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This is a continuation of THIS thread. I apologize for allowing it to become archived.


I searched the forum and there are only a few threads on this and they don't look like they were active until conclusion. So this thread will hopefully show the entire process through conclusion. However, we are at the beginning of the process and probably months if not years away from the end. Any helpful insights would be appreciated.

State - Georgia
Purpose - Road widening
Amount of land for right of way - 1000sqft +/-
Construction Easement - 6000sqft +/-

What they are wanting purchase from us:

Our SFR house (primary residence) backs up to a road they are widening from a 2 lane road to a four lane divided highway with bike lanes and sidewalks. It appears that the majority of new right of way is going across the street from us. The right of way they want to purchase from us is only a few feet wide and probably wouldn't have much impact on our quality of life. However, they also want a permanent easement that comes an additional 40' +/- closer to our house. They would clear the land on this easement and we would not be able to place any permanent structures (ie. fence) on this land. This easement would clear out an 8'-10' high earthen berm with a 6' high privacy fence on top and extensive mature landscaping. Additionally we have a nice new pool and spa in our back yard along with a pool house and storage building. The back yard was designed to be our relaxation area (has waterfall features on pool and spa, nice lighting, nice landscaping, etc.) and is fairly private. Removing the berm and landscaping will diminish the quality of life extensively (according to me).

Where we are in the process:

August 2014 - Appraiser met with us to explain what they were doing and approximately how much land they would need. Gave us a map and pointed to the approximate boundary lines (surveyors should stake the property "soon"). Appraiser took lots of pictures and was very helpful with explaining the process and what they would and would not pay for.

November 2014 - Met with "Land Acquisition Services" rep from the firm hired by the DOT to acquire the land. Offer of $10,000 presented to us. We did not accept the offer. Rep would like counter offer within 30 days. Land has not been staked. We requested for it to be staked.

November/December 2014 - Land was staked. I hired a landscape appraiser who appraised the trees, fence, and grass.

January 2015 - Noise study was provided and somewhat explained. Scheduled initial consultation with attorneys.

February - March 2015?? - hired MAI appraiser to give more documentation for counter offer

May 2015 - developed strategy with appraiser for counter offer

June 2015 - submitted counter offer ($88k+/-), received phone call from negotiators boss, upped offer to 20-25k

July 2015 - received 10 day notice to accept original $10k offer, I submitted an appeal the next day

September 2015 - Met with lady handling the appeal, was offered $25k. Lady is going to see if construction easement can be reduced

October 2015 - Plans were redrawn with a smaller easement. I submitted a counter offer of $30k based on the new plans.

January 2015 - Met with lady handling the appeal. She dropped her original counter offer to $2k-3k based on new plans.

What they will pay for:

- ROW land
- Easement land
- Fencing
- Landscaping (plants, trees, and irrigation)
- Storage building (if any part of it it is in easement area)

What they might pay for:

- Diminished value because of the loss of the berm and landscaping

What they won't pay for:

- Not sure yet. Going to ask for everything under the sun.

Negotiation Strategies:

- Ask for concrete privacy wall/noise barrier like you see on interstates (appraiser said he had not seen them do this on this type of project)
- Ask for construction easement to be temporary
- Ask for diminished value from loss of berm/landscaping (appraiser said he would need to do a more in depth appraisal for this, he's going to try to get that appraisal approved)


If you have any experience with something like this, or if you have suggestions please chime in.


Running total of my expenses
- $1,910.72 for landscape appraisal
- $1,140.00 for home appraisal and consultation with MAI appraisor


Member Summary
Most Recent Posts
Yes, definitely worth the effort. If you just look at the $$, it looks like we lost. But we were able to reduce the land... (more)

bbr (Sep. 15, 2016 @ 7:46p) |

the Land Value went from $1.83/square foot to $4.80/square foot.

