In 2013, two states passed legislation requiring the condemning authority to pay a property owner’s attorneys fees if the amount of just compensation determined by the courts is greater than the amount offered by the government or condemning authority.
Arkansas was the first state in 2013 to pass this type of legislative reform and Wyoming was the second state. For Wyoming landowners, Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 1-26-509 now states that if the court or jury finds that the amount of just compensation exceeds the condemning authority’s offer by 15% or more, then the government or condemning authority shall reimburse the landowners for their litigation expenses.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. The most blatant eminent domain abuse occurs when the condemning authority makes “low ball” offers. This scenario invariably requires the property owner to hire an attorney to pursue a claim on their behalf. Although a property owner might be successful at pursuing an additional damages claim, they are not entirely happy when a portion of that claim must be paid to the attorney.
This legislation should motivate the condemning authority in Wyoming to negotiate honestly with property owners and their attorneys, and even avoid low ball offers to begin with, because they can now be liable for the attorney’s fees incurred by the property owner. Additionally, Wyoming’s legislation doesn’t appear prejudicial against small claimants, so land owners pursuing significantly more than the offer (100% or more) with relatively small dollar amounts should be able to secure quality legal representation in order to obtain just compensation.
Although the statute identifies a specific threshold that must be met in order to trigger the reimbursement of fees, the courts have yet to interpret the statute. Will property owners be able to recovery fees on both an hourly and contingent fee basis? Will the courts limit the attorney’s hourly rate for recovery? How will they define ‘litigation expenses’? Will that include all costs incurred?
Wymoning would go a long way in leveling the playing field between property owners and the government if they interpreted the statute liberally in favor of property owners. The US Supreme Court has consistently held in condemnation cases, that the government’s obligation is to “put the owner in as good a position pecuniary as if the use of their property had not been taken” Monongahela Nav. Co. v United States, 148 U.S. 312 (1893); Phelps v. United States, 274 U.S. 341 (1927); Olson v. United States, 292 U.S. 296 (1934). That is, property owners should receive fair and just compensation and not be at any financial loss resulting from the government’s action to seize their property
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The oil boom in western North Dakota has transformed quiet small towns into industry magnets for oil and gas companies, banks, insurance agents, attorneys and real estate developers. Unemployment rates are well below average and population has increased significantly over the past several years.
But, progress comes with a price. Residents have dealt with housing shortages, loss of land rights and mineral rights, harmful explosions, and an overextended road and highway system. Small arterial highways leading in and out of towns such as Williston, Watford City, Newtown, Alexander and Dickinson are over capacity, and for some, a visit to the dentist sounds more appealing than dealing with truck traffic along I-94.
In order to help alleviate transportation issues in Western North Dakota, the North Dakota Department of Transportation is planning the construction of 5 truck bypass projects in the near future around Williston, Watford City, Alexander, New Town and Dickinson.
Williston Truck Bypass Project:
The proposed project will bypass Williston starting at US 2/85 north of town and extending west and south for approximately 13 miles to reconnect with US 2/85 west of town. The project will require the acquisition of private property, and NDDOT is currently contacting affected property owners and conducting some property appraisals. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2014. View the Williston Bypass project layout.
Watford City Truck Bypass Project:
The proposed project will bypass Watford starting from Highway 23 east of town and extending southwest to intersect with Highway 85 and then continuing in a westward direction before turning north to reconnect with Highway 85 west of town. The project will require the acquisition of private property, and most of the property for the Highway 85 section west of town has been acquired, and construction will begin shortly. Property acquisition for the Highway 23 portion of the project east of town has not yet begun. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2014 for the east portion of the project. View the Watford City Bypass project layout.
Alexander Truck Bypass Project:
The proposed project will bypass Alexander starting at Highway 85 east of town and extending north and west to terminate with Highway 85 west of town. Property acquisition is almost complete and construction is scheduled to begin in 2014. View the Alexander Bypass project layout.
New Town Truck Bypass Project:
The proposed project will bypass New Town starting at Highway 23 east of town and extending north and west to terminate at highway 1804. Property acquisition is almost complete and construction will begin shortly. View the New Town Bypass project layout.
