Road projects involve the taking of private land for public roads such as streets, highways, and freeways, most often sought by the Ohio Department of Transportation (“ODOT”), or by individual cities or counties. These projects may also involve takings for sidewalks, bike paths, multi-use paths, and rails-to-trails projects. We currently represent and defend landowners across Ohio on all of these types of projects.
Like many public projects in Ohio, public road projects have the power of eminent domain. “Eminent Domain” is a legal term that refers to the government’s power to take private property and convert it to a public use. The act of exercising eminent domain power is commonly referred to as “Appropriation” or “Condemnation.” Although rare with road projects, the government may also delegate its power of eminent domain to private companies for for-profit projects deemed to serve the public’s interest, such as privately-owned toll roads. The entity taking land by eminent domain, whether the government or a private company, is referred to as the “Condemning Authority.”
In many cases, when the landowner first learns that a condemning authority is planning to take their land, the first question is: ‘Can I stop this?’ The answer is, while there are procedures available to landowners to attempt to stop eminent domain projects, the reality is, under Ohio law the use of eminent domain for public road projects can rarely be stopped. But under Ohio law, the landowner also has many important rights.
The power of eminent domain is not absolute, and is limited by the the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article 1, Section 19 of the Ohio Constitution. The Fifth Amendment requires that when a condemning authority exercises its eminent domain power, it must provide just compensation to the landowner. The Ohio Constitution further extends the rights of the landowner to provide that just compensation shall be assessed by a jury. So in the case of a road project, the more relevant questions concern the amount of just compensation to be paid, and the contractual terms the condemning authority must follow in exercising its eminent domain power.
Unlike most types of eminent domain projects, public road projects in Ohio are given the additional power of “quick take.” Quick Take is a procedure that allows the condemning authority to take the land and begin the project even before just compensation has been paid to the landowner. This can give the condemning authority additional leverage in negotiations with the landowner. Skilled eminent domain attorneys, however, can help the landowner navigate this procedure to minimize this potential disadvantage.
When deciding whether to hire an attorney, keep in mind that the landowner does not start on a level playing field. The government is involved in eminent domain takings every day, and it has legions of attorneys on its side who know eminent domain law and can fight you in court, if necessary, to take your land. In order to make it a fair fight, you need attorneys on your side who know the law and have experience squaring off against the government in eminent domain cases. At GBSK, we have leveled the playing field and achieved favorable results for hundreds of landowners faced with eminent domain.
Please continue reading below for more information on how we can help, or click above for a free consultation and we’ll be happy to speak with you. You can also click the link below to view some of the road project results we’ve achieved for our clients:
How We Help
When faced with a road project, it is common for the landowner to focus most of their attention on monetary compensation. Although important, monetary compensation is only one aspect of a road project. We provide value to our eminent domain clients through three distinct, interrelated services:
1. Obtaining Monetary Compensation – The primary remedy for a landowner facing a road project on their property is the payment of just compensation for the land taken and the damages to the residue (the remaining property). We work with our clients and our extensive network of experts to determine if there are any flaws in the condemning authority’s appraisal of the property. If we conclude that the condemning authority’s appraisal and offer is too low, we obtain experts to perform appraisals and evaluate any other land use or engineering concerns on behalf of our client. The appraisal then forms the basis of our settlement negotiations and, if no settlement is reached, the appraisal forms the basis of our legal position at trial. In addition, we are skilled trial attorneys who are not afraid to go to trial if necessary to achieve the right result for our client.
2. Negotiating Contractual Terms – Despite the condemning authority’s power of eminent domain, it is often possible to negotiate modifications to project plans and to obtain other contractual terms to mitigate the landowner’s damages and protect the future uses and value of the land. At the commencement of our representation, we discuss with our clients what modifications to the project plans or other terms would be most beneficial, as well as educate our clients on important additional terms that should be included, and then we work diligently to obtain those changes through negotiations with the condemning authority.
3. Enforcing Contractual Terms – After the contractual terms are negotiated, we stand with our clients every step of the way to ensure that the condemning authority complies with its duties and obligations in carrying out the plans and any other contractual terms, both during construction and in the future. If the condemning authority fails to meet its obligations, we assist our clients in taking the necessary enforcement action.
To view some of the road projects in which we are involved, please click the link below: