people’s land for the benefit of private interests. That’s eminent domain abuse.”  

In his testimony, law professor Donald J. Kochan said that a “condemnation that chiefly serves the interests of one company and its network of contractors is not a ‘public use’ or in service of ‘public purposes.’” Professor Kochan goes on to say the taking is “not a taking of necessity from private property owners to serve truly public interests and the public as a whole. Rather, this is a naked wealth transfer.” 

Railroad expert Gary Hunter also submitted testimony in the case on Friday, challenging the feasibility of Sandersville’s plan.  

“I have reviewed Sandersville’s direct testimony, and in my expert opinion, the project is not economically feasible. It would take decades to recover its costs,” Hunter argues in his testimony.

Hunter goes on to say: “Sandersville has not provided the details needed to prove the project is feasible and show proof of traffic, revenue, and costs … . Without the documents, this project is an exercise in conjecture at the expense of the residents and current property owners.” 

“The testimony submitted last week shows that Sandersville’s effort is just another poorly-conceived, unconstitutional taking done on the backs of innocent property owners for the benefit of private interests that will likely result, like so many others, in economic failure,” said IJ Senior Attorney Bill Maurer.