Some property owners in Northern Indiana are preparing to face eminent domain battles as plans for South Shore Rail Line improvements move forward this year.
Phil Sever is an Indianapolis attorney who focuses solely on eminent domain cases. He said seminars are standard to his practice, and during his seminar, he’ll admit that the seminars are in a way self-serving. He presents himself as an attorney, touts the work he does, and tries to give those present a quick understanding of what Eminent Domain will look like in regards to their specific case.
“From my perspective, now’s the time for landowners to really start thinking about what’s going to happen next,” Sever said, “because what you don’t want, is to be in a situation where they show up, got this offer and you’re surprised by it.”
Sever said he’s found seminars are the best way to get information out to communities - the earlier the better.
"This was me playing Johnny Appleseed,” he said, “This is me planting seeds so that people will talk to their neighbors, talk to their friends, start thinking more of what potential issues they’re going to have down the road.”
Sever said the most common thing he sees in eminent domain cases is undervalued properties. This can leave residential property owners are left with few options of where to relocate if they don’t know the basics of eminent domain and what they’re entitled to.
Sever plans to host more seminars as the South Shore Expansion and Double tracking project gains traction, primarily in Lake and LaPorte Counties.
Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District President Michael Noland said NICTD estimates approximately XX number of acquisitions will be needed to complete both the double tracking and Westlake Corridor portions of the project.
He said there’s a lot of factors that go into play when considering a timeline, but overall, environmental studies need to be completed before any work can begin.
Noland says any acquisitions necessary in South Bend have not been agreed upon by the city. He says the city is still conducting studies to figure out the best route for their portion of the project.