Acquiring Land for Roads and Public Projects
When improving Marion County road facilities, the Department of Public Works has the task of acquiring right of way. It is the aim and desire of the department to obtain right of way with fairness and equity. The county is empowered to acquire private property for public use. With this power goes the obligation to protect the rights of the individual property owner. The department thus has a dual responsibility - recognition and protection of the individuals who are affected by acquisition of land, and competent and efficient service to the public.
Owners of property needed for a road project will be offered Just Compensation for the required right of way easements. Just Compensation includes the estimated value of all the land and improvements within the needed area. In addition, Just Compensation also includes any measurable loss in value to the remaining property due to the partial acquisition.
Just Compensation is based on the valuation of the needed property and the estimation of any damages to the remaining property. Department procedures, guided by State and Federal Regulations, have been designed to protect both owners of properties needed for road rights of way as well as other taxpayers. The valuation process will be conducted by an experienced and qualified employee of the Department or by an independent fee appraiser under a contract with the Department. The value arrived at will be by comparison of similar properties in the market that have recently sold, by knowledge and consideration of costs and depreciation for any improvements to be acquired, and when applicable, by the property's income potential. The final value determination will be based on this type of information from the local real estate market.
The property to be acquired is inspected by a qualified appraiser during the first part of the valuation process. Property owners will be given 15 days to prepare the property, and the opportunity to accompany the appraiser during a detailed inspection of your property.
The final value estimate is reviewed for completeness and accuracy, and Just Compensation is established by the Review Appraiser. In addition to this estimate of Just Compensation, the Department will make an offer to purchase any remaining property determined to have no remaining economic value to the owner. Any increase or decrease in the value of needed property brought about by public knowledge of the upcoming road project is disregarded in the valuation process.
The Right of Way Agent who calls on you has studied the Department's valuation of the needed property and can illustrate with maps and other data how the acquisition will affect your property. The Department's offer will be confirmed in writing together with an acquisition summary statement and appraisal, or evaluation sheet, which provides the basis for that amount. The Agent is authorized to obtain the needed easements from you, subject to approval of the Board of Commissioners. The Agent is unable, under Department procedures governing acquisitions, to engage in "horse trading"; rather, the Agent is confined to those monetary values indicated by the appraisal process. However, the Department is always willing to reconsider its position in light of any new evidence of value presented by you including a documented professional appraisal.
The Department may not take any action which would coerce you into accepting its offer. Prohibited actions include advancing the time of condemnation, deferring negotiations or condemnation, or postponing the deposit of funds in court for your use.
You need not accept the County's offer or enter an agreement felt to be unfair. Owners have a minimum 40-day period to accept or reject the offer, unless an emergency has been declared. A refusal is simply a case of disagreement between the two parties on the value of the property.
In the event the parties are unable to agree as to the compensation to be paid, mediation and arbitration are available prior to filing a condemnation action. Discussions can, of course, continue even after an action is filed. A condemnation filing allows the County to proceed with the construction of the project.
When the Department acquires an interest in your land, it must acquire an equal interest in any improvements located on the land acquired. If improvements such as fences, landscaping or buildings are required to be removed, the Department may allow the owner to retain the improvements. If you are interested, this can be discussed with the Right of Way Agent.
If you sign the agreement and easement, and the Board of Commissioners approves it, then payment may proceed. At the time the easement is available for recording, authorization is given to prepare a check for payment. Normally, you will receive payment in about four weeks after the Department receives the signed easement.
If a condemnation action has been filed, the amount established by the Department as just compensation will be deposited with the court for distribution in accordance with the order of the court.
You are not required to surrender possession of your property until you have been paid the agreed amount or an amount equal to the Departments established estimate of Just Compensation has been deposited with the court for your benefit.