Eminent Domain and the Value of Land Use
Eminent domain is the right of a government or its agent to expropriate private property for public use, with payment of compensation. If they’re going to take it, why not get the most you can for it? If you own property that is in jeopardy of being taken for purposes of road or utility projects, Weihe Engineers can help. Planning should ideally occur before an offer is received from the agency exercising eminent domain, but we can help after an offer has been made as well. We can bring the right team together to increase your chances of receiving a better offer.
Weihe Engineers provided land surveying and civil engineering consultation services to several clients affected by the Major Moves US 31 project. One area where we assisted our clients was regarding “cost to cure.” Essentially, when the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) officials are purchasing right-of-way for road improvement projects, they offer a monetary amount for property based on what its use is today. Many times, the current use is agricultural, which has a much lower value than land targeted for commercial or industrial use. Our clients felt that their property was worth much more than what INDOT officials were offering them. The difference could have been attributed to the zoning of the property or perhaps what some municipality’s comprehensive plans indicated for the future uses of their properties. In those cases, we created site plans for those properties based on the uses that our clients thought would realistically develop. Those site plans not only showed a much higher and better use of the property, but they also provided a planning tool for INDOT and local municipalities to know where utilities should be provided.
One of our largest site planning exercises was for IMMI who was impacted at both SE and NE corners of US 31 and 191st Street at their world headquarters in Westfield, Indiana. IMMI brings safety to people with products that touch millions of lives all over the world. They are safety experts, not developers. They relied on our expertise as land consultants to layout site plans for their undeveloped agricultural property in order to demonstrate how this area would likely develop according to the city’s comprehensive plan and the recent Grand Park amenity constructed just west of IMMI.
This new intersection of US 31 and 191st would be the primary gateway to Grand Park, a 400-acre sports campus and destination for over 750,000 annual visitors. We advised IMMI for several years as rights-of-way were being proposed and appraisal values were being discussed. While an attorney and an appraiser were involved to represent IMMI’s interests for the value of land INDOT wanted to acquire, we assisted IMMI by evaluating the amount of right-of-way INDOT wanted. We also helped minimize the impact on IMMI’s property by working with INDOT to reduce the street cross-sections, provide drainage design guidance that would be less impactful and coordinated utilities to be stubbed to undeveloped property for future use. Weihe Engineers also helped negotiate acceptable “cost to cure” amounts.
Weihe Engineers provides land surveying services for utility companies and property owners along highways that are going through expansion. On the U.S. 31 project in Hamilton County, we provided a comprehensive map of easement locations to Clay Township Regional Waste District showing the impact of the widened U.S. 31 right-of-way on their sanitary sewer facilities. This helped the utility understand which lines were being impacted and whether the cost of relocation was their responsibility or the state’s responsibility.
We have also provided private landowners with services to verify the locations of new right-of-way lines, so they understand the impact on their property. One client had a building that was near the new right-of-way line. We were able to mark the locations of the right-of-way taking, which led to a negotiation that revised the right-of-way lines and allowed the building to remain rather than to be demolished.
Another client had a property where the State did not extend access rights along an adjoining street to US 31, but physically blocked their access with a new overpass. This dramatically affected the value of the property since the property owner had no other physical and legal access to a public right-of-way. Our client settled the matter with INDOT for a monetary sum that was a large percentage of the value of the property prior to the road expansion. We provided a survey for this project and consulted extensively with the attorney and appraiser, including throughout the day of the mediation hearing, to craft language and reasonable terms for the settlement statement.
Again, if you own property that is in jeopardy of being taken for purposes of road or utility projects, Weihe Engineers can help. Planning should ideally occur before an offer is received from the agency exercising eminent domain, but we can help after an offer has been made as well. We can bring the right team together to increase your chances of receiving a better offer. If you’d like to discuss eminent domain services available from Weihe Engineers, please contact our Vice President of Surveying, Brady Kuhn, P.S. at (800) 452-6408.