March 19th, 2022 — In OCA Blog
OCA Member Randall Smith Fights to Save Family Property Not Needed for Louisiana Drainage Project
A state judge recently halted work on a Louisiana drainage project being promoted by the Lafayette Consolidated Government (LCG) that it claims is designed to ease flooding and drainage issues. But the property selected for this work has belonged to the same family for almost 100 years, and according to the family’s lawyer, Randall Smith, lacks necessary permits and will in no way address the drainage concerns that the project is intended to rectify. “I applaud LCG for wanting to do something about drainage and flooding, and I know the mayor has made a lot of campaign promises about this. But this is property that is high and dry, land that doesn’t flood, and should not be excavated to a low level to hold water, when there’s no showing that that’s going to accomplish anything other than deprive my clients of land that they, as a family, have owned for almost a century.”
On the necessity issue LCG is relying on the expert testimony of its’ engineer Pam Granger. But Mr. Smith questions her ability to testify objectively about the project. “She’s been hired to manage the detention pond projects and has a public contract that’s public record. She has a percentage interest in the contracts” and stands to gain financially from their completion. We think that’s highly unusual and inappropriate.”
March 7th, 2022 — In News & Events
James Burling to Receive William & Mary Law School’s 2022 Brigham Kanner Property Rights Award
James Burling, Vice President of Legal Affairs at Pacific Legal Foundation, will receive the 2022 Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Prize at William & Mary Law School’s 19th annual Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Conference on September 29-30 sponsored by the William & Mary Property Rights Project. The Property Rights Project presents the award each year to an individual whose scholarly work and accomplishments affirm that property rights are fundamental to protecting individual and civil rights. “James Burling is among the foremost students of the relationship between citizens and their government in contemporary America,” said Steven J. Eagle, Professor Emeritus of Law at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School and the 2019 Brigham-Kanner Prize winner.
February 11th, 2022 — In OCA Blog
Destruction of Gorge View Nets Residential Property Owner $2.9 million Award
The North Carolina Department of Transportation will pay $2.9 million to a landowner after its road-widening operation required it to take part of a three-acre tract of land in Caldwell County that had previously had an unobstructed view into the Grandfather Mountain Gorge, OCA North Carolina member George Autry reports. NCDOT had initially contended that the plot, owned by the Arbuckle family, was unsuitable for development altogether. But after expert engineers proved this to be untrue, NCDOT acknowledged that damages would be caused. George Autry was joined by OCA Members Stephanie Autry and Jeremy Hopkins in representing the Arbuckles. The family contended that the property was worth more than three-and-a-quarter million dollars. NCDOT had initially offered only $432,950. An additional issue increasing the potential recovery in the matter was the especially long period over which it had dragged out in court. The parties had been in dispute since 2011. “There was well over $1.5 million in interest that was at stake,” Hopkins said.
February 11th, 2022 — In OCA Blog
OCA Member Michael Faherty Defends Against Taking of Historic Outbound Station in Pennsylvania
An historic station that was built as the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Conshohocken Station circa 1890 is now the subject of a taking by the Borough of Conshohocken for alleged park purposes. Although passenger service at the Outbound Station ceased in 1962, after the property was purchased by Joe and Barb Collins and lovingly restored, it was used for nearly 30 years as an antique store, and more recently, leased to the Couch Tomato Cafe. OCA Emeritus Member Michael Faherty recently wrote an open letter to the Borough challenging their right to take the property by eminent domain on several grounds, including a failure to identify a specific use for the property. “Instead of listing an identified, researched and needed public purpose,” Mr. Faherty states in his letter, “the proposed ordinance only listed multiple possible, future public purposes as…including, but not necessarily limited to, public open spaces, parks, recreation, and public parking. Such a vague assertion of potential public purpose fails to adequately state the purpose as required 26 Pa. C.S.A.(b)(4).”
February 8th, 2022 — In OCA Blog
Legacy Trail Property Owners Receive Favorable Decision in Federal Case
In Cheshire Hunt v. United States, the Court of Federal Claims ruled recently in favor of landowners who held property abutting an abandoned railway that was subsequently converted into a public recreational rail-trail called the Legacy Trail. The property owners were represented by OCA Member, Thor Hearne. As part of the rail-trail conversion, Sarasota County had demanded that the owners remove fences and other structures from the one-hundred-foot-wide rail-trail corridor, even though those structures had existed for decades with the County’s and the railroad’s permission, and even though the structures had not interfered with the railroad’s operations. In the newly issued decision, the court held that the federal government was responsible for paying for the cost of removing these structures under a given set of criteria. Thor Hearne has successfully represented many property owners in these rails to trails conversions and is considered an expert in the area. For more information and background about this case, visit the True North Law Firm website.