That's a win.

devyanks90 (Sep. 15, 2016 @ 9:08p) |

Now that the paperwork has been signed, do you mind telling us which highway this is for? I'm in GA as well and have be... (more)

wilesmt (Sep. 16, 2016 @ 9:37a) |

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What's happened since my last update...

The MAI appraiser contracted with residential appraiser to appraise the property as it currently sits. Came back at $288k+/-, which is pretty accurate and maybe even a few % generous.

In order for a diminished value appraisal from him to work, the property would need to lose 25% of it's value or more. This was going to be a stretch for him. He could make a case for it, but we decided to go ahead and use the landscape appraisal as our main strategy. As a side note, we discovered that the DOT does not pay for "trees". They will pay for "landscaping" but they will fight you for that 100 year old oak tree in your front yard. So hereinafter, I will refer to the vegetation in my back yard as "landscaping".

I came up with some other misc items and submitted a counter offer of $88k+/-.

I received a call today from the negotiators boss and we went over the counter offer line by line. He basically caved on everything except the landscape appraisal. He didn't even care to see my appraisal. We were too far apart on the numbers (he offered $20k and would go up a little more if we could come to an agreement). So now he's going to send a 10-day notice and I have a right to appeal that. His firm will be out of the negotiations and we will now negotiate with the county. We apparently still have a couple of more appeals before it goes to court.

Thanks OP for keeping us updated! This sure has been a learning for me....sorry I can't be of any assistance to you but you sure did help us by sharing info on this sort of a pain point that can be forced down any ordinary citizen.....

This is great bbr, thanks for sharing this information with the rest of us. I'm glad you didn't roll over with the first low ball offer. Best of luck and please keep us posted.

fat419 said:   This is great bbr, thanks for sharing this information with the rest of us. I'm glad you didn't roll over with the first low ball offer. Best of luck and please keep us posted.
  I knew the first offer would be low. Everyone I talked to said it would be. I just didn't think it would be that low. It did bother me that he didn't even want to look at my landscape appraisal. He kept talking about how he couldn't do more for me than what he was doing for my neighbors. Unfortunately my neighbors mostly have kudzu covered scrub brush. I told him when buying cars, you'd obviously pay more for a Lamborghini than you would a Pinto. But both of them are cars and have 4 wheels. That didn't faze him any. I think he was just ready to pass it on to someone else. 

In most of these cases, the 'hired' negotiators are only authorized to go to a certain dollar amount. Your landscape estimate was likely way above his authorization, so he didn't bother with it. In addition, he's likely paid a percentage of the amount he settles for below his full authorization. At some point, he can't make any money off the deal and will just pass it along.

It's like buying a car, to completely steal your own analogy. The finance manager has to come out to make a good deal. You're not going to get a good deal from the guy that showed you the engine compartment and told you to punch it on the test drive.

MAI here.

But not in your state.

How big is your site? Dimensions?

Have you talked to your neighbors, even the ones with the kudzu landscaping?

I've heard of blow back with respect to DOT payment for trees. Are any of the trees in the "take" area protected species?

LAEVE said:   MAI here.

But not in your state.

How big is your site? Dimensions?

Have you talked to your neighbors, even the ones with the kudzu landscaping?

I've heard of blow back with respect to DOT payment for trees. Are any of the trees in the "take" area protected species?

Total Lot size is .75 acre
I have spoken with several of my neighbors. One has already settled, one is definitely hiring an attorney, a couple are still negotiating. The one who is hiring an attorney wants to get a group together. While I am not opposed to that, I'm going to let this play out a little longer first.
No protected species trees. White Pine, Leyland Cypress, Bradford Pear, Eastern Red Cedar, Black Cherry

That 6,000 SF easement does not appear to be a construction easement.

A construction easement is generally temporary and occupied by the condemning agency during the right of way improvement period.

The condemnation projects that I've appraised have all been commercial takes - one was actually an engineered habitat for giant garter snakes!

But I would think that the same principles would be in effect for your rear lot residential take.

Generally, a construction easement area can be used for things such as building material storage, work area, or vehicle or equipment parking.

