Construction to Begin This Year; Property Acquisitions Moving Slow
The Maryland Board of Public Works approved a contract with a team of private companies to build and operate the 16-mile Purple Line and approval for the contractor to begin “pre-construction activities” has been given. The State is withholding full go-ahead for construction until it receives a full funding agreement with the Federal Transit Administration for $900 million dollars. The federal financial contribution is critical to the project and is expected to be formalized later this year.
In addition to the federal funds, Montgomery County will contribute $210 million and Prince George’s County is expected to pay $60 million toward the project. The total cost of the project over 30 years, including operation and maintenance, is expected to reach $5.6 billion.
In anticipation of the start of construction later this year, the State has been actively seeking to acquire privately-owned real property in the right of way. But the volume of properties to be acquired and the limited number of appraisers available to provide the State with independent valuations of the property have slowed the process. Many owners along the planned route of the project have yet to receive offers from the State for their property.
In order to avoid the delay in acquisition of title to the properties causing a delay in construction, the State will use its quick-take authority where possible. Quick-take authority allows the State to pay into court the amount of compensation an independent appraiser has determined is appropriate for the property and take possession, not title, to the property and proceed with construction. The property owner is permitted to withdraw the funds deposited with the court without prejudice to the owner’s claim that additional compensation is due.
The quick-take procedure is not available for all properties along the Purple Line route, however. So, the contractor may have to schedule construction around properties that have yet to be acquired until the State completes the acquisitions, either by negotiation or condemnation.
What Owners Need to Know
Updated appraisals for those properties for which offers have not yet been made are coming in to the State. Such owners may expect to receive offers to purchase their properties at any time. It is important for owners to realize that they do not need to accept the offers. Often the offers do not reflect the full amount of compensation the owner is entitled to receive. For the properties for which offers were made before the Governor’s stay, but for which voluntary sales have not been reached, the State has begun to file formal condemnation petitions. In addition, owners should expect the window for negotiations based on new updated appraisals to be narrow. Additional condemnations will have to be filed in the coming months if voluntary agreements are not reached, in order for the project to stay on schedule.
The eminent domain attorneys at Miller, Miller & Canby will review any offer made by the State without charge to determine whether we believe you may be entitled to greater compensation than has been offered by the State. If you are interested in a no obligation review of your offer, or if you have any questions about your rights or the condemnation process, please call our office at 301-762-5212 and ask to speak with one of our eminent domain attorneys, Jim Thompson or Joe Suntum. To learn more about our eminent domain and condemnation law practice and representative cases, click here.