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Losing Your Real Estate Property – Eminent Domain

When most people hear the words “eminent domain” they usually conjure up images of the government taking away their property. What people don’t think of is the nibble here or the nibble there of road widening projects. As towns become cities and cities grow larger and provide more and more services, residences and businesses on growing high-traffic roads face losing part of their property to multi-lane roads and sidewalks. These partial takings can destroy driveways, limit access, reduce parking space and obstruct internal traffic flow.

As towns become cities and cities grow larger and provide more and more services, residences and businesses on growing high-traffic roads face losing part of their property to multi-lane roads and sidewalks.

Condemnation of property, whether partial or whole, for the public good, is the right of our government.

Eminent domain or compulsory purchase expropriation has its roots in the Magna Carta of England as well as our own U.S Constitution. The Fifth Amendment provides, “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

Most often we see eminent domain being used for railroads, roads, and public utilities. The government may take the entire property or only a portion of the property, or an interest in it or use of, like an easement.

Here is the authority in Washington State: RCW 14.07.020
” . . . municipalities may also acquire by purchase, condemnation or lease, lands and other property for said purpose and dispose of such lands and other property . . .”

Many people welcome eminent domain because it represents found money. However, as a property owner, your new best friend should be a commercial real estate appraiser. Commercial real estate appraisers, like long established GPA Valuation of University Place can help you establish the property value or the partial property value. Richard E. Pinkley is the President and CEO of GPA Valuation. He began his appraisal career in 1990 with Greer, Patterson and Associates, Inc. and purchased the company in 2002. Pinkley has worked for banks and mortgage lenders. He has been a leader of the local community of appraisers as the Treasurer of the Puget Sound Chapter of the Appraisal Institute and as branch chapter Chairman, serving as a voting member on the board of the Seattle Chapter of the Appraisal Institute.

Blocking eminent domain claims can be difficult, but not impossible if the government is actually overstepping its limits and powers. If you face condemnation through eminent domain, you should contact an eminent domain attorney. You need to know your rights. In Lakewood you might contact Robert A. Wright. In the Seattle-Tacoma area you might contact the law firm of Dickson Frohlich.

Another local attorney for eminent domain is Kinnon W. Williams who is co-author of the 2010 Washington State Bar Association Real Property Deskbook Chapter on eminent domain – “On behalf of the City of University Place, negotiated acquisition of more than a dozen, separate parcels of real estate with a value of approximately $8 million within a three month period for an economic revitalization project, University Place Town Center. All parcels were acquired without resort to litigation.”

If you are facing eminent domain, you need to know both your rights as well as the value of your property for “just compensation.”

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