The fact that you would be unable to use the 6,000 SF forever appears to reflect a near total take.

You need to ask for a copy of what is allowed in the 6,000 SF easement area. Think of it this way - you have to maintain it - water it, mow it, etc. And pay taxes on it.

Naturally, this would negatively affect the value of your property. The area appears to be 40' by 150'.

My guess is that the DOT wants the additional area in case there's a need for a six lane highway in the future.

At that point in time, someone would came to the property owner (maybe still you) and tell them that there is a nominal acquisition cost of the 6,000 SF since it is unbuildable.

What is their reason for clearing out the landscaping and berm on the 6,000 SF?

Have they provided you with copies of the easements and the take?

The easement is for "Construction and Maintenance of Slopes". In the conversation with the negotiators boss, he agreed to make it temporary (3 years).

EDIT: Also, I had asked for them to replace the berm. He was going to ask if that could be done but we were too far off on the money for him to attempt to get anything else for me. So, I'll take that up with the next guy.

Is the grade of the right of way substantially different that the elevation of your rear property line?

Slope easements are common when the right of way is below or above the abutting property.

BUT - slope easements are typically not revocable unless the work on the right of way includes temporary grade construction.

And there is no need for adjacent stabilization or slope construction on abutting parcels.

A long time ago, I was a juror on an eminent domain suit. The owner of some property was suing DOT (in Florida) claiming he was not compensated adequately for his land. Like your situation, DOT needed a strip of his land. My understanding was that they could not come to an agreement on value of the land DOT wanted so DOT paid him what they felt was the fair market value of the land and took his land to build an interstate on ramp. As jurors, the first thing we were told was that his land is gone and he will never get it back. We were there only to decide if he was fairly compensated. The DOT did an excellent job of defending their valuation. He had issues such as the loss of parking area for a planned hotel (DOT had accomadated for this in their estimate), loss of the ability to have a retention pond on his property (DOT built a stormwater drain under the on ramp and gave him the rights to use a retention pond on the other side of the on road) and the loss of an entrance to his property from a previous road (again considered in the DOT valuation). His engineers did a horrible job. They looked utterly inept compared to the DOT engineers. They didn't have their act together at all and were not able to challenge the DOT estimate. We determined that the amount he had been paid was a fair market value for the property. He didn't get anything extra.

I am very interested to see how your case works out. Good luck.

No real updates, I'm just making sure the thread doesn't get archived again. I received the 10 day notice at the beginning of July and responded the next day. In the letter, they offered the same $10k they had originally offered. So in my response, I included the same $88k counter offer. I also included a copy of the landscape appraisal and other supporting documentation. No contact since then.

Very excited to hear the outcome. Hopefully this year.

I really hate imminent domain. There is quite a difference in 10k and 88k. I think the noise barrier is huge. I have come to HATE bike lanes. Notice no one on bikes is lugging groceries- it is all joy riding.

You could possibly sell them your house and give you life rights to it- so that when you pass away they then own the whole thing.

sunsetcliff said:   I have come to HATE bike lanes. Notice no one on bikes is lugging groceries- it is all joy riding.
  And every car on the road is doing some meaningful activity?  I don't see the your point as a reason to dislike bike lanes.

Good luck OP, can't wait to see the outcome.

sunsetcliff said:   I really hate imminent domain. There is quite a difference in 10k and 88k. I think the noise barrier is huge. I have come to HATE bike lanes. Notice no one on bikes is lugging groceries- it is all joy riding.

You could possibly sell them your house and give you life rights to it- so that when you pass away they then own the whole thing.

  
I have to be realistic about this. They aren't going to buy my house. They aren't going to install a noise barrier. They are going to put in bike lanes (which I will use for exercise). Yes there is a big difference between 10k & 88k. My goal is to settle for a lot closer to 88k than to 10k.

