Archive | Property Rights

Philadelphia Airport Redesigns Expansion Plans to Avoid Tinicum Township Homes

Mike Faherty advised elected officials and residents of Tinicum Township that the Philadelphia Airport had the power of eminent domain in Philadelphia, but not in Tinicum Township. The Philadelphia Airport agreed to redesign the multibillion dollar expansion to avoid 72 homes and multiple businesses in Tinicum Township.

Philadelphia airport expansion won’t displace residents, officials say

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Reading Eagle.com/AP


Plans to boost the regional economy through a multibillion-dollar modernization of Philadelphia International Airport can move forward without displacing hundreds of nearby residents, officials said Monday.
A reconfiguration of the proposed expansion has resolved a yearslong dispute with adjacent Tinicum Township that had kept the project in limbo because it threatened the demolition of 72 homes and about a dozen businesses. The development will no longer encroach on that land.

Local leaders described the agreement as a victory for jeopardized residents and the area as a whole. The project could boost the airport’s regional economic impact from $14.4 billion in 2006 to $26.4 billion by 2025, officials said. “Today’s announcement is a triumph for everyone from the baggage handler to the corporate executive, from the vacation traveler to the airlines,” Delaware County Council chairman Thomas McGarrigle said.

The expansion is designed to make one of the nation’s busiest airports more competitive by reducing delays and adding capacity and services. Expected improvements include an extra runway, an automated people mover and a new ground transportation center over the next 12 to 15 years. The agreement announced at an airport news conference would settle four pending lawsuits among the township, county, city of Philadelphia and Interboro School District. It still requires approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The deal calls for the city-owned airport to make a collective payment of nearly $1.9 million annually to the township, county and schools. Tinicum will get an additional $1 million per year for 20 years, or until the expansion is done. The airport had previously made lower annual payments to those taxing authorities but stopped when litigation began in 2007, officials said. The funds are meant to offset lost revenue potential from airport-occupied land in Tinicum. The dispute had been so intractable that many residents thought it would never be resolved, said Thomas Giancristoforo, president of the township’s board of commissioners.

“They have been patient over these many years as we worked to make sure the residents of Tinicum were heard, respected and protected as the plans for the airport expansion have evolved,” he said. The airport served nearly 31 million passengers last year and accommodated more than 400,000 takeoffs and landings. But officials stressed the need to grow, noting the facility has become a hub for the world’s largest airline now that American Airlines has merged with US Airways.

“If we stand still, we fall behind,” said Rina Cutler, the city’s deputy mayor for transportation. Early estimates pegged the cost of the expansion at $6.4 billion, but airport CEO Mark Gale said Monday the figure could change. The mammoth project would create about 4,460 construction jobs and 1,830 professional service jobs, officials said.

The airport employs about 22,000 direct workers and supports 141,000 regional jobs, Gale said.

Sunoco v. Loper

York County President Judge Linebaugh previoulsy denied the Sunoco request for eminent domain/survey rights. Judge Linebaugh’s later denial of the Motion for Reconsideration occurred on March 25, 2014. The following day Sunoco filed a Praecipe to Discontinue. On April 11, 2014 Sunoco filed a Motion to Strike Praecipe to Discontinue. On April 17, 2014 Judge Linebaugh heard oral argument concerning the Motion to Strike Praecipe to Discontinue. Mike Faherty pointed out five procedural deficiencies in the Motion. He argued that the Request to Discontinue should be denied because Sunoco failed to show prejudice.

He also argued prejudice to the property owners, the Lopers, if Sunoco was allowed to switch its position concerning discontinuance after Judge Linebaugh’s definitive March 25, 2014 Order. Judge  Linebaugh indicted he was not inclined to decide the Sunoco request prior to the appeal deadline concerning Judge Linebaugh’s March 25, 2014 Order. He proceeded with a dictated Order from the bench indicating that Sunoco’s Motion to Strike Praecipe to Discontinue would be taken under advisement.

The significance is that Judge Linebaugh is not now inclined to provide any further Orders before the appeal deadline of approximately April 24, 2014. Thus, Judge Linebaugh’s Orders denying eminent domain/survey rights could become final as of April 24, 2014.

A Proper Use of Eminent Domain?

The City approval to try to use eminent for this questionable purpose is expected to face strong legal challenges.

