Eminent Domain

Wisconsin Eminent Domain Attorneys

Eminent Domain Lawyers in Wisconsin

The powers of eminent domain are used by the government when it needs to acquire land to complete public works projects. Examples of such projects include widening roads, putting up power lines, or building bridges, commuter rails, train stations and new housing developments.

When your property is taken to accomplish these plans, both the state and federal constitution require that you be paid "just compensation." Eminent domain law, the method by which "just compensation" and the "fair market value" for your property is determined, is found in Chapter 32 of the Wisconsin Statutes. Unfortunately, the statutes are considered by many to be confusing and poorly written. While they set forth the procedures to be utilized in taking your property, these procedures are not discussed in the same chronological order in which they arise during the condemnation process.

Understanding Property Owner Rights in Eminent Domain

Not surprisingly, property owners and the government frequently have far different ideas about the value of the property being taken through eminent domain. Too often, government officials try to acquire property at the lowest price possible, assuming, that a certain percentage of individuals will take what is offered, even if the offer is far below fair market value. Some owners want to avoid arguments. Others simply don't know what their property is worth.

Getting involved early on is important. If you hear a project is being considered in your area, look at its possible impact on your property. How will it affect the current and future use of your property? Find out as much as you can as soon as you can.

  • Visit the planning department for the municipality considering the project. Find out what information is currently available.
  • Attend public or neighborhood meetings about the project.

If you suspect your property might be affected, consult with an experienced Janesville and Madison eminent domain lawyer at Murphy Desmond S.C.

Businesses and Eminent Domain Disputes

Business property owners in particular should often be more concerned with changes that will be caused by how much money he/she will receive. Will access to your business be changed? Will customer parking be a problem? Will your business be visible to potential customers? Will you be forced to relocate your business entirely?

Influencing the shape of a public works project is possible if action is taken well before work on the project is scheduled to start. For example, roads can be rerouted or redesigned, but only while the project is still in the design stage. To do this, consult with attorneys experienced in development and eminent domain law. They can put you in touch with engineers or other experts knowledgeable about the options available to government when designing such a project.

Making Changes to Your Property Today

If you are concerned that a project is being considered that will affect your property, you may be able to do things to your property today to increase its future utility. For example, you might acquire additional lands or expand or modify existing facilities to increase the development potential of your property. But, be careful because timing on such efforts is critical. If you undertake property changes too late in the process, the courts have ruled the government need not take those improvements into consideration when determining just compensation.

Property owners tend to focus only on current uses of their property when considering what it is worth. They fail to consider some other use may be more valuable than its current use. "Just compensation," however, is determined by considering the most advantageous use of the property — even if it is different from the current use — as long as that potential use currently affects the fair market value of the property today.

Consider pursuing permits or a re-zoning today that will enhance the utility and value of the property in the future. If a re-zoning of your property is crucial to future development, keep track of re-zoning actions by your municipality affecting other similarly situated properties. If there is a pattern of approving such re-zonings, that alone could affect the current value of your property, even if you have not applied for a re-zoning.

Contact Our Property Rights Lawyers in Janesville and Madison

If you believe eminent domain may affect your property or land, stay informed on the details of the project. Reacting too late could make it unlikely you will be able to influence the project design or make changes to your property to enhance its value.

If the government seeks to take your property, make certain you have an experienced eminent domain attorney to protect your rights to the fullest extent. Murphy Desmond S.C., lawyers have successfully represented clients in numerous eminent domain cases.

For a consultation with Murphy Desmond S.C., call 608.257.7181 or send us an email. Our firm maintains offices in Madison and Janesville and serves clients in Dane County, Rock County and throughout Wisconsin.