No real updates. No further contact. However, my neighbor said construction for our section has been delayed until at least 2018. So that's good news. Also, there was an article in the local paper about a public forum where a lot of people are upset at the clear cutting of trees and natural buffer on the other section of the road where construction is happening now. So it looks like I have public sentiment on my side.

 

-  cars on the road- paid for that road.   The tires, the gas, the license, registration and insurance-  and of those funds-  using them for purposes other then cars is not what I feel is best use or even legal.
The town I live in - made a bike lane- we ripped out a car lane to install a bike lane.. now traffic is worse.

With bikes- they really dont pay tickets and into the system.

If folks on bikes were using the bike to get groceries I would be in favor of it- I own a bike and have. I know it can be done-  but in cold climate states- how many days of the year are really conducive to riding?

Maybe rich people joy ride in cars- I do not

sunsetcliff said:   -  cars on the road- paid for that road.   The tires, the gas, the license, registration and insurance-  and of those funds-  using them for purposes other then cars is not what I feel is best use or even legal.
The town I live in - made a bike lane- we ripped out a car lane to install a bike lane.. now traffic is worse.

With bikes- they really dont pay tickets and into the system.

If folks on bikes were using the bike to get groceries I would be in favor of it- I own a bike and have. I know it can be done-  but in cold climate states- how many days of the year are really conducive to riding?

Maybe rich people joy ride in cars- I do not


So cars are only paying into the system if "they" pay tickets? Wow, I never knew all of the freeloading driving I've done for decades, since I never got a ticket.

And if cars pay for all of the roads, even adding car related taxes in addition to "tickets," then state, local, and federal governments would never need to use general revenues to pay for roads. But they do.

It is also amazing that you feel the only useful activity a cyclist could do is haul groceries. LoL!

sunsetcliff said:   -  cars on the road- paid for that road.   The tires, the gas, the license, registration and insurance-  and of those funds-  using them for purposes other then cars is not what I feel is best use or even legal.
The town I live in - made a bike lane- we ripped out a car lane to install a bike lane.. now traffic is worse.

With bikes- they really dont pay tickets and into the system.

If folks on bikes were using the bike to get groceries I would be in favor of it- I own a bike and have. I know it can be done-  but in cold climate states- how many days of the year are really conducive to riding?

Maybe rich people joy ride in cars- I do not


Almost all local road funding comes from local taxes not car specific taxes.

If you were talking about putting bike lanes on an interstate, you'd have a point.

Cyclist pay taxes like anyone else and expect to be able to use what they pay for.

Had a phone call from the lady handling the appeal today. She asked to come out and talk about the issues. We met and I showed her my concerns. She gave an offer of $25,000 which I declined. She states that the DOT is refusing to pay for the landscaping because it does not add value to the house. They continue to contend that my house will not lose value even if it is open to the road. I pointed out that my appraiser, their appraiser, and everyone living along the road where construction is currently underway would disagree.

She is going to go back and see if they can make the construction easement smaller. I told her if they could keep the construction on the other side of the berm (leaving the berm and current fence) that I would be willing to settle for much less.

Interestingly, she is with another "Acquisition Company", not the county. I wonder how many of these people I'll need to go through before I get to someone who can make decisions.

Well, surprise, surprise. I received a phone call from the lady handling the appeal today and they have reduced the size of the proposed easement area by 75%. She states this will keep all construction on the opposite side of the berm. She sent a new plat with all the new measurements for me to review.

There are a couple of concerns that I have but this is at least moving in the correct direction. Unfortunately, both of my next door neighbors have settled and she couldn't tell me what would happen to the berm on their properties. Probably out of spite, they will clear cut my neighbor's trees and make my property look like the oddball.

I'd say it's likely if your neighbors are allowing them to take that stuff out that they will "accidentally" do the same to your property.

jliehr said:   I'd say it's likely if your neighbors are allowing them to take that stuff out that they will "accidentally" do the same to your property.
   I hope so. That's a slam dunk trespassing with damages lawsuit.