California city backs plan to seize negative equity mortgages

By Jim Christie; published in WHTC
Wednesday, September 11, 2013 5:03 a.m. EDT

RICHMOND, Calif (Reuters) – Richmond, California’s leaders approved on Wednesday morning a plan for the city to become the first in the nation to acquire mortgages with negative equity in a bid to keep local residents in their homes. The power of ‘eminent domain’ allows governments to seize private property for a public purpose. Critics say the plan threatens the market for private-label mortgage-backed securities.

Richmond’s city council voted 4 to 3 for Mayor Gayle McLaughlin’s proposal for city staff to work more closely with Mortgage Resolution Partners to put the plan crafted by the investor group for the city to work. Richmond can now invoke eminent domain if trusts for more than 620 delinquent and performing “underwater” mortgages reject offers made by the city to buy the loans at deep discount pegged to their properties’ current appraised prices to refinance them and reduce their principal.

A mortgage is under water when its unpaid balance is greater than its property’s market value. MRP has failed to get similar plans approved by local governments elsewhere – most recently in North Las Vegas, Nevada and earlier this year in San Bernardino County in Southern California – as the mortgage industry and local real estate businesses rallied against them.

But in Richmond, MRP found an ally in a Wall Street-bashing Green Party mayor of one of the San Francisco region’s poorest cities who sees working with the investor group to acquire mortgages as a public purpose if it makes the loans more affordable, averts foreclosures and alleviates blight. Richmond’s residents have been “badly harmed by this housing crisis,” McLaughlin said, defending the plan and partnership with MRP during an often contentious city council meeting that began Tuesday evening and ended early Wednesday morning. “Too many have already lost their homes.”

City council members opposed to the plan countered that using eminent domain would put Richmond at risk of expensive lawsuits that could destroy the city’s finances. “A 1 percent chance of bankruptcy from this program is a deal-breaker for me,” Councilman Jim Rogers told a crowd of about 300 people at the meeting, moved to a city auditorium from the council’s chamber. Other council members warned of a backlash from financial institutions, noting Richmond had no takers last month when the successor to its redevelopment agency put $34 million of bonds up for sale to refinance previous debt. The eminent domain plan had been disclosed to the U.S. municipal bond market.

While housing advocates urged support for the plan, realtor Jeffrey Wright warned that going through with eminent domain could prompt a clampdown in mortgage lending in Richmond or push up mortgage interest rates in the city of about 104,000 residents. Responding to the plan, the Federal Housing Finance Agency recently said it would press Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to limit or cease its business where such proposals get approved, effectively closing off most mortgage financing there.

Investors holding the mortgages targeted by Richmond dispute altruism motivates the plan and charge the city would lend its eminent domain power to San Francisco-based MRP to split profits from refinancings. The investors have sued through trustees Wells Fargo & Co and Deutsche Bank AG in U.S. District Court to block the plan, which they say relies on them swallowing losses. The two sides square off in court in person for the first time on Thursday. McLaughlin’s proposal directs city staff to work with other local governments interested in the plan, calls for city staff and MRP to resolve its legal issues and confirms the city council would hold votes to seize mortgages by eminent domain if necessary. That would require a supermajority vote of the council.   (Reporting by Jim Christie; Editing by Toby Chopra)

Evidence of Purchase Offers

evidence

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has decided a case which allowed evidence of purchase offers in addition to the traditional evidence of comparable sales. In Lower Makefield Township v. Lands of Dalgewicz, (No. 33 MAP 2011, Decided 5/29/13) the Supreme Court allowed the property owner to testify to an offer to purchase his property.  An offer letter was admitted into evidence. Both parties stipulated to the authenticity of the offer.  The court reasoned that the owner had provided a sufficient foundation to establish that the offer was made in good faith, by a party acquainted with the value of the property and with sufficient intention and ability to pay.

The case thus blurs the prior bright line distinction that offers were not adequate evidence, while comparable sales were valid evidence. The ruling appears to favor property owners as being the ones to be in receipt of the offers to purchase. Nevertheless, property owners should be mindful that it is possible that a condemnor would uncover evidence of a low offer and attempt to make use of such an offer as evidence. Property owners would be wise to obtain written proof of offers of relatively high purchase offers.

Mike Faherty identifies defenses to Sunoco’s attempt to use eminent domain power

Sunoco files for eminent domain to acquire Penn land for pipeline

Photo: Lillian DeDomenic | For The Penn Trafford Star
By Chris Foreman
Staff Reporter, Tribune-Review
Published: Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Sunoco Pipeline officials are trying to use eminent domain to acquire an easement in the vicinity of a retirement home and assisted-living center in Penn Township for a 50-mile liquid gas-transmission line. The company last week filed a petition in Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court against Quest Realty Partnership, which owns an 89 acres that are bordered by Mellon, Ader and Walton Roads. Quest also owns an adjacent property at Ader and Walton that has the William Penn Care Center and William Penn Senior Suites and Personal Care.

