Detrimental Use of the Three Unities in Eminent Domain Cases

We previously discussed the three unities valuation concept and its significance in determining just compensation in favor of the property owner, and also discussed how it can be used against the property owner with regards to a partial taking eminent domain case.  I would be remissed though, if I didn’t at least highlight an example of how the three unities can be used by a condemning authority with regards to a total taking eminent domain case.

The example that I want to share with you is based upon a case I handled previously that involves a total taking of land that was subdivided into three separate lots.  With the exception of a drainage pond and recorded plots, the land had not been developed at the time of taking.   The condemning authority treated the three lots as one large undeveloped piece of land utilizing the three unities.  All three parcels were owned by the same owner, they all had the same vacant use, and they were all contiguous; so the condemning authority rationalized that these three parcels should be added together so that the larger parcel would be one parcel.

Under the three unities, that particular analysis worked to the detriment of the property owner.  I think you can appreciate that the value of commercial property based on three developable lots is going to higher on a per acre or per square basis then if you treat all those lots together as one parcel.

Property owners facing a similar situation should be aware that the condemning authority may attempt to use the three unities rule to create one larger parcel in order to lower the unit value, thus leaving the property owner with a lower amount of just compensation then what they are entitled to receive.  This is an example where the three unities can be utilized by the condemning authority against the property owner unless the property owner is alert to what is actually happening.


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