Of course the devil is in the details. We have not reached an agreement yet.

jliehr said:   I'd say it's likely if your neighbors are allowing them to take that stuff out that they will "accidentally" do the same to your property.
Just as likely the government will pay the neighbor's settlement for access to property they no longer have any plan to use.  

bbr said:   There are a couple of concerns that I have but this is at least moving in the correct direction. Unfortunately, both of my next door neighbors have settled and she couldn't tell me what would happen to the berm on their properties. Probably out of spite, they will clear cut my neighbor's trees and make my property look like the oddball.
I would make sure a full drainage, erosion and soil/plant stability assessment is done as part of the process. If the berm is 8-10' high and they suddenly remove the parts on your neighbors' properties, I wouldn't be surprised if you had landslides after the first bad rainstorm. That could weaken the soil around the trees leaving them to fall. And if they're doubling the size of the road, then make sure drainage has no impact on your property - the water from the road has to go somewhere and now there's a lot more non-permeable surface from which water needs to drain. Will that change the water level on your property?

No new updates. Just making sure the thread doesn't get archived.

Thanks bbr. Even if we aren't posting, there are tons of us still interested in your story. Keep us updated.

The 2nd negotiator came out again to explain the new proposed easement (ROW stayed the same). She also dropped her offer to $2,000. Said she might could come up to $3,000. I really wanted to say something ugly. Instead I just declined the offer.

With the new proposed easement, they want a permanent easement that covers the berm. She states the reason for this is to prevent me from removing the berm (so now they are concerned with keeping it??). The downside for me is that a permanent easement prevents me from constructing anything in that area (and maybe planting plants too). This would mean that I couldn't make repairs to the fence on top of the berm. I'm sure this could be worked out where I could maintain the fence, but dang they are just making this hard.

Overall, I am pleased with the progress that has been made. The proposed easement is significantly smaller and the amount of landscaping to be removed is less. However, the appraisal value of just that landscaping is $33,000. So $2k-$3k isn't going to cut it. I'd rather go to court for the entertainment than accept that.

Interesting read, doesn't sound like much fun. Never been part of this, so don't have any help.

I would take a bunch of pictures of your property and neighbors as well. As get shots off of google map in case you go to court later...a before and after would/could be really helpful. Especially the google maps view.

I received a certified letter at the end of January stating "....I am requesting our attorney to proceed with the filing of the condemnation petition." I think she offered $5,000 via phone just before she gave up. I haven't heard anything from the county (or anyone else) since that letter.

This is an election year, so I thought I could use that to my advantage. Unfortunately, the majority of the politicians are not seeking reelection. This is the first time I can remember that this many seats are turning over. I have enlisted a family friend as my attorney in case this actually does go to court. I have consulted with several attorneys throughout this process, but there really isn't enough money involved for any of them to be interested other than the basic consultations. I don't really blame them.

I do have the appraisers on my side. Of course I paid them for their services so they should be on my side. A couple of other property owners have settled. None that I know of received substantial payments for landscaping. I guess we will see where this goes from here.

No updates, just keeping the thread from being archived.

So some interesting developments have happened in the last couple of weeks.....

1. Our local power company cut down some of the trees we are trying to get compensated for. They have only trimmed the trees for the last 20 years, but they decided now was the right time to cut them to the ground. The trees are not in the state's right of way, but after having the utility company's engineer come out we learned that they can cut anything within 15 feet of the lines. This took out 40% or so of the trees.

2. Local power company engineer stated that the power lines are old (1970's) and badly need replacing. They had planned to wait until our phase of the road was under construction but can't wait any longer. The power lines on the other side of the road will be moved to my side by the end of this year (meaning we will lose all the trees). We talked about where they would located the poles and where they would clear cut, etc. This put a little urgency for me to settle with the county before they cut down all my trees!!

3. Scheduled a meeting with the Public Works Director. He indicated that he is in charge of this project but doesn't have the final say so on compensation.

4. Met with PWD today and he explained their plans (the revised plans making our construction easement smaller have been adopted - which apparently is unusual for this to happen before settlement). We met for about an hour and this is what we came away with......

