From all indications, TriMet has begun filing condemnation actions against property owners with whom it has not reached “agreement” on its Division Transit Project.
The $175 million Division Transit Project calls for the permanent and temporary taking of parts of over 140 properties along the 15-mile Division Street corridor from downtown Portland to Gresham for the purpose of TriMet operating a bus rapid transit line. In addition to taking property for road widening and related work, the Project will result in the construction of approximately 40 stations specially designed for the 60-foot articulated rapid transit buses that will operate on the line. Service on the new line is set to commence in 2022.
In road widening projects such as this one, which result primarily in partial “strip takings,” the often-found fundamental tension between the government’s approach and just compensation is the government’s propensity to ignore or minimize damages to the value of the property remaining after the taking. Unfortunately for property owners, such damages can be significant, even if the strip taken is relatively small. In addition to factors such as an increased proximity to travel lanes and attendant noise, property owners can be faced with adverse impacts to access, parking, on-site vehicle maneuvering, and conformity with set-backs and other development requirements. In certain situations, the highest and best use of the property can take a hit, potentially resulting in very significant damages.
Fortunately, property owners have a constitutional right not to have their just compensation minimized. Vindicating that constitutional right, however, requires action and standing up to the government.