Dickinson Bypass Project:
The ultimate bypass project will start at a new interchange with I-94 and 116th Avenue west of town and extend north and east to terminate at highway 22 north of town. The interim build bypass project was developed as a temporary solution before the ultimate bypass project is built. The interim bypass project begins in the area of I-94 & 113th Avenue SW, just north of the west Dickinson interchange (Exit 59) and will progress north approximately three miles to 33rd Street SW. The route will then continue east along 33rd Street SW for approximately two miles where it will tie into ND Hwy 22. Property acquisition is complete and construction is underway.
The NDDOT, in conjunction with the city of Dickinson and Stark County, is also working on the first phase of the ultimate Dickinson Bypass Project. This phase consists of building a new interchange west of Dickinson where the permanent bypass will tie into Interstate 94. Construction of this phase consists only of the interchange and its tie-in points back to 116th Avenue SW. Property acquisition for this project is getting underway. They are currently in the collection of sales, development of preliminary plats and appraisal development process. They anticipate right of way negotiations for this phase to begin late November 2013. View the Dickinson Bypass project layout.
What does this mean for property owners?
Property owners affected by the project should know that the government is like any buyer, it will want to purchase your property as cheaply as it can. When the government makes you an offer, it will tell you that it represents full market value. It may even show you an appraisal. But be aware, appraisals can vary and the governments’ may be a low one.
The government is required by law to pay you just compensation for your property. Typically, an owner will only receive just compensation by allowing condemnation to occur. In condemnation an owner can show that the rules for highest and best use will produce a higher price than the amount offered by the government. If you’re instincts tell you the offer is too low, it probably is. Do not feel pressured to accept a lesser amount by the threat of eminent domain. Also North Dakota law directs the government to pay the property owner’s attorneys fees if the final recovery is greater than the amount offered by the government. Learn more about the North Dakota attorney fee recovery statute.
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When a property owner files for bankruptcy, all proceedings against them are stayed to allow time to reorganize assets and, in some instances, repay creditors. However, bankruptcy courts across the country have held that there are certain situations where actions against a debtor will not be stayed, including those initiated by the government. When a property owner is confronted by eminent domain and files for bankruptcy (or vice versa) the eminent domain action will usually proceed.
If bankruptcy occurs before the eminent domain taking, the eminent domain award becomes property of the bankruptcy estate, unless the property is removed from the estate. If a property owner is in chapter 11, then the owner will normally be the debtor in possession and they will control the litigation of the eminent domain matter. If the owner is in chapter 7, then the entity controlling the matter will be the chapter 7 trustee that’s been appointed by the bankruptcy court. In either instance, the eminent domain lawyer’s fee agreement must be approved by the bankruptcy court.
If bankruptcy occurs after the taking, the eminent domain claim will still be an asset of the estate, but now the eminent domain attorney will need to ensure their fee agreement is approved by the bankruptcy court. If the agreement was hourly, any fee not paid might be listed as an unsecured claim.
If the property is subject to a mortgage, it could be removed from the bankruptcy estate if there is no equity. In this instance, the eminent domain attorney must be retained by the lender, even if they were initially retained by the property owner. The proceeds of the eminent domain claim will be applied to any claims of the mortgagee, and whether any balance is returned to the bankruptcy estate could depend upon the agreement between the lender and the bankruptcy trustee; or the matter could be litigated. If the property remained in the bankruptcy estate, any proceeds of the eminent domain claim will be an asset of the bankruptcy estate subject to any claims of mortgagees.
If you’re a property owner confronted with both eminent domain and bankruptcy, you need to know if you’re in chapter 11 or 7, whether the eminent domain taking occurred before or after the bankruptcy proceedings were initiated, and if you have equity in the property. From here, consult with your eminent domain lawyer and get them in touch with your bankruptcy lawyer.
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The U.S. Supreme Court recently accepted a case for review that will affect how courts will construe the ownership of land under abandoned railway lines. The Wyoming-Colorado Railroad Company (WCRC) owned approximately 66 miles of right-of-way and two-hundred feet wide stretching from Laramie, Wyoming into Colorado. The construction of the railroad on that right-of-way was completed in 1911. In 2001, WCRC began the official process of abandoning this right-of-way. WCRC completed abandonment in 2004.
The landowner, Brandt, and the federal government disagreed on who owned the right-of-way following the abandonment. The government claimed that it retained exclusive possession of the right-of-way. Brandt contended that he owned the right-of-way without any rights reserved to the United States. The lower courts concluded that the United States possessed an “implied” ownership interest in the abandoned right-of-way, thereby subjecting Brandt to an easement that was arguably found nowhere in any deed or declaration on the property.
