a. What kind of communication from the government will accompany the offer?
The government must attempt to reach agreement with you on the fair market value of the property and its acquisition. ORS 35.235(1). Without such an attempt, the government cannot initiate a condemnation proceeding. ORS 35.245(1). As part of this negotiation, the government must make you an unqualified offer based upon what the government contends is the just compensation for the property. The offer will be in the form of a letter from the government or a private right of way agent with whom the government has contracted.
b. What is the government’s offer based upon?
In most cases, the government’s offer must be accompanied and supported by a written appraisal. ORS 35.346(2). However, if the government determines that the amount of just compensation is less than $20,000, it may provide you with a “written explanation of the bases and method” by which it arrived at fair market value, in place of a formal appraisal.
c. The offer mentions possible environmental issues. What is this about?
As part of the appraisal process, the government will oftentimes conduct an environmental review of the targeted property. This review is looking for evidence of possible environmental contamination stemming from present or past uses of the property. A common example giving rise to governmental concern is the presence of an underground storage tank for petroleum products. If the government determines that the property will require some level of environmental remediation, it may seek to have associated costs deducted from the determination of just compensation.
d. Am I entitled to relocation compensation?
Yes, property owners, as well as tenants, are often entitled to reimbursement for certain relocation and business reestablishments costs resulting from displacement from the taken property. Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970, 42 U.S.C. § 4601 et seq.; ORS 35.500 to 35.530. Relocation compensation is determined by an administrative process different from the process used to determine just compensation for the taking of the property.
e. Am I entitled to loss of value to my business?
Technically, no. In the event of a partial taking of property, however, the taking could affect your ability to use the property for a particular business purpose, which also happens to be its highest and best use—for example, a restaurant adjacent to a highway. If the taking results in a less intensive highest and best use, you may be entitled to resulting damages.