CommunityTurnpike

What you need to know about Eminent Domain

Oklahoma Turnpike Authority poised to take land

Jeff McCommas for State Senate
Bison Blinds

With the announcement of new turnpike projects in Oklahoma, opposition has flared. And while the opposition organizes, particularly the group against the extension of the Kickapoo Turnpike affecting Newalla, Moore, and Norman, no doubt the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority is proceeding as they were before the $5 billion projects were even announced.

“Go Away OTA” Protest is scheduled at the Oklahoma Capitol, Wed., March 23 at Noon.

The process is emotional and complicated, and citizens should be aware of the laws and rights surrounding it. Attorney Nick Atwood continues representing some of those affected by the property acquisition from the first part of the Kickapoo that was announced in 2016 and opened in 2020.

He answered some basic questions about the process for The Luther Register.

Luther Register: Your background. You have worked on right-of-way acquisition from both aspects, for ODOT and now as a private attorney. Can you explain your interest in what seems to be a niche area of the law?

Nick Atwood: My first interest in eminent domain started in law school when I read the United States Supreme Court opinion of Kelo v. New Haven. The Kelo Court sparked a nationwide backlash against eminent domain abuse. Eminent domain law is a mix of both constitutional and property law. After that I learned more about the process throughout law school, I looked for an opportunity to practice in the field. My initial opportunity to practice in this area of the law was at ODOT. I knew I wanted to eventually represent landowners who face losing their property and help them ensure they receive their constitutional rights of just compensation for the taking of their private property. After getting experience representing a condemnor, I used that experience to transition to representing landowners across the State of Oklahoma.

Help Wanted TSD Supply Co. Now Hiring

LR: You attended the Norman meeting recently? What was your impression of the crowd, the content, and the overall mood of this planned turnpike extension?

NA: Over 700 people attended the meeting. The attendees had several questions about the scope of OTA’s Project as well as concerns about the overall process. It was disappointing that OTA representatives did not attend the meeting. Instead, Poe & Associates, the Project Managers, attended on behalf of OTA and attempted to answer the questions and concerns of the attendees. As expected, many people were upset and afraid of the prospect of losing their home or business.

LR: Could you give your TOP tips to property owners if their property could be in or near or abutting or in any way part of a future road project such as these new turnpikes? 

NA:

  • First, learn and understand your rights as property owners.
  • Second, contact an attorney who has a history representing landowners. Eminent domain law is a niche area of legal practice. Having an experienced attorney who knows and understands this unique area of the law is vital because at all phases, the condemnor (OTA), has attorneys working on their behalf.
  • Third, understand that this whole process is a marathon not a sprint. The condemnor will push property owners to take whatever offer they make and use the threat of an eminent domain proceeding against them. Do not fall for this trap. These cases are complicated and this will be your only opportunity to be properly compensated for the taking.  

LR: In addition to the new extension of the Kickapoo, there are quite a few other projects announced, including the widening of the Turner Turnpike, plus several new interchanges. There will be some property acquisition there? Should those landowners prepare differently?

NA: Generally speaking, property owners who are impacted by the various OTA projects should all prepare the same way.

LR: Eminent domain is complicated and scary. What can you explain about that? Or can you describe the property acquisition process when it ends up in court with a trial?

NA: Eminent domain is an emotional, scary and complicated process. No one anticipates or is prepared to receive a letter from a condemnor, like OTA, stating that they need their private property for a project.

Oklahoma law provides a lot of protection for property owners in this situation throughout the process. Furthermore, property owners have constitutional rights that require that if you have your private property taken you receive just compensation. It is essential that a property owner be properly prepared and not succumb to the desire of getting the process completed and taking whatever is offered. When a property owner has their property acquired or taken from them, they only have this one instance to ensure that they are properly compensated.

LR: Even though the new Kickapoo is up and running, do you have any eminent domain or acquisition cases pending? 

NA: Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the court system has been backlogged and some of the cases are awaiting trial dates.

LR: What’s a time frame property owners should anticipate?

NA: We anticipate OTA starting to make acquisition offers to landowners at the end of 2022.

LR: COST. You know this because you work in this profession, people might not be confident that they can hire a lawyer? Can they? Should they?

NA: Our firm works with property owners by offering multiple types of representation tailored to their unique needs. We believe that every landowner should have proper legal representation in these situations and will do whatever we can to assist them.   

LR: Tell us more about your law practice, family and firm. 

We believe that every landowner should have proper legal representation in these situations and will do whatever we can to assist them. – Nick Atwood.

NA: I am a partner at Ritchie Rock & Atwood. We have offices in both Shawnee and Pryor. My practice, as well as the practice of my law partner, K. Ellis Ritchie, is primarily comprised of representing landowners across the State of Oklahoma who have had their property taken by a condemnor. We have a passion for eminent domain law and helping property owners receive their constitutional right of just compensation.

I am the father of two, Kaitlyn and Carson. Kaitlyn is graduating high school this year from Shawnee High School and preparing for her freshman year at Oklahoma State University. Carson is enjoying his freshman year at North Rock Creek High School in Shawnee. Carson plays basketball and golf for North Rock Creek in addition to his academic endeavors. 

READ MORE TURNPIKE COVERAGE.

Raglin for State Rep.
Show More
Paid for by John George for HD 36

dawnshelton

Every town needs news. The Luther Register is part of a growing movement of local, independent, online news that shines an informative light in our communities. Readers can support the work through one-time or monthly donations, advertising to directly reach an audience, sponsorships and also through participating in our events, such as the annual Luther Pecan Festival held in November. #lutherlocal #localnews

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Check Also
Close
Back to top button

Adblock Detected

Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker