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I'm a highway engineer, so you can blame me. However, I've only been doing this for 3 years and haven't been very involved in Right of Way issues.

I don't know what state you're in, I'm sure your state has a slightly different process than Pennsylvania.

What everyone else is saying is correct. You don't want to take the first offer the DOT gives you. In PA, you can get about two or three counter-bids, and then eventually they will get tired of dealing with you and start the eminent domain condemnation process. That is where things start getting bad for you. So don't resist too hard!

It might be difficult to work with the contractor to 'get other projects around the house' done, but you might talk with the equipment operator and see if a few cases of beer or a hundred bucks might help the process. I'd still doubt it though. The contractor or a demoliton/clearing subcontractor doesn't want to get caught with their men and equipment digging up your septic field when the state inspector comes by! Don't forget these men probably get paid upwards of $30-35 an hour, so a pan of brownies probably won't cut it!

Do you know where your property corners are? Are there markers at each one? If a crew of surveyors has already come through with their equipment, they may have either located the existing markers or set new ones. Do you have a plat of your property? That is a drawing with surveyor's notes on it, which should show where your property ends, and where the state's right of way begins. In rural areas, this may be referenced from the centerline of the road, which will make things easy for you, you just get out there with a tape measure and firugre out how far the right of way extends.

Do you have any easements along the edge of your property for utilities or any sort of access? Most likely, if you've got a row of electric poles on your side of the road, those poles will need to be moved further onto 'your' property too. (Did you really think it was yours?) Same with water, sewer, gas lines too.

In addition to whatever width the state wants to take for the road, there may be issues with stormwater. You may really hit the jackpot :rolleyes:, and get a stormwater management pond in your front yard! Some states use 'dry' ponds, they stay dry and ugly until you get a storm. Some states use 'wet' ponds, they stay wet (or at least squishy) all the time. Either way, less property for you.

As for your pine trees, you first need to determine if they're on your property or on the state's. If they're the state's, you're out of luck. If they're on your side of the line, you can take pictures and plead your case with the state's R/W guy. If they're unique, particularly decorative, extra large, or are the only windbreak on your property, you may be able to get a little more money for replacement of the trees.

You can also see if any of the right of way they want to buy from you could instead be either a temporary or permanent easement. Temporary construction easements will revert back to you once the job is completed, a permanent easement will still be your property, but you will be restricted in what you can do with it. Things like an 'occasional flowage easement' for storm flooding in low-lying areas are places you wouldn't build on anyhow, but you could still use it to graze animals on the other 363 days out of the year. Keep in mind whether you would still be paying taxes on these easements, and how restrictive the easement is, before agreeing to this.

Once the project starts, you will want to talk with either the general contractor, or the demoliton/clearing contractor (the name on the bulldozers). Normally any material that they're getting paid to remove, becomes the contractor's property. Sometimes the contractor has a way to get money for the material, sometimes they would need to pay to get rid of it. Ask them if you decide there's any material you would like to have for yourself - fill dirt, blasted waste rock, broken up concrete or asphalt, used culverts (if they don't destroy it when they remove it), trees, etc. I wouldn't bother talking with the state about any of this type of stuff, they won't be able to write up details like this in their plans and specifications package anyhow. Just wait till the contractor shows up on site, and deal directly with him. They have a lot more flexibility once they're on site.


Good luck!
John
 

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A few more rambling thoughts I had-

Yes, as you said in your first message, the bottom line is that they WILL get the needed land, one way or the other. However, if you can prove that someone else's land is 'better' to put the road on, you can push the problem onto someone else. Have any neighbors you don't like? :p

If you're only having a sliver take of your property, you will not have as much bargaining power with the state as if your whole property was being taken. I'd rather have the roadway come through my living room, as opposed to the edge of my property.

What are you using your property for, and what is it zoned as?

If your property is zoned for agriculture, and/or if it's being used to raise something for profit, you may have other avenues of protest.

Relevant laws to look into:
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 - this is relevant to ANY project that affects the environment, you will have to narrow down for info on highway building. If you really want to put up a fight and can prove that your property is more environmentally valuable than others', you can look into this. http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/42/ch55.html
42 U.S.C. s/s 4321 et seq. (1969)
The National Environmental Policy Act was one of the first laws ever written that establishes the broad national framework for protecting our environment. NEPA's basic policy is to assure that all branches of government give proper consideration to the environment prior to undertaking any major federal action that significantly affects the environment.

NEPA requirements are invoked when airports, buildings, military complexes, highways, parkland purchases, and other federal activities are proposed. Environmental Assessments (EAs) and Environmental Impact Statements (EISs), which are assessments of the likelihood of impacts from alternative courses of action, are required from all Federal agencies and are the most visible NEPA requirements.​

If you have a possibly historic property, you can look at 'section 4f'. - http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/4_f.htm This applies to all historic sites, and publicly owned parks and refuges.

If you're agricultural, you can check with your county extension agent about 'agricultural security' areas, which I believe means you can never use your land for anything but ag production. It looks like this is a Pennsylvania thing, but there may be a program like it in your state. Similarly, if you're an ag producer, Pennsylvania has an 'Agricultural Land Condemnation Approval Board', which arbitrates between the state/ DOT and a landowner when ag lands are condemned. ALCAB, however, does NOT have jurisdiction on widening projects. Only new highways.

Some more food for thought if your property has some environmental significance. However, don't forget, if you run to the government for 'protection' from highway development, you've also got to play by their rules on other issues on what you can do with 'your' land.

John
 
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