January 20th, 2022 — In OCA Blog
OCA Emeritus Member Joe Waldo Fights to Preserve Historic Community Center in Norfolk
The future of a 145-year-old YMCA known as the Hunton Y that serves as an important community and service center in the heart of one of the poorest neighborhoods in Norfolk, Virginia is in doubt as the city seeks to use its’ eminent domain power to take it for redevelopment purposes. “All you have to do is walk in, see children, and you see the value of what the Hunton Y has done for 145 years,” says Attorney and OCA emeritus member Joseph Waldo, who represents the Y. Although the city is offering to buy the land Hunton sits on for $2 million in order to replace it with a retention pond, Joe Waldo says that is far less than the tax value of $4 million and the amount if will take to buy, rent or move the facility. “We knew off the bat that was wrong,” said Waldo. To read more about the case click here.
December 9th, 2021 — In OCA Blog
OCA Member Shane Rayman Interviewed on Property Takings in Canada
Recently, OCA Member, Shane Rayman, with Rayman Beitchman LLP in Toronto was interviewed on the subject for the Canadian Lawyer publication. “Expropriation is happening more and more frequently as more and more public works take place,” Shane Rayman says, pointing to Ontario’s Building Transit Faster Act, which enacted new powers for Metrolinx to acquire land. To read the interview in its entirety, click here. .
December 9th, 2021 — In OCA Blog
Must Taking Authority Have Power to Condemn To Take Property By Inverse Condemnation? Maybe Not
Under the inverse condemnation statutes and laws in most states, any authority or body that has the power of eminent domain and that has taken some action resulting in private property being taken, destroyed or damaged may be sued based on a claim of inverse condemnation. But what if the authority or body (i.e. the party responsible for the taking or damaging) does not actually possess the power of eminent domain? May it still be charged with an inverse condemnation claim? In many states, the courts have said no; the party being accused of the taking must possess the power of eminent domain, either directly or by an act of delegation. However, recently the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled differently, finding in Hughes v. UGI Storage Co., No.J-69A-2021 (Nov. 29, 2021) that UGI Storage did not need a prior delegation of eminent domain power to be (potentially) liable for inverse condemnation under Pennsylvania law. To read more about the case, the facts and the basis of this unusal legal holding, click here.
November 18th, 2021 — In OCA Blog
What Does the New Public Infrastructure Bill Mean For Property Owners Facing An Eminent Domain Taking
With $1.2 trillion in federal funds getting disbursed across the country as part of the recently approved Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, many expect a surge in eminent domain activity as state and local governments advance a host of road, highway, bridge, railway and dam projects. But what about the businesses, companies and individual property owners who will be on the receiving end of all this acquisition activity? What should they be worried about and what can they do to be ready when the government decides that it needs their property? If you are an individual or business who may be called upon to support America’s once-in-a-generation investment in its’ public infrastructure with your most valuable asset, your property, read this handy Featured Article on Owners’ Counsel of America’s website entitled “What Does the Federal Public Infrastructure Bill Mean for Property Owners.” There you will find basic and useful advice on how to prepare to meet such a challenge.
November 17th, 2021 — In News & Events
OCA Affilate Member Jonathan Houghton Takes Position with Pacific Legal Foundation
OCA Affiliate Member Jonathan Houghton recently announced that he will be leaving the law firm of Goldstein, Rikon, Rikon and Houghton, where he has practiced on behalf of property owners for many years in the areas of eminent domain, inverse condemnation and regulatory takings to work within the Property Rights Group of the Pacific Legal Foundation. In leaving a law firm that has mean a lot to him, Jon said, “I want to take this opportunity to share my extraordinary appreciation for Mike Rikon. He brought me in all those years ago and his firm has been a home. All of the skills and knowledge that I am taking to PLF came from my time there and I am leaving with a heavy debt of gratitude.” We wish Jon well in his new position and know that he will continue to represent property owners with the same dedication and committment he has always demonstrated.