Eminent Domain - The Only Avenue to Get What They Want

Published on: 8/18/2013

I am hardly able to contain my extreme disgust and frustration. I am one of the chosen few going through the eminent domain "process" with the DOT. As of today, all I have been witness to are a lot of lies and misrepresentations of first; what the project was supposed to be and second; there was missing, legal information in the preliminary packet and untrue statements in our proposal for purchase. 

The first meeting we went to for viewing of what was proposed for design and how it would affect our and neighboring properties revealed we would not be affected. A few months later, we received a flyer to come to the planning meeting to discuss the design change, which now was taking between 13 - 15 feet of our back lot! The reason - the utilities need to put a straight access road in, so they can service the power lines. Are you kidding me; they want to destroy my back yard to place a service road there. To what public purpose does this benefit?

I am so tired of seeing property being taken away from land owners when the reason for it has no public benefit and no useful purpose to the environment or property values. I am not only going to lose my curb appeal, I am also going to lose resale value. The city will lose part of a tax base, because the DOT does not pay taxes on property it acquires. 

Everyone is so afraid to fight for what is right and fair. Judges interpret the law how they want, and because they have the power to change via ruling, they are using it to make it even more difficult for residents to fight for what is theirs. When does my or your interpretation count? Eminent domain is used too loosely for the purpose of monopolistic greed to get what they want, as it is the only "legal" leg they have to stand on. I believe what the DOT is doing is 100% wrong. The nonsense has to stop. Please help me bring awareness by passing this along to whomever possible in hopes we can save my property and set presedence for the future.

Stop Taking Our Land for No Beneficial Reason!

Here are a few thoughts to ponder about my situation and hopefully you will take action after reading.

1.) The current location of the electric towers is not going to change.

At one of the meetings, they told us they needed our property due to the "sway the lines may have on windy days." If this is the case, then why do they call them "high tension / high voltage" lines? We have watched the current power lines during the worst of storms, and they barely move.

2.) The current design of the towers will change from a "4-pod" erector set design to a mono-pole design and per their DOT" website, "will provide a smaller footprint and cleaner look along the freeway."

If there is a sound barrier wall going up, how much of them will you see, and who the heck is going to say, "My what clean looking electric poles they have here."

I care about a "cleaner look" on my land for the resale value of my property and the amazing "out in the country feel" we enjoy. My back lot is lined by 30 - 40 foot mature pine trees, which provide a natural bird sanctuary for multiple species nesting in them each year. The trees provide an extra sound barrier. In addition, they help clean the air. Taking my property means the trees get cut down, wildlife loses their homes, and I am stuck with looking at power lines and an ugly freeway wall. 

3.) We use our entire property 365 days a year. How often will a service road be used?

4.) My property is between the poles? Since when is / how often is the possibility of maintenance done to the middle of a power line?

I have looked for and requested a copy of the new regulations stating the right away and footage requirements needed on either side of a service pole. Maximum I could find was on the Public Service Commission's site (http://psc.wi.gov/thelibrary/publications/electric/electric09.pdf); 60 feet on either side, so work trucks have room to drive up and move the "bucket" around. There was no mention of an additional service road being necessary. I still have not received a copy of anything from the DOT project team. Are you surprised?

5.) The information packet we received had a copy of the eminent domain law included for our convenience. Of course it was. Most individuals will not take it a step further to see, if what was provided is accurate and up to date. When I looked at the WI government website, I was NOT shocked to see the dummied down version we were provided conveniently left out the requirements for "high voltage transmission," the need for a "determination of necessity" to be disclosed, and a publically accessible "certificate of public convenience and necessity" on file at the library.

Here is the catch 22 on this one. It is the DOT we are dealing with, yet they are negotiating for land for the utilities, so technically, it is not the utilities requiring the land, even though it really is. Did I fail to mention, the utility company has not been represented at the meetings.

6.) The appraisal arrives.

Mind you, my hubby has been at almost every one of these forums about the project. He has personally talked with their representatives and exchanged contact information. We were repeatedly assured they wanted the property owners present for the appraisals, so we could ask questions.

It was pretty appalling to see, in writing the following line of the letter; "Mr. Jansky, we previously spoke at the neighborhood meetings. Unfortunately, we have no listed number for you." Page one of the appraisal listed our phone number, which is unlisted and unpublished. The appraisal stated we were present for it; NO we were not. Is the proposal and appraisal legal and binding, if there are false statements within it?

Per last week's conversation, we are supposed to be getting a phone call from the DOT representative to set up an appointment to discuss alternatives. I have little to no faith in their promise to call us. Time and the situation are in their favor, not ours. It is the reason we need strength in numbers to bring awareness to the situation as quickly as possible. I am not afraid to fight for anything I believe in!