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EMINENT DOMAIN/CONDEMNATION

Attempting to negotiate with a local, state, or federal government agency over the taking of a person's residential or commercial property can be an emotional and frustrating experience. It does not need to be.

Eminent domain/condemnation is one of the few areas of law that can, if handled correctly, result in a "win-win" resolution for all parties involved. State and federal courts give great scrutiny to all proceedings regarding the taking of a person's private property. The Constitution does not prohibit the taking of a person's property by the state, but it does require local, state, and federal entities to pay the property owner "just compensation" for the full value of the taking. As a result, if handled correctly, the government "wins" by obtaining property necessary to achieve a public purpose to the benefit of the community, and the property owner "wins" by receiving "just" compensation for the taking.

We represent both private property owners and governmental entities in condemnation proceedings. Whether we represent a local government or the state -- or whether we represent the property owner -- the underlying purpose of the eminent domain proceeding is to ensure that the property owner receives fair just compensation for his taken property.

The process of determining what “just compensation” is unique to takings law. Depending on the nature of the property and the venue, a person's real estate and improvements can be valued using the "comparable sales approach to value", the "income approach to value," the "replacement cost minus depreciation approach to value," or a combination of the three. While local communities, utilities, the state, or federal governments have legal counsel and their own appraisers from the very beginning of the condemnation proceeding, landowners frequently - but mistakenly - believe they are at a large disadvantage because they have to negotiate or litigate against the government. It has been our experience that a landowner is well-advised to consult with an experienced condemnation/eminent domain attorney prior to entering into negotiations for the acquisition of property. At the very least, an experienced attorney can assist you in negotiations with the government for the purchase of your property.

We are sensitive to the emotional and financial issues that arise with regard to the government's taking of private property by eminent domain. We will work with you to help you understand the takings laws, assist in negotiations, identify independent appraisers and other experts to represent you if necessary, and guide you through the litigation process to help you receive "just" compensation.

It deserves mentioning that property can be "taken" by governmental over-regulation as easily as it can by taken by physical appropriation. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that local, state, and federal governments have the right to regulate property through zoning, land-use, or environmental regulations, but that where these regulations "go too far" the government must pay the landowner for the property. These "regulatory takings" or "exactions" comprise a special field of eminent domain law. Landowners who believe that local, state, or federal regulations have "taken" their right to enjoy their property, or who believe that the government's exactions in the form of easements or other impositions have "gone too far," should consult with an experienced condemnation attorney to help them identify their issue, negotiate with regulatory authorities, and - if necessary - frame their legal issues in the event of litigation.

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