The lower court rulings are counter to decisions by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Court of Claims, who all concluded that the United States possessed no interest in the abandoned railways. The Supreme Court has elected to weigh in on this split between the courts, which may have implications for many of the rails-to-trails projects around the country. Stay tuned to see whether the Supreme Court sides with the rights of property owners or the rights of the government.
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The debate around the Keystone XL pipeline is still going strong on many fronts: environmental, economical, and perhaps least talked about, constitutional. On the constitutional front, there is considerable concern that the eminent domain powers granted to private companies have expanded out of control. In Texas, on September 6th, the State Supreme Court declined to hear a case that would clarify the eminent domain powers available to common carriers. The case in question, In re Texas Rice Land Partners, Ltd. raised one question: whether TransCanada, the company seeking to install the pipeline, possessed eminent domain power – the power to take private property for public use. By declining to hear the case, the Texas Supreme Court let the ruling of the lower court stand, that TransCanada had the authority to take possession of the land owned by the Texas Rice Land Partners.
Background of the case
TransCanada was granted common carrier status by the Railroad Commission of Texas, granting them eminent domain power for the purpose of constructing the Keystone XL pipeline, extending the current pipeline from Cushing, Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast. The planned construction will cross the property of many landowners’ in Texas. Texas has enacted eminent domain reforms such that, for the good of the oil industry, pipeline companies are granted eminent domain authority as common carriers – those who transport oil, gas or coal for the public. As a common carrier, TransCanada has eminent domain power in Texas for the purpose of building the Keystone XL pipeline throughout the state.
However, the real question is not whether TransCanada can take possession of the land, but when. Eminent domain powers are traditionally reserved for state governments, and allow the taking of private land only for the purpose of a public use. Over the past decades, Texas has expanded the ability to grant eminent domain power beyond government agencies. Now, by filling out a form and submitting it to the Railroad Commission, an energy company can obtain the title Common Carrier, which comes with the ability to use eminent domain power to construct new pipelines on private property. The State Supreme Court, by declining to hear the case, let stand the ruling of the Court of Appeals, which required TransCanada to make a showing that it was a true common carrier and, thus, entitled to eminent domain authority, instead of what had been the status quo –taking immediate possession based on a permit granted by the Railroad Commission.
Becoming a common carrier in Texas
§81.051 of the Texas Natural Resources Code, jurisdiction over common carriers goes to the Railroad Commission. A pipeline company must apply for status as a common carrier and obtain a permit. The two requirements the commission looks to for granting a permit are (1) the reduction of waste and (2) operation in compliance with laws and regulations. The operator must also classify the pipeline as a common carrier or private pipeline. Additionally, the pipeline company must agree to be subject to the duties and obligations of the Code. Once granted, the common carrier status is generally not reviewable by courts.
Under the Texas Natural Resources Code §111.109(b), a common carrier has the ability to enter on and condemn land, rights-of-way, easements, and property “of any person or corporation necessary for the construction, maintenance or operation of the common carrier pipeline.”
Effect on property owners
Traditionally, a state must prove that the taking of private property using eminent domain power is limited in that the government must prove that the taking is for the public good. In Texas, common carrier status is granted based on a form submitted to the Railroad Commission with no further investigation. This shifts the burden from the state to the landowner, who must now challenge a pipeline company in court to protect their property. Additionally, the ‘public use’ requirement has eroded over time, allowing pipeline companies more and more leeway to use eminent domain authority to take or use private land.
Landowners in Texas do have a bill of rights regarding their property, including a condemnation procedure explained in the Texas Property Code. A landowner has the right to notice of acquisition, a good faith effort at negotiation with the condemnor, an assessment of damages and, most importantly, a hearing on the assessment of damages and an appeal process.
In the last case to go to the Texas Supreme Court on this issue, the court ruled that filing a permit alone was not enough to conclusively establish common carrier status – only a legislative grant is conclusive, and then only when accompanied by strict compliance with existing laws and rules. Companies, the court said, could not gain common carrier status through self-declaration alone. The court continued that the commission’s determination should be given deference, but a court must determine whether a use is for the public, and a pipeline company must produce this evidence to be considered a common carrier. This created considerable uncertainty about what companies are common carriers, and at what point they need to prove it. By choosing not to weigh in on the process, the Texas Supreme Court has missed an opportunity to clarify the status of landowner property rights in Texas by leaving the current permit system in place. Read the appellate court decision.
