Sever | Storey Blog

Ohio City Proposes Using Eminent Domain for New Water Tower


A fairly unique situation in an Ohio city is drawing attention to the use of eminent domain to take private property for a public purpose.

Eminent domain1 is the power of the government (and private entities, in some cases) to take private property and use it for a public purpose. Common uses of land taken through an exercise of eminent domain include roads, school, utilities, airports, or even real estate development.

In Zanesville, there are two vacant lots on 512 Beckwith Street that were purchased by Clarence and Margaret Barnett Holbert in 1984. Clarence passed away in 1999, and Margaret in 2014. The property has an appraised value of around $1,000.

The city needs to use the property to construct a new water tower while using an existing water tower on a nearby property. According to the Zanesville Law Director, David Tarbert, the city was able to purchase other houses and lots needed for the project but must purchase the Holbert’s property in order to proceed.

There is one issue keeping the project from moving forward, however: the city has been unable to locate potential heirs to the property. Numerous attempts to locate any potential heirs have been made by the city and by an independent appraisal company. If none are found, the city will move forward with an eminent domain proceeding in order to take the property.

According to Mr. Tarbert, this is a relatively infrequent situation and is remarkably complicated for a piece of property with such low value.

The information contained in this blog post was adapted from a story2 published on September 26 in the Zanesville Times Recorder.

Call an Ohio Eminent Domain Lawyer Today to Discuss Your Case

If your property is the subject of an eminent domain proceeding or has already been condemned, you should speak with an attorney as soon as possible. An experienced Ohio eminent domain attorney may be able to challenge the eminent domain action and also make sure that you receive just compensation for your property. To schedule a free consultation with one of our lawyers, call Sever Storey today at 888-318-3761 or send us an email through our online contact form.





Do You Need a Lawyer Before an Eminent Domain Case is Filed?


Many cases implicating the use of eminent domain1 never go to court. Generally speaking, what happens is that a representative of a government agency or a private party that is authorized to use eminent domain approaches a homeowner and makes an offer to purchase the property in question.

While it is possible to challenge the exercise of the eminent domain power itself, in practice the issue that generally needs to be resolved is the amount of money that the landowner will receive in exchange for his or her property. This is due to the fact that the power of eminent domain is expansive and well-established, and often landowners do not want to spend the time and resources that would be involved in challenging a close case.

How can an Attorney Help Before a Case is Even Filed?

Many people are under the mistaken impression that a legal case must be filed in order for an attorney to be able to help. In reality, a lawyer can be of significant assistance in the negotiation process regarding the amount of compensation you will receive for your property. The 5th Amendment2 requires that landowners receive “just compensation” for their property, a term which is not defined in the Constitution. As a result, there is significant room for interpretation and there are often substantial disagreements about what a property owner thinks his or her property is worth and what the government (or private party) is offering. The assistance of an attorney can ensure that you receive the fair value of your property by establishing what you would receive if your case went to trial.

Contact an Eminent Domain Attorney Today to Protect Your Legal Rights

The exercise of eminent domain to take your property can feel invasive and it can be difficult to know whether you are being treated fairly. For this reason, it is important to retain an attorney as soon as you recognize that another party may be interested in your land. To speak with an experienced eminent domain attorney who is committed to representing the rights of landowners, call Sever Storey today at 888-318-3761 or contact us online.





Alternative Dispute Resolution Can Help in Eminent Domain Cases

For many landowners facing the threat of eminent domain, it can feel personal. We hear all the time that our clients have lived on their land for years going back generations, that the land was bought with a significant amount money, and that our clients envisioned remaining landowners for years to come.


Eminent domain, which allows the government to take private property for public use in exchange for "just compensation," poses a huge threat to landowners and their emotional ties to their property. On the other hand, the proponents of the projects that need the land often see the controversy as nothing more than doing business.

Because of this dynamic, alternative dispute resolution1 can be a good fit for the parties in an eminent domain case to resolve this disagreement.

What Is Alternative Dispute Resolution?

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is a method of resolving conflicts outside of the court setting. ADR includes arbitration and mediation.2 Typically, each side in the dispute will have legal representation and a mediator, who is trained in ADR and knowledgeable about eminent domain laws, will oversee the process.

Benefits of ADR include:

Confidentiality. The proceedings of ADR are confidential. The proceedings in court are not. Clients often appreciate that their dispute, which often feels personal to them, is not able to be reviewed by others. Proponents of eminent domain appreciate that the proceedings are private as well. The private nature of ADR usually results in a greater number of options being put on the table for consideration.

