The Transmission Line
Threatens Your Land?
WISCONSIN RESIDENTS PLEASE NOTE LINK TO DEPT OF COMMERCE INFORMATION AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE!!! PLEASE PRINT OFF INFORMATION AND KEEP A COPY WITH YOU. IN THE EVENT YOU ARE APPROACHED FOR AN EASEMENT YOU SHOULD BE OFFERED A COPY OF THIS DOCUMENT, WHICH WILL INFORM YOU OF ALL OF THE RIGHTS YOU DO HAVE. PLEASE REALIZE THAT THE UTILITIES DO NOT HAVE YOUR BEST INTERESTS AT HEART...YOU WILL BE LIVING WITH THIS PROJECT IN ADDITION TO BE TAXED FOR THIS RIGHT OF WAY FOR PERPETUITY. REMEMBER, EVEN IF YOU HAVE SIGNED, YOU MAY HAVE THE TIME AND ABILITY TO MAKE CHANGES. THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN DO IS TO BE AWARE OF AND EXERCISE THOSE RIGHTS!!
Here's what to do first: if you are approached about the transmission line crossing your property, especially be wary of signing bonuses!! Do you know that you are being paid to sign away any legal rights for renegotiation (what if you found out your neighbor was paid twice as much, and had negotiated additional rights or what if you found out you had lost the right to be involved should the line move away from any course settled on at signing, or an existing right or way)?:
RULE #1: Don’t sign or negotiate anything without first talking with an attorney. Just say NO, you have plenty of time. You might be told that an offer for your property is only good for a few days. You may be pressured if you say you want to talk to a lawyer first, or if you ask for a copy of whatever they put in front of you. Don’t back down. Don’t sign without legal advice. Get a copy of the papers you are asked to sign. Don't bite on the anything they dangle in front of you.
RULE #2: Keep all correspondence you receive, including envelopes showing the postmark. The timelines and dates in eminent domain and condemnation proceedings can be critical.
RULE #3: Keep good and accurate records and notes of every contact from the utilities: every meeting, conversation, telephone call or appointment. If you can get the name of the person who called or stopped to visit with you, write it down. Video tape or record any meeting if possible. Ask for identification and a business card.
RULE #4: Tell them to call your attorney. If either an appraiser or other representative of the utilities asking to appraise or inspect your property contacts you, tell them to call your attorney. Don’t agree to anything.
GOT THAT??--MORE SPECIFIC BE AWARE OF YOUR RIGHTS!!!
1.) The condemnation procedure for the Arrowhead-Weston line will follow the procedures of Chapter 32 of the statutes on Condemnation. There are, however, some unique rules that only apply to the taking of easements for high voltage transmission lines.
2.) A landowner may litigate the “value” placed on the taking of an easement in two ways; first if the landowner gave a deed, he can appeal to the county condemnation commission. However, he only has six months to do so. Second, if the landowner refuses to give a deed, then the power company must bring him before a county condemnation commission in order to take ownership of the easement. The commission will set a value and their award, in effect, conveys the easement to the power company. (Note: if you have a mortgage, your bank gets a notice too and has the right to litigate the value offered, if you fail to do so. A bank would only do that if it felt its security was threatened by the taking.)
3.) Since the taking of an easement is a “partial” taking, the valuation litigation will focus on two values: a “before” value and an “after” value. In short, the appraisers will make two appraisals of value. The difference is the value of the easement. It is vital that the landowner have good pictures of his property in the before condition. The litigation involving the line may take place in the winter. It is too late to get good pictures of how attractive the property is in Summer and Fall then. Therefore, landowners should survey their property and take many photographs from many different perspectives in the before condition in the summer or fall. Many times it is difficult to get good photos in the winter. Videos may also be useful.
4.) The power company will hire appraisers with extensive “trial” experience. The office of Ramsland and Vigen in Duluth has already been retained by Minnesota Power. It is important to find appraisers for the landowner who also have trial experience. This is not the place for a local broker with little experience in doing appraisals and giving testimony. Law firms with experience in condemnation know who these appraisers are.
5.) The law requires that the power company’s appraiser should try to “confer” with the landowner. It is a good idea not to turn him down on this. Take all the time you need to walk the property with him. The landowner should complain in writing if the appraiser does not confer with him. It is required that the appraiser try if “reasonably possible.” Thus, if he doesn’t, that fact can be used to throw out his appraisal.
6.) The appraiser or a hired “negotiator” will then present the completed appraisal to the landowner and seek to get a deed. The law requires the power company to offer to the property owner to get his own appraisal at the expense of the power company. This is to help make the negotiations fair. The power company has to give the landowner a brochure explaining these rights. (You should note, that much of the appraisal work is already done. Also the power company only has to give the landowner 60 days to get a second opinion. The power company may try to present many appraisals on the same day in order to flood other appraisers with requests. It is important to keep your head at this time. Don’t panic and get a quick but poor appraisal from an unqualified appraiser.
7.) After the land owner has some time to get a second opinion, the law requires the power company to give the land owner a list of at least 10 other neighboring owners to whom offers are being made and an accurate map showing the affected areas. The power company MUST provide a full list of affected property owners if requested. REQUEST IT.
8.) The law also requires that the power company must “negotiate” with the land owner. Failure to comply can void the acquisition. Therefore, landowners should complain in writing when they find that the power company fails to engage in serious negotiations. An offer and a refusal or a failure to respond is enough to qualify for a “negotiation.” Please note that there are criminal penalties if the negotiator knowingly makes a false statement. It would be a good idea to have a witness at all negotiations. No law prevents taping the negotiations--they will be on their best behavior then.
9.) If negotiations fail, then the power company makes a written offer called a “Jurisdictional offer.” This marks the beginning of the litigation process. If the landowner accepts it, the process ends. If the landowner rejects it or fails to respond, then the power company must bring him before a condemnation commission. They do this by making a request to the circuit court. The commission will listen to both appraisers and set a value for the easement. It should be noted that, if the land is “agricultural” land, then the commission must set both a lump sum value for the easement and a value for an annual rent. The landowner may pick which type of payment he wants.
10.) If either side is unsatisfied with the commission findings, then he may appeal to the circuit court for a full jury trial. If you win at either level by at least 15%, then the power company must pay all your legal fees and costs on top of the final award.
11.) It's important to document their mistakes, and then register a complaint in writing. Things like: The appraiser failed to meet with me; There were no meaningful negotiations; They denied my requests for a list of other landowners affected; they refused to give me a map; They lied to me; etc. Of course, you need a good faith basis for the complaints. The complaint should go to the person who signs the letters as in charge of the negotiations, whoever that might be. It should be mailed certified with a return receipt and the returned receipt should be stapled to a copy of the letter as proof that a complaint was made. Then the landowner, later on, can pull out his copy with "signed proof" that it was sent and received.
IMPORTANT TO NOTE: By not signing anything and
holding out you will be buying needed time for SOUL’s and the other
opposition's attorneys to get a good start on their court cases. SOUL and
Remember, members of SOUL are eligible for representation through negotiations for a flat fee, through the law firm representing SOUL - Garvey & Stoddard, SC, 608-256-1003. Minnesota residents, please contact us for attorney information. Also, for Wisconsin information about condemnation, please see: