The Utah legislature is considering policy changes regarding the acquisition of land for new charter schools and further expansions of existing schools. Specifically, there currently is uncertainty as to the eminent domain powers of charter schools in that state.

The Utah Administrative Rules Review Committee questioned what authority charter schools have to call on the state to seize property through eminent domain laws. Kristen Elinowski, a spokeswoman for the State Charter School Board, said because Utah’s eminent domain statute predates Utah’s charter schools policies, there is need for specific clarification of whether it is the state board of education, the charter school board or the charter school that should be the entity involved in approving the use of eminent domain.

The Georgia Supreme Court is considering an important case involving the state’s 2006 Landowner’s Bill of Rights statute. At issue is whether certain provisions of that statute are mandatory or merely advisory. The GA appeals court ruled that the City of Marietta violated that statute by not providing the property owner with details of the city’s appraisal of his property. The Landowner’s Bill of Rights says that the condemning authority should give the property owner an opportunity to accompany the appraiser during inspection, and provide the owner with “a written statement of, and summary of the basis for,” the offered amount. Marietta argues that these are not mandatory requirements. Oral argument was done last month.

Oregon has enacted legislation establishing a specific statute of limitations on civil actions against appraisers and appraisal firms for real estate appraisal activity. The law takes applies only to appraisals performed after January 1.  It requires that any civil action against an appraiser or an appraisal firm commence within six years after the date of the “act or omission giving rise to the action.” The limitations will not apply to actions that allege fraud or misrepresentation.

Property owners whose land will be taken for the Sabal Trail Transmission LLC’s natural gas pipeline should be compensated under Florida law rather than federal rules, a Florida federal judge ruled.

In Sabal Trail Transmission LLC v. Real Estate et al, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker denied the pipeline’s request that eminent domain compensation be determined pursuant to the federal “just compensation” standard.   The primary difference is that Florida’s just compensation includes attorneys’ fees and other expenses. Federal procedure does not provide for those expenses.

The New Jersey Appellate Division has held that the government can condemn easements for beach projects. In that case, the DEP sought voluntary easements from the landowners as part of a dune-and-berm system spanning the entire 18-mile length of Long Beach Island and 14 miles along Ocean County. The Court rejected the challenges of Ocean County property owners. The Court stated that the question was whether the specific eminent domain law at issue, N.J.S.A. 12:3-64, restricts the DEP to acquiring only a “fee simple” and not an easment. The appeals judges’ decision was based on the plain language of the statute and rejected the landowners’ arguments that the Legislature must have intended to limit the DEP’s authority to acquire only a fee simple.

Tennessee has enacted a law that will prohibit the use of eminent domain to condemn land for industrial parks. It deletes the “industrial parks” exception for takings under 29-17-102 (E), . It also provides that any property taken must fall under the strict definition of “public use” as defined by T.C.A. 29-17-102, which references the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Tennessee Constitution. In addition, it requires the condemning government body to compensate land owners for engineering fees, appraisal costs, and, in certain circumstances, legal fees that may be the result of a condemnation action. Roads, transportation projects, and utilities are exempt from these costs.

The Texas Senate approved an eminent domain bill intending to expand on current legislation. The bill’s author, State Senator Lois Kolkhorst, said “This bill is designed to build off of Senate Bill 18 six years later as we’ve learned through the process that there are things that can be improved on.”

The bill, SB 740, would require a condemnor to clearly inform landowners that they have the right to speak with a representative of the condemnor and a representative of the Attorney General’s Office, as well as consult with a licensed real estate broker. An offer to purchase land for purposes of eminent domain must be at least 150 percent of the per-acre value as determined in the latest tax appraisal or one based on a certified appraisal. The condemnor would be prohibited from contacting a property owner for three days following the offer to allow time to consider it.

The bill now heads to the Texas House for consideration.

The Georgia Legislature approved legislation allowing local governments to seize blighted property for economic development. House Judiciary Chairman Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, said the change would give cities more options in dealing with persistently blighted areas. However, before a property is taken for an economic development project the condemnor must prove to a judge that the property is blighted and property owners can challenge that allegation.

 

PA State Senator John C. Rafferty, Jr. has announced that he intends to introduce legislation to aid railroads that may have its property condemned by utilities. He states that “The use of ‘quick take’ condemnation proceedings by a public utility company to avoid legitimate safety and operational concerns is detrimental to public safety and contrary to law. My legislation would provide the railroad industry with the necessary means to ensure public utility companies comply with federal safety regulations and engineering standards in the event a pipeline is proposed or constructed in an active railroad’s right-of-way.”

The Missouri State Legislature is considering a bill in response to a proposed electrical transmission line project. House Bills 640 and 795 were proposed by Rep. Nate Walker, R-Kirksville.

If passed, the legislation would:

  • Ask utility companies to use existing project routes when building on private property
  • Require all future routing to take place along boundary or section lines
  • Require all projects to avoid impeding irrigation and use agricultural machinery
  • Require 60% of all land acquired in eminent domain to be given voluntarily
  • Provide tougher restrictions on how the utility company can use the land
  • Limit the amount of pounds per square inch the company can put on the land
  • Limit the number of times a utility company can apply to the Missouri Public Service Commission in pursuing eminent domain

Both bills are waiting to be assigned to committee.