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The Great Recession from 2009-11 wreaked havoc on all areas of the economy, particularly the real estate market. Land values plummeted, foreclosures ran rampant in many areas, and property owners who managed to stay “afloat” were in fact “underwater”. Although the real estate market is improving, land values remain depressed in many areas around the country.
Property owners affected by eminent domain are acutely aware of the impact of a recession when the “fair market value” of their property doesn’t come close to covering their mortgage. Generally, the date of taking is the date of valuation in condemnation cases. When the date of taking falls within a sharp, brief economic downturn, what options are available to property owners?
First, make sure the facts are correct. The fact that there was a black cloud over the nation’s real estate market does not necessarily mean that your property was impacted by the down market. For example, while many residential markets took a hit, commercial properties remained level, some even increased in value. So whether your property was impacted by the market may depend on the highest and best use of your property.
Second, your local market may not be representative of the national market. Some smaller markets fared much better than nationwide. Many appraisers simply use the nationwide understanding of the recession to reduce comparable sales from this time period. However, a closer examination of the trends in the local market may show that values did not fall significantly during 2009-11. Checking trends in the local market is more prudent than simply relying on nationwide trends.
Finally, if the facts are unfavorable to you, there is case law that defends the position that property owners should not be punished by a sharp downturn in the market merely because their property was taken during this brief period.
In Board of Water Supply of the City of New York, 227 N.Y. 452, 14 N.E.2d 789 (1938), the City of New York condemned property on July 24, 1936. At trial, evidence of value as of October 1930, prior to the Depression, was considered. The Court of Appeals confirmed the general rule that property is to be valued as of the date of taking. See 277 N.Y. at 456, 14 N.E.3d at 791. In holding that pre-Depression market data was properly considered, the court stated:
“Fair market value” means neither panic value, auction value, speculative value, nor a value fixed by depressed or inflated prices. A fair market value is not established by sales where prices offered are so small that only sellers forced to sell will accept them. The mere absence of competitive buyers does not establish lack of a real market. But a market in fact may be established only where there are willing buyers and sellers in substantial numbers. When there is no real market as of a particular date, some indication of the intrinsic economic and commercial value of the property to the owner and of his loss from the appropriation as of that date may be shown by evidence of the “fair market value” of the property, if in substantially the same condition, at the nearest earlier date when there was a fair market. “Fair market value” of property actually taken as of the date of appropriation resides in an estimate and a determination of what is the fair, economic, just and equitable value under normal conditions. (Howell v. State Highway Department, 167 S.C. 217). All elements of value that inhere in the property should be considered (Olson v. United States, 292 U.S. 246, 255,256).
277 N.Y. at 459, 14 NE.2d at 792 (citation omitted). Therefore, the court held that evidence of the value of the acquired property as of 1930 was proper “in connection with the other evidence in the case, on the question as to what was the just and equitable compensation that must be made to the owner under the constitutional mandate and under the statutory requirement…for property taken from him for public use.” 277 N.Y. at 460, 14 N.E.2d at 793.
Other courts have found that predate of taking market data was relevant when the acquisition occurred during the Depression. In Howell v. State Highway Department, 167 S.C. 217, 223, 166 S.E. 129, 131 (1932), the Supreme Court of South Carolina affirmed a condemnation verdict of a jury where the judge “defined the market value as that which prevailed in ‘normal times,’” not values in 1931. The court held: “It would be manifestly unfair to the owner if the taking of the property be during a period of deep depression to fix the value as of that exact date.” See 167 S.C. at 223, 166 S.E. at 131. See also Kornegay v. City of Richmond, 185 Va. 1013, 1016, 41 S.E.2d 45 (1947) (“[N]either an inflated nor a depressed market is the proper criterion of fair market value. The one is unfair to the condemnor and the other is unfair to the property owner.”).
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The U.S. Constitution requires that “just compensation” be paid when the government exercises its power of eminent domain to take private property. The state constitutions generally provide the same. In two recent state supreme court decisions, however, it has been held that while “just compensation” may be the minimum owed to the property owner, lawmakers may compel condemning authorities to pay compensation above this constitutional floor.
