BY Susan M. Brazas for Lawyers.com
The legendary city of New Orleans is known for its music, food, festivities, cultural mix. For many, getting to the city post-Katrina has been tough because of its roads.
A major construction project on Interstate Highway I-10, in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie led to a clash between nearby property owners and the Louisiana Department of Transportation over the compensation for "taking" property to make way for the new road.
New Orleans Construction Costs
News headlines told of the hasty departure from New Orleans once Hurricane Katrina was imminent. Among the images portrayed were the heavy, non-stop flow of traffic on all roads leading out of New Orleans, especially the highways. Now, the state transportation department is fixing the area's highways so people can get in
Property owners by the route feel the economic pinch. Audrey Hinton owns land considered to be prime real estate. A gas station and a Mardi Gras store operated there, providing Hinton with rent income. However, because of the lane-widening construction project, all parking for the Mardi Gras store disappeared, leading the owner to close her doors.
Hinton rejected the department's offer of just over $500,000 for the 5440 square feet taken over by widened road. Her reason is that the offer won’t cover her rent losses. Additional funds were requested through a lawsuit.
The "Eminent Domain" Doctrine
Local, state and federal governments have "eminent domain" over land that furthers an important public purpose. City, county, state, and federal streets, roads, and highways have appeared from coast to coast on formerly private land.
Just Compensation to Landowners for Taking their Property
The constitutional right to "procedural due process" guarantees citizens the right to notice and an opportunity to be heard before losing their property. When the government undertakes plans to build new roadways or other public structures on private property, proper warning must be given to the affected property owners.
Slapping a notice on a lamppost or even on the door to the town hall isn’t enough. Notification must be "reasonably calculated" to reach the property owners to provide a chance to challenge the action and the compensation offered.
After receiving notification of the plan, landowners are then entitled to voice their positions. In Louisiana, this process is known as expropriation, and is considered a last resort if an agreement can’t be made.
Seek the advice of an attorney if you’re approached about taking your land for roadway construction or other purposes. The attorney will help analyze the any offer and the need for any additional actions.
Question for Your Attorney
- Am I entitled to just compensation if I feel that the government is using or taking my land?
- Can I offer my land to the state in exchange for just compensation?