What is Eminent Domain?

Informational meeting slated for landowners affected by Mount Vernon Street project.

By: Amelia Wigton

It’s no secret that state Route 14 through Nixa, also known as Mount Vernon Street, needs to be widened — something the Missouri Department of Transportation has on tap. However, what might not be well known is that the multi-million dollar project will impact roughly 75 private and commercial landowners.

According to MoDOT, the project will widen Mount Vernon Street to five lanes between Westminister and Estes streets in the west corridor and between Fort Street and Tiffany Boulevard in the east corridor. Sidewalks will be built along the west corridor, and new storm drains, curbs and gutters installed throughout, along with turn lanes at various intersections. The combined west and east corridor project totals nearly $18 million.

The project is imminent, but so is eminent domain.

“Whenever government or a community wants to take land for public purposes, they can use the power of eminent domain. It’s in the constitution, as long as it’s for public use and they go through the right channels,” said Adam Krause, an attorney with Krause & Kinsman, which specializes in eminent domain. “They are required to pay what’s called ‘just compensation.’ The problem is the condemning authority oftentimes does not pay the just compensation — more often than not.”

Krause, who is based out of Kansas City, is partnering with Nixa attorney Ashleigh MacPherson, with MacPherson Law, LLC in Nixa, to make sure those 75 landowners affected by the widening project are getting their just compensation.

“As I understand it, there is very little — nothing, really — that the property owners can do to stop the state from making the improvements to the road. Once they elect to make these changes, the momentum and benefit to the community are too great to stop it,” said MacPherson, who also has a background in land use planning. “The only remaining issue is whether the property owners are given fair compensation for their land that is taken.  Of course, this can open up a can of worms — especially with commercial properties. There is obviously an argument to be made that we ought to be in favor of the government paying very little for these properties since they are buying it with our tax dollars. But the argument on the flip side is that it would be unfair for a select number of landowners to bear the burden of the cost of the road improvement for all of us.”

Krause and MacPherson are hosting a public information meeting from 5:30-6:30 p.m. Oct. 5 at the Super 8, 418 N. Massey Blvd. in Nixa. The purpose, Krause said, is to explain the eminent domain process and address any questions and concerns property owners may have.

“The condemning authority’s goal is to get the land for the cheapest possible — that’s their job. They will send out an offer for a piece of land. But the disparity for what the piece of land is worth and what is offered can be huge,” Krause said. “This is just the preliminary but it is imminent, it is going to happen … Within all likelihood, landowners will start getting offers within a month. We have a very short time to challenge that offer.”

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