In City of Moorhead v. Red River Valley Co-op., the City of Moorhead annexed additional land. The City sought to extend municipal electric utility services to the residents living in the annexed area. These annexed residents were formerly provided electricity by Red River Valley Co-op. (RRVC). As part of providing service to its new residents, the City would be utilizing property (e.g. electric lines) that formerly belonged to RRVC. RRVC and the City could not agree on the amount owed from the City to RRVC as compensation for RRVC property that served the annexed area. The City then moved to condemn RRVC’s property located in the annexed area.
RRVC argued that it was owed compensation pursuant to a statutory formula that exceeded the fair market value of the property. The City argued that providing compensation greater than market value offended basic concepts of fairness. The City essentially attempted to argue that “just compensation” and “market value” were always synonymous, and condemnors could never be required to pay more than market value. The Minnesota Supreme Court rejected the City’s argument, holding that “the Legislature may require that municipalities pay property owners more than the constitutional minimum, and therefore the City had no authority to ignore the statute and instead pay what it believed to be the minimum constitutional requirement.”
In St. Louis County v. River Bend Estates, the condemnor challenged a recent Missouri law known as the “heritage value statute.” The heritage value statute required an award of 50% over market value where a property owned by a family for more than 50 years was taken by condemnation. The County argued that the Legislature had redefined just compensation and that the heritage value statute conferred an unconstitutional private benefit. The Missouri Supreme Court rejected the County’s arguments, holding that “just compensation” “serves as a constitutional floor below which the legislature cannot descend,” but noted that the Legislature could provide “additional benefits to certain property owners whose real property is taken for public use.”
Both cases emphasize that while “just compensation” is the minimum possible payment owed to property owners affected by condemnation, legislatures are free to require condemnors to pay more. The holdings appear to build on a string of cases dating back to at least 1984, when the U.S. Supreme Court noted that Congress had the power to mandate compensation above the constitutional minimum. The Supreme Court of California has noted the same, at least as far back as 2000.
This growing consensus among courts is encouraging for property owners. If the legislature provides remedies to property owners that result in payments above fair market value, those remedies are binding on condemning authorities, and property owners are entitled to the resulting benefits. While just compensation might be the floor, it is not the ceiling.
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The Constitution Pipeline Project is a proposed 124 mile natural gas pipeline that is being designed to transport natural gas that has already been produced in Pennsylvania. The pipeline will extend from Susquehanna County, PA, into New York through Broome County, NY, Chenango County NY, Delaware County, NY and will terminate in Schoharie County, NY. The pipeline is already fully contracted with long-term commitments from established natural gas producers currently operating in Pennsylvania.
Williams Company has partnered with Cabot Oil & Gas, Piedmont Natural Gas, and WGL Holding to construct the project in 2015. Before construction can begin, Constitution Pipeline must obtain a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN), which they hope to obtain by April 2014.
Maps of the proposed pipeline location by county:
Overall Pipeline Map
Susquehanna County, PA Map
Delaware County, NY Map
Broome County, NY Map
Chenango County, NY Map
Schoharie County, NY Map
Constitution Pipeline Project will require the acquisition of private property and offers have already been extended to many property owners impacted by the proposed pipeline. Although Constitution Pipeline would prefer to obtain the necessary land through negotiations, utility companies do reserve the right to use eminent domain when negotiations with property owners fail.
What does this mean for property owners?
If your property lies within the pipeline’s path, you will be approached about the purchase of an easement across your land. It is important for property owners affected by the project to know that utility companies are like any buyer, they will want to purchase your property as cheaply as they can.
Currently and without exception, utility companies determine the value of easements by analyzing the impact to the surface of land with the easement in place. This analysis invariably leads to low levels of compensation. They consistently fail to compensate property owners for the value of the easement itself. When determining just compensation for utility and pipeline easements, the largest value typically doesn’t come from the impact to the surface of the property; it comes from the value of the easement.
If you’re a property owner affected by the Constitution Pipeline Project, you should know that you have time to determine how best to proceed, and you have rights if you choose to assert them. Do NOT feel pressured into accepting their offer without first contacting an eminent domain lawyer.
If you have questions regarding the value of your easement and your rights in the eminent domain process, don’t hesitate to contact us. Also, learn more about New York eminent domain.
