An Alabama Family Is Fighting a Losing Battle Against Eminent Domain

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Eminent Domain

The Moore family has lived on their land for generations. Now the state of Alabama says their homes must make way for a highway.

Emma Camp |

eminent-domain-alabama

(Illustration: Lex Villena; Ljupco )

The Moore family has lived on 120 acres in rural Dixon Mills, Alabama, for over 100 years. Generations of the family, descendants of black, Native American, and Irish sharecroppers, worked the land in Alabama’s economically depressed Black Belt region and eventually built a considerable homestead.

Now, much of that land will likely be cleared to make way for the West Alabama Corridor. 

In 2021, the state of Alabama announced a construction project which includes a widening of U.S. Route 43 into a four-lane divided highway. This expansion—with state officials claiming a necessary seizure of 190–225 feet of land—entails the seizure of much of the Moore family’s property. It would also require demolishing four of their homes, which house 11 family members.

In response, the Moore family has launched the campaign “Seize No Moore Homes,” attempting to raise awareness of the challenge the U.S. 43 construction project poses to their way of life. In a statement, the family stressed that they are not opposed to expanding U.S. 43; they believe that the state is planning on taking an unnecessary amount of land rather than pursuing less destructive alternatives. 

“This proposed project will dismantle our private owned businesses. Our community will be without an auto mechanic shop, loggers, caterers, carpenters, fresh food vendors, farmers, and livestock would be affected,” the Moore family writes in their statement. “This community will never recover from this devastation. If an alternate route cannot be mapped out and the State of Alabama feels that it is necessary for this project to come through our community, at least give us the dignity as taxpayers, homeowners, and landowners to only take the minimally necessary amount of land.”

However, state officials say that the seizure is necessary and that engineers have attempted to limit the amount of property affected. As Tony Harris, an official with the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) said in a statement: “[w]e certainly understand the family’s concerns about some of their homes being impacted, and we have sincerely worked to limit the amount of property needed for the roadway.”

For now, it appears that the seizure of the Moore family’s land is constitutional. However, while the state may legally take their land, the Moore family is not convinced that the seizure is strictly necessary for the construction of an expanded U.S. 43. The family argues that only 94 feet of land is required, not the 190–225 feet proposed by the state. “The chief engineer of the project told us that the change we suggested was not considered solely because it would be too expensive for the state’s pockets, not because of environmental impacts,” said André Fuqua, whose aunt, Marolyn Moore, stands to lose her home. He continued, “[n]othing in their response explains why they aren’t willing to make that compromise.”

State officials say the project will spur economic development in one of Alabama’s poorest regions. “The goal of the West Alabama Corridor project is increasing economic opportunity for rural West Alabama residents,” said Harris, who acknowledged that ALDOT can’t accomplish this goal without taking private property. Harris claims that “it is an emotional process for those affected, including the men and woman at ALDOT who are involved.”

The Moore family believes that preserving its land—and the homes which stand on it—is crucial to preserving their family’s history and their way of life. The idea of it being destroyed for an expanding roadway is devastating: “It’s like death to the life we have had for 100 years,” said Carolyn Moore. “This is everything to us because no one can ever replace what we have here.”

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