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Eminent Domain: No strikes. You’re out!

Eminent Domain: No strikes. You're outEminent Domain: No strikes. You’re out!

Imagine if you are possibly able to do so, you are opening the day’s mail. Hmm. Here is a unique-looking envelope from the State Department of Transportation. What in the world could this possibly be? What would the Transportation Department want with me? You read the letter in utter disbelief. No. This must be a huge mistake. It just must be.

Your home, or your business, is going to be taken from you in a police action under the doctrine of eminent domain. There is nothing that can be done. You have just been displaced from your home. You are out.

How did this come about? It came about when the Bill of Rights was being authored. Look at the last 12 words in Article 5: “…nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.” It seems that those pesky Brits had the nasty habit of throwing good folks out of their homes and places of business to be used for whatever the troops wanted with no compensation. Just get out now. Many times, the homeowners could only get out with the clothes on their backs.

After the Revolutionary War, a group of smart people got together to write a document of independence.  And, that document had to include a statement of protection against the government taking property from private property without paying for it.

The matter of eminent domain has three principal rules attached to it (my apologies to the eminent domain attorneys who practice eminent domain law):

  1. That the taking benefits the most people for the most good: think of a road widening, or a school.
  2. That the condemning authority makes a good-faith effort to offer just compensation.
  3. That the people hired by the condemning authority are qualified and credentialed.

That’s it. You’re out. Kinda. The matter then moves to just compensation. Money. Always money. And, in most all cases, money is at the heart of the settlement issues.

As a subject expert in the matter of nursery, tree farm, and plant business damages, I have just completed a four-year assignment regarding over 30 nurseries in a road-widening project. Most recently, I accepted an assignment for 187 parcels that will be taken by the police power of eminent domain. At the end of any given year, I approximate a 50/50 representation of the condemning authority versus the property owners.

This is an extreme item of note because most all other eminent domain experts work for either the condemning authority or for the property owner. When you represent both, with it comes the obvious conclusion of total honor, integrity, and character during the appraisal and settlement process. It does not matter which side I work for; my opinions are the same.

It took about 25 years to gain that reputation.

Nursery and plant appraisals are located at the deepest end of the marketplace swimming pool. These assignments are vastly more complicated than simply inventorying the plants and trees which will become a casualty or have become a casualty. It is rare indeed that the damages from a taking or some other type of casualty (vehicle accidents, fire, gas leaks, divorce, vandalism, or acts of God) conclude with a valuation of that which has been taken, will be taken, or has already become a casualty. In almost every scenario, the ripple effect reverberates deep into the remainder nursery and those damages must also be calculated.

The ability and acumen of plant identification and value are of some use to the trier of fact or your client. The art and the science of nursery and tree appraisals goes deep into the makeup of the inventory and its relationship to the business outcome.

Have you ever been involved in eminent domain? Has your business or home ever been taken from you? How did you conduct yourself regarding your investments and your legal rights?

Original artwork created by Delsin Scudamore

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