If you are located on the proposed line, it is important to face Clean Line as a unified front in condemnation negotiations. Landowners will usually fare better as a large group than individually. THIS IS THE TIME TO CONSULT WITH A CONDEMNATION ATTORNEY. If you are on the line DO NOT WAIT. The time is now.
As you read this, Clean Line is attempting to procure easement agreements by negotiating directly with individual Missouri Landowners. Before you talk to Clean Line about an easement you are STRONGLY ADVISED TO SEEK COUNSEL from a competent condemnation attorney.
Eminent domain is also known as condemnation. It is a complex area of the law that involves your constitutional rights and complicated statutes and court procedures.
Eminent domain negotiations can also be intimidating for a property or business owner. Although Clean Line may appear to be accommodating, we believe their primary focus is to determine the least expensive way to acquire a 750 mile easement, which may include your property.
Whether you hire an attorney INDIVIDUALLY or join a CLASS of property owners is your choice. If you don’t hire an attorney, you could hurt your right to full compensation. We feel it is best to be represented as a UNIFIED group of property owners with a common interests and goals.
By negotiating directly with Clean Line, you may turn over information that they will use to justify a lower offer. Or, you might make statements that will later be used against you in the legal process. The amount of compensation that you are entitled to receive is based on complicated legal principles, and an experienced eminent domain attorney will be able to fully protect your rights.
You should make sure that the lawyer you hire has experience in representing property owners like yourself. Consulting with an attorney that is well practiced in eminent domain is the best way to protect your rights and ensure full compensation for your losses.
As with most things there is more power in large numbers of people with a common, united goal. The more landowners that band together (presumably with one or a few common attorneys) the stronger your case for larger compensation will be. Also, by banding together, ideas can be shared about your individual needs with other landowners. Your neighbor probably has those same needs.
For example, if Clean Line builds gates to enter the easement area, insist that EVERY gate has a 100,000 pound or more capacity cattle guard. Their utility trucks will be heavy. Utility workers, as many of you may know, are notorious for leaving gates open.
This is only one example of many concerns rural property owners have when it comes to utility easements over rural property. We hope that your ideas flow freely amongst the MLA membership. We hope that all affected landowners have the same minimum demands, that are strong and all encompassing. And, individually you may unique needs that warrant more specialized demands. If Clean Line achieves eminent domain power you will be in a position to make the best of your situation with a competent condemnation attorney.
It is NOT ADVISABLE to hire an APPRAISER without talking to a lawyer first. Eminent domain involves unique valuation issues that most appraisers are not trained to work with. An appraisal that does not follow the law may underestimate your compensation and could be used against you in court. Moreover, an appraiser may not be the right person in your case. Developers, brokers, accountants, urban planners, construction personnel, and tree experts are just a few of the alternatives that exist.
It is hard to think of what fair compensation might be for slicing through your property. To put this in perspective, think of a side of beef. Would you remove and sell only the tenderloin at the fat cattle carcass price? Of course not. And you shouldn’t sell a strip of land through your property at wholesale acre “fair market value acreage price” either. All rural landowners know that large parcel prices per acre are quite different from small parcels. Usually the total acreage of the easement is small compared to the whole farm. A condemnation attorney will ensure you don’t “sell the tenderloin for hamburger price”.
Remember that the US Constitution’s 5th amendment clearly “requires that the power of eminent domain be coupled with just compensation for those whose property is taken.” Condemnation Attorneys have a good sense of what is “just compensation” based on experience.
Finally, consider the words of wisdom from the Missouri Farm Bureau:
1. Take your time. Think about what you are being asked to give up and what it will be like to work with the easement holder in the future.
2. Retain an Attorney to Review the documents. Easements are legal documents with permanent ramifications. An attorney may pinpoint some areas of concern that you may not have considered.
3. Know your property and what it has to offer. Is the developer’s proposed use of the land compatible with your use of the property?
4. Think about the future. Easements negotiated today may still be in place tomorrow, ten years from now, or 100 years from now. Are you prepared to create a relationship with a developer for this long?
Much of this information was provided by MLA member Denlow and Henry, a law firm specializing in eminent domain law. They have offices in both St. Louis and Kansas City. For more factual information about their firm consult their website www.denlow.com.