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I-69 Expansion Route Impacts Hoosier Property Rights

While the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) pushes the message
that the final section of the long awaited, 142-mile I-69 extension route
will provide significant safety improvement and a reduction in traffic
congestion, it won’t do so without encroaching onto the property
and livelihoods of homeowners, farmers and businesses found in between
Martinsville and Indianapolis on Indiana Highway 37.

Much of the property found along this stretch of road will need to be uprooted
to make room for large interchanges, on- and off-ramps, underpasses and
overpasses, and a wider road with 400 feet of clearance across. Private
property landowners will be approached under the law of eminent domain
to allow the state to acquire their private property rights supported
by the state’s defense of public interest. The sale cannot happen
before property owners are compensated at fair market value though. For
example, in a previous I-69 extension route from Bloomington to Martinsville,
the state paid $47.4 million for 152 properties. Regardless of how much
compensation landowners are offered, it remains of the highest importance
that Hoosiers understand their rights as a property owner in Indiana.

Answers To Help You

Who determines the offer or “just compensation” for the property
to be acquired?

Through a two-step process, an agency determines the just compensation
amount to be offered to the property owner. An appraiser will research
the real estate market and present an appraisal for the fair market value.
A review appraiser then evaluates that appraisal and recommends an amount
for an agency official to approve as the agency’s estimate of just
compensation. For some uncomplicated, low value acquisitions, the agency
may determine an appraisal is not required and prepare a waiver valuation
that will be the basis upon which an agency official will approve the
offer or just compensation.

What if the owner doesn’t agree with the amount offered? Is condemnation
the only solution when an agency can’t reach agreement on the purchase
of the property for the project?

No. There is a possibility of an administrative settlement. INDOT may approve
the use of an administrative settlement if it is deemed reasonable and
a higher value is supported. Administrative settlements require an owner
to provide written support if a higher value is requested. If all efforts
to negotiate or settle fail, the acquisition parcel will be forwarded
for condemnation proceedings. Efforts will continue throughout the condemnation
process to negotiate a settlement.

Can property owners provide their own appraisal to the acquiring agency?

Yes. INDOT will consider all relevant information in its negotiations with
property owners.

Who are qualified appraisers?

State licensed appraisers that have passed the INDOT appraisal exam are
deemed to be qualified right-of-way appraisers. Qualifications for a review
appraiser include 5 years of documented right-of-way appraisal experience,
a Certified General appraisal license from the State licensing agency,
and passing the INDOT review appraiser exam.

Understanding Indiana Property Owner Rights and Eminent Domain

Government agencies on all levels possess the power of eminent domain.
Eminent domain has been reaffirmed by the Indiana legislature in the form
of Indiana laws. Both the 5th and 14th Amendments to the United States
Constitution and Article 1, Section 21 of the
Indiana Constitution provide for taking of private property for public use only after the landowners
receives “just compensation.” The amount of just compensation
depends upon the fair market value of or reduction in the value of the
property involved in the taking.

In the case of the I-69 route, INDOT says they have already contacted or
will be contacting impacted landowners with a formal request for an in-person
meeting. At this meeting, a state representative will be assigned to guide
the land-taking process. A third-party appraiser will then value the property,
which will be reviewed by a second appraiser and a fair price must then
be presented to the current land owner. Not only may there be compensation
for basic rights in real estate, but also for loss of improvements, such
as buildings, fences, crops, and woodlands.

A Team of Lawyers Available to Help You

If you have been informed by a representative that has the authority to
buy or use your land for the I-69 expansion project, we want to help you
understand the process and your rights as a property owner from the beginning.
Additionally, if you have received a purchase offer and a negotiation
or agreement is not possible, then a condemnation lawsuit will be set
into motion and a court will may set the price. At this time, you will
need to be represented by counsel. Testimony from professional appraisers
and due consideration to both sides will be a part of this lengthy legal
disagreement. Although the land purchase cannot be denied, the rights
of the landowners must be protected with the help of one of our team by
their side.

Involving an attorney early in the process will only help protect your
property owner rights and often results in a higher negotiated settlement
before litigation. The time is now to contact the members of the specialized
I-69 legal team from Foley Peden & Wisco, Church Church Hittle + Antrim,
and Wagner Reese to schedule your free consultation with an expert attorney
by calling (888) 204-8440.

The Lawyers and Professionals Who Can Help

Hoosiers impacted by the I-69 expansion route can benefit from a team of
experienced Indiana lawyers ready to fight for them. The team is partnering
with appraiser, John Snell of Snell Real Estate Investment Company. Our
fee structure is contingent and also provides that we will not charge
any fee on the State’s initial offer to you. We only get paid a percentage
(usually 33 1/3 %) of any
increased offer
or jury award above the state’s offer. There is nothing to lose by hiring our team.

Foley Peden & Wisco, P.A.

Ralph Foley is a lifetime resident of Martinsville. He has served the community
as a state representative as well as a partner at Foley, Foley & Peden,
P.A., since 1965, and has received numerous honors and awards, including
a Sagamore of the Wabash, Indiana Chamber of Commerce “Champion
of Small Business,” and Honorary Kentucky Colonel.

Mark Peden is a graduate of Indiana University Law School, Mark has argued
before the U.S. Supreme Court, 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, and the Indiana Supreme Court. Mark
handles all types of civil litigation.

Jim Wisco graduated from Martinsville High School and went on to obtain
Master of Public Affairs as well as a Law degree from IU in Indianapolis.
Jim joined Foley, Foley & Peden, P.A., in 2014 after previously practicing
at his own law firm in Indianapolis.

Church Church Hittle + Antrim

Michael Antrim has been a lawyer with the Hamilton County law firm of Church
Church Hittle & Antrim since his admission to the bar in 1975. He
became a partner in 1977 and handles all types of civil litigation including
real estate and eminent domain cases.

Wagner Reese

Stephanie Cassman earned her law degree from Indiana University McKinney
School of Law in Indianapolis. She has been recognized as a top-rated
litigation attorney and listed on the Top 50 Attorneys and Top 25 Women by
Indiana Super Lawyers in 2016 and 2017. In 2015, Stephanie received the honor of being named
by her peers as the Indiana Defense Lawyer of the Year.

Stephen Wagner graduated from Notre Dame
cum laude before receiving his J.D.
cum laude from the Indiana School of Law – Bloomington in 1994. Steve has
been a partner at Wagner Reese, LLP since 1997 when he founded the firm.
He has been selected as an
Indiana Super Lawyer from 2004—2017, and was also selected by the Indiana Trial Lawyers
Association as the 2006 Indiana Trial Lawyer of the Year.

Call us today at (888) 204-8440 and allow a team of experienced Indiana
lawyers and appraisers work to protect your property owner rights.