Flexibility. When you bring a lawsuit in court, you are asking a judge to resolve the dispute in a manner he or she sees fit. While a judge might believe that deciding a dispute one way is the best outcome, it could be that neither party agrees with the resolution and believes a different outcome would be better. Judge's do not have to live with the decision they make -- you do. A benefit of ADR is that you get more control in the outcome of your case. Provided the decision is not illegal, if the parties agree to a resolution that fits the need of their case, it can be resolved in that way.

If you are facing the threat of eminent domain, you do not have to do it alone. A competent condemnation lawyer can be your advocate through the process, whether that be in court or in an ADR setting. Disputes settled through ADR still require the help of a property law lawyer.

Contact our Knowledgable Ohio Eminent Domain Lawyers Today

Lawyers at the law firm of Sever Storey understand that needs of landowners in states including Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, and North Carolina. Call us today for help at 888-318-3761.



Illinois Landowners Lose Final Legal Battle With Township


A landowner couple in northern Illinois has run out of legal options in their fight against eminent domain.1 A water reclamation district now will be able to put a sewer line on the couple’s property in Winnebago, Illinois. The water project will close down a 1950s-era sewage treatment plant, and the district will send its waste to a newer facility. The project costs $17.5 million.

To complete the project, the district needed 27 parcels, including that land owned by the Dimkes. The district needed a half mile stretch of land belonging to the Dimkes. The Dimkes opposed the project and started the legal battle to keep the project from moving forward on their land.

Through an attorney, the Dimkes made argument to the courts that the government could not put the water sewer line on their private land. They argued that the water reclamation district skipped steps in the Illinois eminent domain process. They argued that the property was not within the boundaries of the reclamation district and that the district should annex the property before imposing the easement.

Having lost in the lower court, the Dimkes requested that the Illinois Supreme Court hear the case. The state supreme court did not have to hear the case, but they could have chosen to hear it upon request by a party. In the Dimkes case, the Illinois Supreme Court refused to hear the case and the lower court’s ruling was upheld. This action means that the reclamation district could put the sewer line on the Dimkes’ land. The water reclamation district said that it paid at least $200,000 to property owners for putting the sewer line on the land and $60,000 of that will be paid to the Dimkes.

This is case is one example of how challenging it can be to prevail in a challenge to an eminent domain action. Instead, the main issue is often to ensure you have proper compensation for your lost land.

Contact our Skilled Illinois Eminent Domain Attorneys Today

If you are fighting to keep a government project off your land, you should contact an condemnation lawyer as soon as possible. Attorneys at the law firm of Sever Storey understand the rights of landowners and the arguments that can be made to courts. Call us today for help at 888-318-3761.



North Carolina Residents Fear Losing Property to Pipeline Plans


A proposed natural gas pipeline in eastern North Carolina is drawing opposition1 from landowners. They are concerned that eminent domain will be used and that they will be forced to sell their land.


The project is called the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and construction could begin as early as fall 2017. The pipeline would be 600 miles long and would cost $5 billion to build. The purpose of the pipeline is to carry natural gas from West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania to North Carolina. This would be only the second major interstate gas line in North Carolina.


Worries of Landowners


The landowners argue that having a pipeline in the area could jeopardize their health and negatively affect property values. They are concerned that the pipeline, which will be buried three to five feet underground, will leak into farmland or the water system or that it could explode. Some of the land that could be affected has been in the landowners’ families for generations.

Landowners are also concerned that they will be told by the energy company what they can and cannot do with their land. For instance, landowners who allow the pipeline on their property cannot grow trees on that part of the land. Furthermore, environmentalists point out that the methane released into the air by natural gas pipelines could accelerate global warming faster than carbon dioxide released by coal.


Fighting an oil or natural gas company can make landowners feel powerless. With the help and guidance of a knowledgeable eminent domain lawyer, you can take on the companies that are trying to use your property. Such a fight begins long before the pipeline is scheduled to be built. For this reason, it is important to seek out legal counsel as soon as possible. Property law is a complex area of law and the energy companies have access to many lawyers. You should also seek out such resources.


Contact our Skilled North Carolina Eminent Domain Lawyers Today


The condemnation lawyers at the law firm of Sever Storey, LLP stand up for the rights of landowners in states

including Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, and North Carolina. Call us for help today at 888-318-3761.




