At Sever Storey, LANDOWNERS are our lawyers’ ONLY clients. WE believe that the State of Ohio and Federal constitutions demand that landowners receive just compensation for any property taken through condemnation and/or eminent domain. This belief is more than a mere attitude. This is our core and fundamental belief. It is our attorneys’ mission to represent Ohio landowners and ensure that the government or taking authority is held accountable under the Constitution for the true value of any land acquired through the eminent domain process. Our lawyers will never represent a State, municipality, public utility or any other taking authority. Our firm and purpose are built around serving you, the Ohio landowner.
For many individuals visiting this website, this may be the first time you have had the pleasure of hiring an attorney. You likely have a few questions. So let’s get the big ones out of the way. Please keep in mind that no case is the same. The information below is designed to answer big picture legal questions. If you would like to discuss the particulars of your case, then please call or send one of our lawyers an email for a free evaluation.
At Sever Storey we have represented hundreds of landowners and businesses that have been faced with eminent domain/condemnation and routinely provided results and solutions. Our attorneys possess a large amount of practical experience in solving problems that may arise in the Indiana eminent domain or condemnation process. Our lawyers have gone to bat for landowners against the State of Ohio as well as local governments, pipelines, powerlines and developers. Our condemnation experts have represented farmers, business owners, and residential landowners on projects ranging from small setback cases to commercial takings where millions of dollars were at issue. We have even taught our attorney peers how to help clients faced with eminent domain or condemnation. Our experience also helps us to identify issues that you may never have contemplated. When we give opinions and advice you can rest assured it comes tied to real world applications and a great deal of experience with condemnation and eminent domain.
Eminent domain is the process by which states and localities have the right to condemn and force a property owner to sell private property usually in furtherance of a public purpose. In some instances, states or localities have delegated this power to administrative agencies, local utilities, or local boards (e.g. library boards). Condemnation is the governmental act of using its power of eminent domain. This should not be confused with the legal process of designating a building as not fit for habitation. Traditionally, private property has often been taken for public uses like building highways, schools, bridges, and more recently certified technology parks. Only a judge can determine whether or not a taking is in furtherance of a public purpose in the event that there is a dispute between the property owner and the state.
The process used by the taking authority to acquire your land is referred to as condemnation. This process is controlled by statute. A discussion of the condemnation process can be found in the following section. Think of it like this, the term “eminent domain” represents the power to take property, “condemnation” is the process by which property is taken.
Property may be taken for private projects in certain situations as well. Over the past few decades, courts have interpreted what the term “public use” means very broadly. The courts have deferred to the individual state legislatures to make the decision of whether or not something is for a “public purpose.” For example, some localities now use eminent domain to condemn “blighted” neighborhoods. These neighborhoods are then redeveloped into more upscale condominiums and apartments. In situations like these, the state serves as the “middleman,” taking the private property from one individual in order to sell or give to another for the purpose of spurring economic growth. These types of projects are often called “economic development zones.”
While states and localities have the right to exercise the power of eminent domain, the U.S. Constitution entitles property owners to just compensation for their property via the 5th and 14th Amendments. After the government has made the decision to acquire the property, it will employ an appraiser to determine the fair market value of the land. This determination of fair market value will be the amount of money that the government offers for the property. The appraiser inspects the property and should review all other factors that might influence property value. Home or land owners may either accept or reject the government’s offer. It is best to consult a lawyer in making the decision of whether to accept or decline the government’s offer and to protect your legal rights.
The Ohio General Assembly modified Ohio’s existing eminent domain law in 2006. The most noteworthy change to the existing law was the placement of new restrictions on localities regarding the use of the power of eminent domain to redevelop blighted areas. The legislature carefully delineated the scenarios in which eminent domain procedures are for what constitutes a “public use.” These public uses include the building of schools, bridges, highways, airports, and certified technology parks. Further, the legislature made possible the acquisition of property with certain characteristics through eminent domain. This includes those that are public nuisances, unfit for habitation, abandoned or environmentally contaminated and present a danger to the general public.
Projects that no longer qualify legally as a public use are now referred to as “private to public to private” projects (or “ppp”). Some properties in a “ppp” then may not be acquired through eminent domain and must be purchased via an arm’s length transaction, with the seller able to set any asking price he chooses. The attorneys at Sever Storey are well versed in these unique and hard to identufy situations.
The eminent domain process begins when your property is identified for acquisition by the applicable condemning authority. At that point, the condemning authority will begin preparing an offer for your property. This will typically involve obtaining an appraisal of your property. You will then be presented with the offer and given a minimum of 30 days to accept or reject, with no response constituting rejection. If you accept, then you agree to the price offered and the process is complete.
However, if you reject the offer, then the condemning authority will file a petition for appropriation of your property in the appropriate court. Upon filing this petition, the condemning authority will deposit the amount offered with the court and may then legally take possession of your property. You or your lawyer will then file an answer within 28 days admitting or denying what is stating in the petition for appropriation, including the alleged value of your property. The answer must be filed. Failure to file the answer will result in judgment for the condemning authority. This is also the appropriate time to object to the condemnation if you believe it is not for a public use.
After the petition for appropriation and answer, a trial date will be set. The parties will then conduct discovery and file any appropriate motions in anticipation of trial. Either party may request non-binding mediation in an effort to settle the matter before trial. Additionally, the parties may settle at any time with or without the use of mediation. At trial a jury will determine the value of the property. Either party may appeal the award.
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Before going alone against the State let us give you our opinion. It is our pledge that we will provide a free case review for any individual or business facing eminent domain or condemnation. Contact us now at 888-318-3761