Eminent Domain and Land Condemnation

Miller Monroe & Plyler represents land owners in every phase of the eminent domain and land condemnation process.  Whether individuals or businesses, our eminent domain practice is focused on providing you an honest assessment of your case and using our insider’s experience to help get you the best result.

Will Smith

LET OUR EXPERIENCE FROM THE INSIDE HELP YOU GET THE BEST RESULT

Miller, Monroe & Plyler’s eminent domain practice is headed by partner Will Smith, who has 8 years of experience working both inside the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and representing the NCDOT in court.

You will find a number of firms in North Carolina with “NCDOT attorneys” who, like Will, represented the NCDOT in condemnation matters as members of the Attorney General’s office.  What you will not find is another condemnation attorney who worked inside the NCDOT’s General Counsel’s office.  For nearly 4 years Will served as Deputy General Counsel for the NCDOT.  While serving as Deputy GC, Will saw how the Department works from the inside.  Will also served as Assistant Attorney General for 5 years, representing the NCDOT in condemnation cases in courts across the State.  Let Will and the other attorneys at Miller Monroe & Plyler use their experience to provide you counsel and guidance in dealing with your eminent domain issues.

WHAT IS “EMINENT DOMAIN” OR “LAND CONDEMNATION”?

The terms “eminent domain” and “land condemnation” are virtually interchangeable and are often used to mean the same thing.  But a good way to think about it is “eminent domain” is the power granted to government entities to take land and property for the “public good,” and “condemnation” is the process by which they exercise that power.  And, in North Carolina, it is not just the government that has the power of eminent domain; certain private companies functioning for the “public good” (think utilities companies) also have the power of eminent domain.  In North Carolina, the entity that exercises its eminent domain powers the most is the NCDOT.

WHAT DOES THE CONDEMNATION PROCESS LOOK LIKE?

It can look different at the outset, depending on the condemning authority, but in all instances the law requires the condemning authority to pay “just compensation.”  So the questions are: What is “just compensation”? And who determines that?

At the end of the condemnation process, ultimately, a jury determines what is just compensation.  But at the outset, it is usually left to the governmental entity exercising its eminent domain power to determine the initial estimate of just compensation.  Using the NCDOT as an example, the Department is required by the Federal Highway Administration (“FHWA”) to estimate just compensation using certified appraisers.  However, two different appraisers can often come to dramatically different conclusions as to the value of real property.  (You may know this if you’ve ever purchased a home.)  So, at the outset of a transportation project, the NCDOT (or usually a contractor acting on its behalf) will approach property owners and offer them the Department’s estimate of “just compensation” based on the appraisal they were required to obtain by FHWA.  You should be wary of accepting this number at face value.

This phase of the process, where the Department offers its estimate of just compensation, is what we at Miller Monroe & Plyler call the “negotiation phase.”  If the Department can’t negotiate a price with a property owner, the matter is typically referred to the NC Attorney General’s office for the filing of a legal action.  As part of the filing of this action the NCDOT must deposit with the court its estimate of just compensation.  We call the process of the AG’s office drafting and filing the legal action and depositing money with the court the “deposit phase.”  Then the property owner can, if he or she believes the estimate of just compensation is not fair, fight the NCDOT in court.  At Miller Monroe & Plyler we call this the “litigation phase” of the condemnation process.  We have experience litigating cases all the way through trial and appeal.

From our experience, we can tell you that legal representation can be valuable during all three phases.

WHY MILLER MONROE & PLYLER?

We are a small firm, so each client is critically important to our well-being as a firm.  Your dispute is our dispute. And when it comes to eminent domain, we are the only firm in the State with an attorney who has worked both inside the governmental entity that most often exercises its eminent domain power (the NCDOT) and represented that governmental entity in court.

If you reach out to us regarding an eminent domain or land condemnation issue, we can promise you three things:

  • We will provide you with a free initial consultation.  We will sit down with you, hear your story, do research on your property using our knowledge of the system, and provide you with an honest assessment of your case.  That could mean we tell you our services are not necessary and that you have been given a fair offer.  It could mean we provide some free advice to help you get a better offer.  Or it could mean we advise you that your best option is to hire an attorney.  We’ll provide that advice and leave it to you to decide.
  • Since we are a small firm, you will know who you are dealing with.  You will meet our team and know who it is you are hearing from at each step of the process.
  • We will keep you informed about every phase of the process and will be available to answer all of your questions and concerns.  Our job is to create a strategy for your case and work with you to execute that strategy.