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VirginiaFirst.com is reporting that the Wintergreen Property Owners Association (WPOA) has reached a settlement agreement with Dominion Energy over the condemnation of land needed for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). The details of the settlement are confidential.
As proposed, the ACP will originate in West Virginia and travel about 600 miles into Robeson County, North Carolina. In addition, a lateral will extend to Chesapeake, Virginia, while two shorter laterals will connect to electric generating facilities in Greensville and Brunswick Counties.
A statement from the WPOA reads, “[T]he WPOA, while understanding the principle of eminent domain, remains opposed to the chosen location of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline through its property. Like other landowners having property taken through eminent domain, WPOA had no good legal remedy to fight the condemnation of our land. While the settlement eliminates a costly protracted legal battle over condemnation, it leaves open other legal options to protect our community and allows our community an opportunity to move forward.”
In this statement, the WPOA recognizes a reality of eminent domain law in the United States—courts uphold most attempted exercises of eminent domain. In fact, in most cases, the only issue to resolve is how much the condemning authority will pay a landowner for the property. This is not to say, however, that counsel should not represent landowners involved in a condemnation action. While challenging a proposed exercise of eminent domain may constitute a losing battle, landowners still have rights—most notably, the right to just compensation for their property.
The United States Constitution requires that condemning authorities provide landowners with just compensation for their properties. Just compensation is typically defined as fair market value, and significant disagreement about the fair market value of a property may arise during the negotiation process. The reality is that the open market decides fair market value, and it’s often defined as the amount that a reasonable, willing, and unpressured buyer would pay a reasonable, willing, and unpressured seller.
In a case where eminent domain is at play, however, the seller is often not willing and unpressured, but rather unwilling and pressured, distorting the market forces that would ordinarily determine price. For this reason, determining fair market value of a property that is subject to condemnation is a complicated matter, and landowners should retain experienced legal counsel to represent them.
If you are a property owner who believes that a public project may take your land, speak to a lawyer right away. At Sever Storey, we are committed to protecting landowners’ rights and ensuring that our clients obtain just compensation for their properties. Call us at (888) 318-3761 or contact us online today to schedule a free case evaluation with an eminent domain lawyer.
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