Another Thursday and another turnpike meeting. But tonight’s meeting about the Eastern Oklahoma County Turnpike does not involve the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority. This is a meeting is organized by the SOTA group, (STOP the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority).
The venue will accommodate more than 800 guests. SOTA, also known as Citizens Against the Eastern Oklahoma County Turnpike, hopes all will have a seat and a say when it comes to the $300 million proposal to build a turnpike through private property that lies between I-44 and I-40 roughly along Peebly Road.
At last week’s meeting, officials said unequivocally, “Is it a done deal that we’re going to build it? Absolutely it’s going to happen,” said Transportation Secretary Gary Ridley.
That’s not stopping this group. A retired ODOT neighbor, and an attorney familiar with eminent domain issues will be on hand tonight. Organizers expect a crowd.
Meanwhile, the OTA board approved a “property acquisition” document earlier this week.
Other documents exist online for the edification of those interested in private property rights or in the path of a new turnpike from the Oklahoma Attorney General and a prominent Oklahoma law firm with experience in representing landowners in these issues.
The Oklahoma Attorney General, in 2012, published a document called the Landowner’s Bill of Rights with the following highlights:
- You are entitled to receive just compensation if your property is taken for a public use.
- Your property can only be taken for a public purpose.
- Oklahoma law prohibits the taking of your property solely for economic development.
- Your property can only be taken by a governmental entity or private entity authorized by law to do so.
- The entity must notify you that it wants to take your property.
- The entity proposing to take your property must make a bona fide effort to negotiate to buy the property before it files a lawsuit to condemn the property – which means the condemning entity must make a good faith offer that conforms within Titles 27 and 66 of the Oklahoma Statutes.
- You may hire an appraiser or other professional to determine the value of your property or to assist you in any condemnation proceeding.
- You may hire an attorney to negotiate with the condemning entity and to represent you in any legal proceedings involving the condemnation.
- Before your property is condemned, you are entitled to a copy of the commissioners’ report which determines the injury you may sustain by the condemnation of your property and the amount of just compensation entitled to you.
- If you are unsatisfied with the compensation awarded by the commissioners’ report, or if you question whether the taking of your property was proper, you have the right to a trial by a jury or review by the district court judge. If you are dissatisfied with the trial court’s judgment, you may appeal that decision.
Oklahoma lawfirm McAfee & Taft doesn’t mince words when it comes to their experience with the issue …
“The taking of private property by a governmental entity or public utility for public use – commonly referred to as eminent domain or condemnation – is a unique legal proceeding which often pits the power and prowess of state and federal agencies, public authorities, cities and utilities against landowners in a battle that often seems difficult to win,” according to McAfee & Taft.
Although getting legal representation might seem out of the realm of financial good sense or ability for some, the Attorney General’s Landowner’s Bill of Rights states attorney costs could be paid for, in this case by the OTA, should a case go to court.
The court may also determine that the condemning entity must reimburse you for your reasonable attorney, appraisal, engineering and expert witness fees, you actually incurred because of the condemnation proceedings, if the entity abandons the proceedings or where the final judgment is that your property cannot be acquired through condemnation. The court may also award these expenses if the jury award exceeds the commissioners’ award by at least ten percent (10%). from the Attorney General.
Next, OTA is expected to come back with another public hearing in a few weeks after reviewing landowner’s notes of landmarks and points of interest or protection on their proposed study area.