November 2017 Archives
In the real estate world in California, expansion into vacant land is perhaps not as common as redevelopment of properties that have already been improved and used. Available land within city and county boundaries tends to be limited. In the context of land acquisition, governments often seek to exercise eminent domain to acquire property that has a history of use, and often times those uses can be related to industrial businesses that preexisted current legislation related to preservation of the environment and natural resources. Sometimes, industrial uses have resulted in environmental contamination, such as lead or arsenic deposits that exceed the natural or acceptable levels; or TCE plumes over portions of the subsurface. Sometimes, such contamination can occur from neighboring uses or adjacent properties.
Property owners take title to both the surface of the land they own, and in most cases, the subsurface areas underneath the defined property lines. Unless a covenent or other recorded document legally gives title or rights to another party, the landowner generally enjoys ownership over minerals, water, oil, coal, and other natural resources that may exist subsurface. Eminent domain proceedings can seek to acquire title to the subsurface rights of a landowner as well as the surface rights. This can occur when subways or water pipes are built or extended through areas in which they previously did not exist. To the extent a property owner enjoys the mineral and subsurface rights, they must be compensated for the taking, damaging, acquisition, or interference with those rights by a government entity.
Determining the property's highest and best use is one of the most fundamental aspects of valuation. The highest and best use is the most profitable legally permissible use for which the property is physically, geographically, and economically adaptable. As applied in eminent domain, the four criteria that real estate appraisers generally consider are:
Traffic congestion is a serious problem in some areas of California. As areas continue to grow and expand, the need to relieve some of this congestion also grows. Most of the time, the property needed to facilitate this must be acquired from private individuals and various businesses. The process of acquiring this private property for public use is referred to as eminent domain.
San Bernardino County seeks to implement the Bandicoot Basin Flood Control Facility near a portion of the California Acqueduct in San Bernadino County. Peterson Law Group represented the owner of a 5-acre development property that the County's Flood Control District acquired as a necessary parcel to that project. The property was vacant at the time the County filed the case in San Bernardino Superior Court, but its highest and best use was for residential subdivision development as allowed by the property's zoning. Peterson Law Group was able to negotiate a settlement for nearly double the County's initial offer to the property owner.