Acquisition of Private Property for Public Improvements

    Introduction

    The improvement or relocation of streets, roads, sanitary sewers, stormwater systems and bridges frequently involves the acquisition of private property.

    There must be proper safeguards for both the taxpayers, who pay for the improvements, and for the property owners, from whom the necessary right of way must be acquired. Through the years, a process has been developed to accomplish these two objectives.

    To familiarize you with the acquisition process, we have prepared this informational brochure. Though it is brief, we hope it will help you become more familiar with our practices and better equipped to know what to expect during dealings with your city representatives.

    We sincerely hope the information contained in this brochure will give you a solid basis of understanding in your dealings with the City of Columbia and a foundation on which mutual confidence and cooperation can grow. Land acquisition procedures, where federal funds are involved in the project, are governed by the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition for Federal and Federally Assisted Programs; Final Rule (49CFR Part 24; final rule) and RSMO 523.

    Written Notice of Intended Easement Acquisition

    At least 60 days before filing a condemnation petition, the condemning authority shall provide the property owner with written notice of the intended acquisition. The notice shall include:

    1) identifying the interest in real property to be acquired and a legal description or commonly known location of the property;
    2) the purpose for which the property is to be acquired;
    3) statement of property owner’s rights.

    The owner may waive these requirements in writing.

    The written notice shall be deposited in the U.S. mail, certified or registered, with pre-paid postage. The receipt from the post office shall constitute proof of compliance with the notice requirements.

    Appraisal

    In certain cases where property is to be acquired from you, you have the right to an appraisal. This is a written statement which estimates the fair market value of your property or a portion thereof. The value of the property taken after considering comparable sales in the area, capitalization of income, and replacement cost less depreciation, singularly or in combination, as appropriate, and additionally considering the value of the property based upon its highest and best use, using generally accepted appraisal practices. If less than the entire property is taken, fair market value shall mean the difference between the fair market value of the entire property immediately prior to the taking and fair market value of the remaining or burdened property immediately after the taking.

    The appraisal will be prepared by a qualified person with experience in the type of property they are appraising.

    The appraisers will make every effort to extend to you, or your designated representative, an invitation to accompany them when inspecting your property. Appraisers will work with you and welcome assistance from you or your representative during the inspection of the property.

    Losses in value for which you may be paid include those caused by the loss of land, buildings, improvements, other property rights, and damages to the remaining property.

    Negotiations

    A negotiator will contact you and advise you of the acquisition procedures as well as explain in detail how the design and construction features of the improvement will affect your property. You will be informed of any facts or information that you desire to know concerning your transaction. The negotiator will give and mail you a written offer that is approved by the City of Columbia.

    It has been concluded through experience in negotiations that owners cannot all be treated equally under a flexible procedure where offers can be increased or decreased through a trading process. In justice to all, offers must be based on facts and not an owner’s skill and ability to negotiate and trade.

    If it is discovered that additional facts or items of value were not considered in any valuation of your property, an adjustment will be considered and a revised offer may be presented to you.

    The negotiator will only discuss the details of your property transaction with you or with your properly authorized attorney or representative. Normally, prior to negotiations with your representative, we must have a letter from you or your representative advising that he/she has been authorized to negotiate on your behalf. We do not normally negotiate through real estate firms or other parties who do not have a direct interest in your property.

    Relocation assistance will be provided during negotiations to persons being displaced from their homes, businesses or farm operation. Relocation assistance will also be provided if, because of the acquisition, personal property must be moved.

    If terms of the settlement cannot be reached by negotiation, then the law of eminent domain must be invoked. Details of the procedures under this law are included in the eminent domain section of this brochure.

    Settlements

    Your signed deed, easements and supporting documents (mortgage releases, leases, etc.) will be retained by the City of Columbia until the settlement is made with you. The documents will then be recorded in the appropriate office of Recorder of Deeds. Closing costs and recording fees are paid by the City of Columbia.

    You can expect payment within a reasonable time after the executed deed of conveyance and all documents required for clear title are received in the office of the acquiring agency. Any payment for real property will be made to you or placed in an escrow account for distribution prior to or on the required date of possession.

    Occupants who must move themselves or move personal property located on land acquired will be given a written notice to vacate a minimum of 100 days in advance of the date they are required to surrender possession of the property.

    Owners will be reimbursed for a pro-rata portion of the state, county and city real estate taxes paid for the current taxable year on the property purchased. The pro-rata portion of taxes will cover the full number of months remaining in the calendar year after payment is received for the real property. Claims must be made within six months after the city or county tax delinquent date. Delinquent tax payments are not reimbursable. It is the owner’s responsibility to submit a claim to the City of Columbia.

    Owners will be reimbursed for actual penalty cost for prepayment of a pre-existing mortgage, entered into in good faith and filed of record prior to the date of public knowledge of the project. To be eligible for this payment, the property must be acquired in its entirety or the acquisition must be of such magnitude that the remainder will not provide collateral for The mortgage and/or the mortgagor requires prepayment of the mortgage.

    Owners have the right to request review of the pro-rata portion of real estate taxes. They also may request review of any penalty cost for prepayment of a pre-existing recorded mortgage. If after this review you are not in agreement, you have the right to a formal appeal. This appeal must be filed within 60 days after receipt in writing of the review findings. If the relief you request is not granted in the form of appeal, you have the right to judicial review.

    Eminent Domain

    In unusual cases it may not be possible for the owner and the City of Columbia to agree on the amount to be paid. If this occurs, it will be necessary to follow the procedure provided under the law of eminent domain to establish the price to be paid.

    If this course of action is taken, the following procedure is used:

    The City of Columbia will file a condemnation petition in the Circuit Court of Boone County, setting out the land and /or rights to be acquired and naming all parties who own an interest in the real property. The circuit judge will set a date for hearing the petition, after which due notice of the hearing date will be given to the landowners affected through a summons. If, on the date set, the court finds the petition to be proper, the judge will appoint three disinterested persons, who own land and reside in the same county, to view the premises and establish just compensation for rights acquired. These persons are called commissioners.

    The court-appointed commissioners, after considering the facts, make their decision and file their report with the Clerk of the Court. After the commissioner’s report is filed in court, the City of Columbia must deposit the amount established by them with the Circuit Clerk before taking possession of the property.

    Both sides have 10 days after receiving the notice that the commissioner’s report has been filed to file exceptions to the commissioner’s award if they are not satisfied. They also have the right to ask that the matter be tried before a Judge or jury for final determination. If exceptions are not filed by either the owner or the City of Columbia, the award amount determined by the court-appointed commissioners becomes final.

    The landowner can withdraw the court deposit at any time, regardless of whether such exceptions are filed or not. However, if exceptions are filed and a sustained verdict is for a smaller amount , the owner must refund the difference plus interest.

    The above is set out not as legal advice but to inform you of the alternatives available to you. For specific information or advice concerning condemnation, we suggest that you consult an attorney of your choice. However, property owners are not required to be represented by an attorney during the process.

    Conclusion

    We cannot answer every question concerning City of Columbia land acquisition procedures on the website. However, we hope the information will help you understand the general procedures we must follow when acquiring real estate.

    We sincerely hope that your upcoming transaction with our agency will be a pleasant experience for both you and our personnel whom you meet. We believe that you will find them courteous, thoughtful and aware of their obligations to you as an individual and to the public in general.