Dakota Access Pipeline: Iowa Landowners Ask Court to Overturn IUB’s Eminent Domain Ruling


The controversial Dakota Access pipeline is back in the news as 14 Iowa landowners have asked that the Polk County District Court review to the Iowa Utility Board’s (IUB) ruling allowing the Dakota Access pipeline to be installed onto their property. According to a report1 published in the Ames Tribune, attorney Bill Hanigan filed a brief on September 30 in preparation for an oral argument scheduled for December 15. In the brief, Mr. Hanigan argues that the IUB misapplied Iowa law in allowing the project to move forward.

This is not the first time the landowners have petitioned the Polk County District Court for relief. Earlier this year, the landowners asked the court to temporarily delay the construction of the pipeline while their lawsuit was pending. The court denied this request, and reports indicate that the pipeline was installed on their property.

The Iowa landowners are not the only group opposed to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. National Public Radio reports2 that hundreds of Native Americans from through the United States have established a camp near in North Dakota near the location where the pipeline is being built. They are protesting the construction of the pipeline, claiming that is could disturb sacred sites and affect the drinking water of Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation. Reports indicate that the protests have turned violent.

Eminent Domain is Subject to Constitutional Limits

The government’s power of eminent domain is not without limits. Any taking must be for a public purpose and landowners must receive just compensation for the land that is seized. In many cases, whether a proposed taking is for a “public purpose” is an open question, and many landowners have viable arguments against eminent domain. For this reason, every attempted exercise of eminent domain should be reviewed by an attorney familiar with this area of law.

Contact an Eminent Domain Attorney Today to Discuss Your Case


Not every attempted exercise of eminent domain is legitimate. The most effective way to protect your land and ensure that you are adequately compensated if the government does take your property is to retain an experienced eminent domain lawyer immediately. For a free case review, call Sever Storey today at 888-318-3761 or contact us online.




Examples of “Public Use” in a Condemnation Action


The 5th Amendment2 gives the government the power to take private lands under specific conditions. One of the most important conditions is that the purpose of the taking must be for “public use.” While public use previously meant actually used by the public - such as public parks or roadways - the term has been reinterpreted by the courts in the past 11 years to refer to projects that may benefit the public, and even a small sector of the community. As the interpretation of “public use” extends to more and more purposes, it is important to take a look at some common examples of public uses that lead to eminent domain actions.


Parks, schools, roads, and other government projects - These are the epitome of public uses as likely originally intended in the Constitution. These projects are to better the community and provide resources for the actual use of the public in the community.


Pipelines and utilities - While utility companies are often private entities, their services are a public necessity and many states have laws that specifically grant eminent domain powers to utility companies to lay wire, pipelines for natural gas, power lines, and more. When it comes to pipelines for oil built by private companies, it is often examined on a case-by-case basis whether there is a valid public use.


Commercial developments - The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in the case of Kelo v. New London2 that commercial developments could qualify as a public use if they benefited the community, such as by providing tax revenue, jobs, or other economic development.


Call Our Ohio Eminent Domain Attorneys for Assistance Today


Eminent domain can be a confusing topic for everyone and especially for landowners facing a possible condemnation action. It can be challenging to know your rights and to understand how to protect them. The good news is that the skilled condemnation lawyers of Sever Storey, LLP are here to help you. We offer free consultations, so please do not hesitate to call us at 888-318-3761 for more information about our legal services.






Hundreds Of Landowners Affected By Kinder Morgan Pipeline



Pipelines are a major catalyst for eminent domain actions, as these pipelines must be laid continuously for hundreds of miles. Not surprisingly, many landowners with property in the proposed path of the pipeline are less than willing to allow companies to come onto their land, dig trenches, lay pipe, and then transport petroleum on an ongoing basis. For this reason, pipeline projects often result in a number of eminent domain lawsuits by companies trying to obtain easements to lay their pipes.

This is exactly what has happened in 14 various counties in Ohio regarding corporation Kinder Morgan’s Utopia Pipeline Project. According to reports,1 Kinder Morgan needed about 750 landowners to agree to easements for the pipeline to be installed on their property and the company is now involved in 239 lawsuits to try to obtain easements through eminent domain powers.

Challenging Eminent Domain Actions

Some landowners in Ohio are trying to challenge the eminent domain powers altogether in regard to the Utopia Project. One judge in Wood County sided with the landowners 2 and dismissed an action against a farm, claiming that the company’s use of eminent domain for this type of project was an unconstitutional infringement on the rights of the landowners. This is an outlier position, however, as eminent domain actions can be difficult to challenge. This case shows it is not impossible under certain circumstances, however.

