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May 20th, 2009 — By — In News & Events

Sewer lines, cow farms and fair negotiations

A story in the community news section of the Mooresville Tribune caught our attention today due to it’s snappy title “Sewer line and cows don’t mix, so town and farmer reach agreement.” Of course, at first one might be interested in reviewing the article simply because it is about sewer lines and cows, but it was the second part of the title that caused us to stop and read. It is not often that one hears about a well-negotiated agreement between government and property owner. Therefore, it is our opinion that this story is worth repeating.

As the story goes, 91-year old farmer, Eugene Alexander, stumbled upon surveyors’ stakes marking a sewer easement through his 200-acre farm in Mooresville, North Carolina. Since, Mr. Alexander had not been informed of the project, he and his family attended an April town meeting seeking an alternative. The family appealed to the town board to relocate the easement along the edge of the family’s farm rather than through the middle of the grazing pasture.

This week, the town board returned to discuss proposals it had received from the engineering department. After a short 45-minute discussion, the board proposed a compromise: keep the original alignment and the property owner would be compensated for the easement area and the loss of use of his property. Additionally, the town offered to cover the cost of fencing that would be required to secure the construction area (and keep the cows safe). The compensation amount of $149,100 was based on the town’s highest appraisal for the land and included a value for loss of use, which is not normally accounted for in condemnation appraisals.

The family agreed to the compromise requesting only that the 20 proposed manhole covers be constructed at ground level to maintain the aesthetic appeal of the land.

“We feel good about it,” David Alexander said after the meeting. “We’re not hard to get along with, we just want done what’s right.”

The moral of the story: Despite the fact that notifying the landowner about the project “fell through the cracks” (as explained to the board by the Engineering Manager), a fair offer of compensation and willingness to negotiate allowed the Town of Mooresville and the property owner to reach an agreement without the burden of litigation. However, folks, we do not recommend that you try this one at home. If you are a property owner threatened by eminent domain, we recommend that you seek the advice of a qualified and experienced eminent domain attorney. To locate an eminent domain attorney in your state click here.