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We place significant emphasis on discussing and promoting eminent domain reform legislation, particularly in the area of attorney fee recovery for property owners who successfully pursue a just compensation eminent domain claim. Why? Because the most blatant eminent domain abuse occurs when the condemning authority makes “low ball” offers. This scenario invariably requires the property owner to hire an attorney to pursue a claim on their behalf. Although a property owner might be successful at pursuing an additional damages claim, they are not entirely happy when a portion of that claim must be paid to the attorney.
Some states have remedied this situation by passing legislation that forces the government or condemning authority to reimburse property owners for their attorney’s fees and costs incurred while pursuing their claim. North Dakota is one of the minority of states that award attorneys fees and costs to successful claimants.
In North Dakota, two statutes dictate the recovery of costs and fees for landowners: ND Chapter 38-11.1, which addresses compensation for oil and gas acquisitions, and N.D. Cent. Code Ann. § 32-15-32, which applies to eminent domain generally. Property owners who suffer property damage from oil and gas activities are protected by ND 38-11.1-09, which allows the court to award attorney’s fees and costs if the amount of compensation awarded by the court is greater than that which was offered by the mineral developer.
Under NDCC 32-15-32, the court awards attorney’s fees at their own discretion. Generally, the courts have interpreted NDCC 32-15-32 liberally in favor of property owners. Once the recovery is greater than the amount offered, reasonable attorney’s fees are usually recoverable. When awarding fees in an eminent domain proceeding, the reasonableness of the fee controls the amount recoverable, not necessarily the agreement between attorney and client. For example, a reasonable fee might be more than the standard one-third contingent fee arrangement between attorney and client, or it may be less.
Contact us if you have questions regarding an eminent domain case in North Dakota.
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As many of our readers already know, MN passed the ‘Buy the Farm’ act in 1973 which allows landowners to force utility companies to buy their entire property rather than forcing them to live beneath a high voltage transmission power line. This is an excellent legal remedy for some owners, but it’s not the best option for everyone. Read more about our position on Buy the Farm.
We also regularly discuss the Minnesota Minimum Compensation Statute, which was passed in 2006 and directs the condemning authority to pay damages sufficient for an owner to purchase a comparable property in the community, when the owner must relocate as a result of an eminent domain taking.
The Minnesota Supreme issued a decision in May that was favorable for property owners on a case that involved both Buy the Farm and Minimum Compensation. Read the decision here. This was a huge win for landowners in the state of Minnesota. The case presented the question of whether property owners who elect to require a utility to condemn their entire property under Buy the Farm are entitled to Minimum Compensation under Minn. Stat. 117 § 187 and relocation assistance under Minn. Stat. 117.52.
In this case, the district court concluded that these benefits are available, reasoning that the Legislature did not specifically exclude landowners making an election under buy the farm from receiving minimum compensation or relocation assistance. However, the district court did not address whether the property owners satisfied the specific requirements for obtaining minimum compensation or relocation assistance. The utility company appealed the decision, and the court of appeals subsequently overturned the district court’s decision explaining that minimum compensation is only available when an owner “must relocate”. Property owners in this case had the option to remain on their property, but instead chose to expand condemnation under Buy the Farm, and consequently are not entitled to damages under Minimum Compensation. Similarly, they explained that relocation benefits under Minn. Stat . 117.52 are for owners who are “displaced”, and in making an election to pursue Buy the Farm, the owners made a decision to relocate and therefore, are not entitled to relocation assistance.
The Minnesota Supreme Court heard the case and reversed the court of appeals decision. They explained that under Buy the Farm, if the owner requires the utility to condemn the entire property, “the easement interest over and adjacent to the lands designated by the owner….shall automatically be converted to a fee taking”. Furthermore, the statute provides that eminent domain utility proceedings “shall be conducted in the manner prescribed in chapter 117”-the eminent domain chapter. The Minnesota Supreme Court has consistently held that compensation in eminent domain takings under chapter 117 is determined at the time of taking and not the date the condemnation proceedings commence. Because Minimum Compensation is a form of compensation provided under chapter 117, entitlement to Minimum Compensation should be determined at the time of taking, not the date at which the utility files to commence condemnation. Because property owners have made an election under Buy the Farm by the date of taking, the property owners “must relocate”. They also conclude that property owners are able to obtain relocation benefits because they satisfy the 2 requirements of the federal statute which applies under Minn. Stat 117.52: they were required to move from their property as a direct result of the utility company’s acquisition of their property in fee, and the acquisition of their property was for a project undertaken by the utility company.
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