- $11,500 compensation (up from last offer of $5k)
- Easement will be temporary (meaning we get all land back except right of way)
- Berm will not be disturbed (or minimally disturbed), fence will not be disturbed, all construction (including silt fencing) will be on the road side of our fence


Some other interesting notes...

- Stated they were not going to pay diminished value in any form without a court telling them they had to (and so far the courts have sided with them on Phase 1 of this project)
- Condemnation scheduled for June 28th (this was apparently already on the books, I just got lucky contacting him this month)
- He has some leeway with compensation - said it was $10k above appraisal (not a percentage, just $10k - not sure I really believe this)
- Our appraisal from them was $2k, thus the $11.5k offer
- States that 6 properties from Phase 1 went to court, all 6 got the DOT's appraised value (meaning $2k for us)
- Didn't seem to be trying to scare us (it's not his money he's spending) just wanted to inform us of the risks of going to court (attorney's fees, expert witnesses, etc.)

We didn't accept or deny the offer. We told him we'd let him know Monday. Clearly this is the best offer we are going to get without going to court. On one hand I do believe we have won this battle (all construction should be hidden from our property, we keep almost all of our land in the end). But on the other hand, I do believe they should be required to pay for diminished value. It does give us something to ponder this weekend.

This sounds like a good time to accept, without a very long struggle.

bbr, thank you for this thread. There are a lot of us that live near roads that could be expanded potentially creating a situation like this. Until I read through this whole thread, I probably would have settled right away like some of your neighbors.

Im not a trusting person anymore. I can only think someone in dot made a call to your power company. And now the power company is trying to screw you.

I would check out what he said, especially the part about the others that went to court and didn't get extra. If that checks out I'd do the deal. Looks like you got a decent offer in front of you.

scrouds said:   Im not a trusting person anymore. I can only think someone in dot made a call to your power company. And now the power company is trying to screw you.

I would check out what he said, especially the part about the others that went to court and didn't get extra. If that checks out I'd do the deal. Looks like you got a decent offer in front of you.

  
That was my initial thought too when the power company cut the trees (that the county asked them too). It turns out that is not the case. The power company had thought we had already settled and was apologetic about hurting our case. But they were going to cut the trees anyway, even if we hadn't settled. Also, the Public Works Director does not know the trees were cut.

I spoke with an attorney this weekend at a family function who represents 4 rural counties as their "county lawyer" (in addition to his private practice). I asked him if he had been involved in right of way acquisition and he did have a fair amount of experience with it from the government's side. I asked if the DOT ever paid diminished value and he said they did but it was very, very hard to get them to do it. He indicated it was his belief that they should pay it more often but they don't and that courts tend to side with the government.

So based on all the information I have available to me, I think we are going to accept the latest offer contingent on getting in writing that the fence and berm will not be disturbed. So while the settlement will not be much higher than the original offer, the amount of land they use will be cut about 80%, and the amount of land they keep will be cut about 95%. That's probably considered a big win on our part. It just doesn't really feel like it right now. 

So nothing is ever easy. Turns out the appeals lady knew more than the County PWD. There is going to be a guard rail on our side of the road and they need the permanent easement in order to maintain it. This was unfortunately not negotiable with the DOT. However, I did get in writing that we could maintain and/or replace the privacy fence and plant whatever we want within that easement (subject to the power company cutting down anything that is too tall and within their easement). We had to agree to not undermine the stability of the guard rail.

We also received in writing that the berm and fence would not be disturbed. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, because where they say the guard rail will be placed is within inches of the current fence. I asked if we could negotiate the placement of the guard rail, but apparently there are some federal regulations on that.

We signed the papers and put them in the mail today. I'll let you know when we close on the deal and receive the check.

Skipping 8 Messages...
Now that the paperwork has been signed, do you mind telling us which highway this is for? I'm in GA as well and have been trying to figure out which one it may be.



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