Court records show the filing is Sunoco’s first attempt in the county to take right-of-way against a property owner’s wishes for the Mariner East project. Sunoco also initiated cases last week to request court orders enabling it to go onto properties in Sewickley and South Huntingdon townships to perform environmental testing related to the proposed pipeline path.

Sunoco has plans to run its pipeline — to transport ethane and propane as natural gas liquids — along the same route as an existing line owned by Dominion Transmission Inc. Dominion previously got a court order to condemn via eminent domain a portion of Quest’s property along Mellon Road in August 2011.

In its filing against Quest, Sunoco said it may use the right of eminent domain because it is considered a “public utility corporation” under Pennsylvania’s Business Corporation Law.

But a Harrisburg attorney who represents some Washington County property owners in the pipeline’s path says it’s not clear to him that Sunoco has the authority for eminent domain.

Under the law Sunoco cites, a company may receive permission to condemn land for pipes transporting natural gas, petroleum or petroleum products but not natural-gas liquids, Michael Faherty said.

“I think it’s open to a number of challenges,” Faherty said after reviewing a copy of Sunoco’s filing.

Quest’s attorney, George Pomper, also disputed Sunoco’s authority in a letter earlier this year in which he opposed Sunoco’s court filing to conduct environmental testing on Quest’s property.

“Sunoco is not a ‘utility’ to the best of our knowledge,” Pomper said in the Jan. 24 letter filed in court records. “Sunoco is known as a gasoline retailer and purveyor of motoring products such as wiper blades, tires and convenience store goods. “The owners of Quest Realty are not aware of any electricity, natural gas, water and the like sold by Sunoco to the public.” Pomper did not return messages from the Penn-Trafford Star about Sunoco’s filing.

Sunoco spokesman Joe McGinn and Sunoco’s Greensburg-based attorneys, George Stewart and Dara DeCourcy, also did not respond to requests for comment.

Landowners who oppose eminent domain can raise objections questioning whether a company is properly licensed or if a project could create environmental concerns, said Peter Georgiades, a Pittsburgh attorney who specializes in eminent domain issues. But simply saying “I don’t want it” isn’t sufficient, he said.

“There’s no leg to stand on if you don’t want it,” Georgiades said.

As of Monday, Sunoco reached agreements for rights-of-way for 16 Penn Township residential and industrial properties, county records show. Two months ago, Penn Township commissioners declined to act on Sunoco’s offer of a $1,550 payment for an easement on vacant property the township owns behind Smartie Artie’s at Zackel’s restaurant in Claridge. Manager Bruce Light he hasn’t heard anything from Sunoco since, but the township has received notice that Sunoco applied for an erosion and sedimentation control permit from the Westmoreland Conservation District.

Access and Flooding

A road improvement project took frontage of a commercial enterprise. The condemnor offered $115,000 in damages. Engineering analysis showed the consequential elimination of access of large trucks and also showed flooding as a result of a faulty drainage design. The matter settled, without litigation for $156,000.

Disclaimer: case results are dependent on the facts of the particular case. Prior cases do not provide any guarantee or expectation of the outcome of a future case.

Sunoco Pipeline Coming to Southwestern Pennsylvania

As of April, 2013 Sunoco Logistics is attempting to purchase easements for a fifty (50) mile pipeline in Southwestern Pennsylvania from Chartiers to Delmont. Sunoco has asserted that it possesses the right of eminent domain for the pipeline. Property owners are urged to be cautious in protecting their property rights. The Sunoco filings with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) do not provide the power of eminent domain for this pipeline. Property owners approached by Sunoco Right-of-Way agents are encouraged to retain an experienced eminent domain attorney to protect property rights.

Relocation Benefits after 72 years in her home….

Clara was 100 years old and had lived in her home for 72 years when her home was condemned for a road improvement project. The condemnor offered $120,000 for the value of the real estate. The condemnor failed to offer relocation benefits as provided for in the Pennsylvania Eminent Domain Code and in Federal Regulations. The condemnor later agreed with the eligibility for relocation benefits, but insisted on low benefits based upon Clara moving by herself to a similar, single-family home. Eventually, the condemnor agreed that the requirement of “decent, safe and sanitary” housing required payment for an assisted living relocation to satisfy the safety requirement. The matter settled at $207,000. Clara, at the age of 101, comfortably moved into her choice of an assisted living facility.