Ensuring Just Compensation for Easements

The main course of action for landowners facing easement actions by Kinder Morgan is likely to ensure they are receiving just compensation for the use of their land and any damage to their land. The offers by companies such as Kinder Morgan are often grossly inadequate and it may be necessary for landowners to turn to the courts to order a sufficient amount of compensation. A skilled attorney can also engage in negotiations with corporations asserting eminent domain to obtain the proper amount landowners deserve.

Contact our Highly Experienced Eminent Domain Attorneys as Soon as Possible

If you are involved in an easement action involving the Kinder Morgan Pipeline or any other type of government-approved project, you should not wait to discuss your rights with an eminent domain lawyer. At the law firm of Sever Storey, we thoroughly understand all relevant laws to condemnation actions and are committed to defending the rights of landowners. Call us today for help at 888-318-3761.




Eminent Domain Concerns for Farmers

With the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Kelo v. New London,1 it became more and more of a reality that governments could use eminent domain powers for urban developments and specifically for commercial developments. As urban and suburban areas continue to expand, more governments are seizing private lands to make way for the shopping centers that will cater to new neighborhoods. Unfortunately, as rural lands are seized more often due to urban expansion, one group of people that has been significantly affected in many states is farmers.


Whether you farm as your primary source of income or you are a hobby farmer, eminent domain can have a significant effect on your life. If you live in the near vicinity of a city, urban sprawl should be a real concern because of the possible condemnation of your property. If you are seeking to purchase new property for farming purposes, ensure it is not near a city. You can speak to the local government to ask about any possible long-term development goals that might affect the property before you buy it.


Even if you take all possible precautions, there is no guarantee you will not face an eminent domain action in the future. If you are faced with the possible seizure of part or all of your farmland, you should do the following:

 Carefully consider any offers to buy your property before eminent domain powers are invoked. Often, an offer for purchase can be reasonable and you should not put up a fight just for the sake of doing so.Speak to an attorney who can tell you if eminent domain is warranted in the situation.Have an attorney review any offers for your land to make sure they are adequate.

Contact an Experienced Eminent Domain Attorney to Discuss Your Situation


The law firm of Sever Storey regularly works with owners in Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, and North Carolina - which are five of the leading farmland states in the U.S.2 Our team of condemnation lawyers understands just how significantly eminent domain can affect the success of your farm and your very livelihood.






Are You Affected By The I-69 Project?


Earlier this year, the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) announced its decision for the route for the final part of the long-lasting I-69 construction. The last leg will run along the path of Indiana Highway 37 between Indianapolis and Martinsville and that state highway will be expanded into a major interstate. Needless to say, expanded the highway in such a way will require the encroachment onto properties on both sides of Ind. 37 along the length of the leg.

Many pieces of land, homes, and businesses will need to be torn down to make way for the new I-69, including extra lanes, interchanges, underpasses, and overpasses. In addition, construction crews will need to use additional land to store equipment, drive vehicles, and other construction-related needs. The state has the right to seize these lands due to eminent domain powers.

The state of Indiana has estimated that at least the following will be affected by such eminent domain for I-69:

●    69 business owners;
●    279 land or homeowners.

Are you one of these businesses or homeowners along Ind. 37? If so, you should have received notice from INDOT that your land will be affected. Too many people receive this notice and do not know where to turn or how to proceed. You should always begin by learning your rights as a landowner, of which there are many. Such rights can include:

●    The right to challenge whether the entire portion of seized land is necessary for the project;
●    The right to receive just compensation for all land taken, damaged, or used;
●    The right to reject the offer of compensation from the government and offer evidence why you deserve more.

These cases can be complex and the government can be intimidating, so you always want to talk with an experienced attorney who understands condemnation cases.

Contact an Experienced Indiana Condemnation Attorney Today

If you have received notice that your home, business, or land is in jeopardy because of the upcoming I-69 expansion project, you should not wait any longer to call the highly skilled eminent domain attorneys at Sever Storey, LLP. We have already helped many landowners throughout Indiana ensure that their property rights were not violated, so please call our office at 888-318-3761.



Educational Videos

Sever Storey is passionate about helping landowners. We have created a video library packed with knowledge and information to help landowners gain more facts about the eminent domain process. Please watch the video's and let us know if you have any questions that we can help answer.



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