The Vermont Statutes Online
§ 503. Precondemnation necessity determination; survey and appraisal; offer of just compensation; notice of rights; negotiation; stipulation
(a) Necessity determination; appraisal.
(1) After conducting the hearing required under section 502 of this chapter and considering the objections, suggestions, and recommendations received from the public, if the Agency finds the taking of property to be necessary for the purpose of laying out, relocating, altering, constructing, reconstructing, maintaining, repairing, widening, grading, or improving a State highway, it shall cause the property proposed to be acquired or affected to be surveyed and shall make a written determination of necessity consistent with subdivision 501(1) of this chapter. Prior to initiating negotiations under this section, the Agency shall cause property proposed to be taken to be appraised unless:
(A) the property owner offers to donate the property after being fully informed by the Agency of the right to receive just compensation for damages and releasing the Agency from any obligation to conduct an appraisal; or
(B) the Agency determines that an appraisal is unnecessary because the valuation question is uncomplicated and the Agency estimates the property to have a low fair market value, in accordance with 49 C.F.R. § 24.102.
(2) The Agency shall prepare a waiver valuation if an appraisal is not conducted, pursuant to subdivision (1)(B) of this subsection (a).
(3) The property owner or his or her designee shall be given an opportunity to accompany the appraiser during the appraiser's inspection of the property.
(b) Offer of just compensation. Prior to the initiation of negotiations, the Agency shall prepare a written offer of just compensation, which shall include a statement of the basis for the offer and a legal description of the property proposed to be acquired.
(c) Negotiation. Prior to instituting condemnation proceedings under section 504 of this chapter, the Agency shall make every reasonable effort to acquire property expeditiously by negotiation and shall comply with subsection (d) of this section.
(d) Notice and other documents. The Agency shall hand-deliver or send by mail to owners of property to be acquired a notice of procedures and rights and the offer of just compensation. The notice of procedures and rights shall include an explanation of the proposed State highway project and its purpose, and statements that:
(1) The Agency is seeking to acquire the property described in the offer of just compensation for the project.
(2) Agency representatives are available to discuss the offer of just compensation.
(3) The Agency does not represent the property owner, and he or she may benefit from the advice of an attorney.
(4) If the Agency and the property owner are unable to reach agreement on the Agency's legal right to take the property, the Agency may file a complaint in Superior Court to determine this issue. The property owner has the right to challenge the taking by contesting the necessity of the taking, the public purpose of the project, or both, but must contest these issues by filing an answer to the complaint with the court. If the owner does not file a timely answer, the court may enter a default judgment in favor of the Agency.
(5) The property owner may enter into an agreement with the Agency stipulating to the Agency's legal right to take his or her property without waiving the owner's right to contest the amount of the Agency's offer of compensation.
(6) If the Agency and the property owner agree that a taking is lawful, or if a court issues a judgment authorizing the Agency to take the owner's property, title to the property will transfer to the Agency only after the Agency files documentation of the agreement or judgment with the town clerk, pays or tenders payment to the owner, and sends or delivers to the owner a notice of taking.
(7) To contest the amount of compensation received, the owner must file an action with the Transportation Board or in Superior Court within 90 days of the notice of taking, except that the issue of compensation (damages) must be decided by the Superior Court if the owner's demand exceeds the Agency's offer of just compensation by more than $25,000.00. The owner or the Agency may appeal a decision of the Board to the Superior Court, and may appeal a decision of the Superior Court to the Supreme Court. Either party is entitled to demand a trial by jury in Superior Court on the issue of damages.
(8) A copy of an appraisal or an estimated valuation (waiver valuation) shall be furnished by the Agency at the owner's request.
(9) Summarize the property owner's right to relocation assistance, if applicable.
(e) Agreement on taking, damages.
(1) An interested person may enter into an agreement with the Agency stipulating to the necessity of the taking and the public purpose of the project, to damages, or to any of these. The agreement shall include:
(A) a statement that the person executing the agreement has examined a survey or appraisal of the property to be taken;
(B) an explanation of the legal and property rights affected;
(C) a statement that the person has received the documents specified in subsection (d) of this section; and
(D) if the agreement concerns only the issues of necessity or public purpose, a statement that the right of the person to object to the amount of compensation offered is not affected by the agreement.
(2) If an interested person executes an agreement stipulating to the necessity of the taking and the public purpose of the project in accordance with subdivision (1) of this subsection, the Agency shall prepare, within 10 business days of entering into the agreement, a notice of condemnation and shall file it in accordance with section 506 of this chapter. The notice of condemnation shall include a legal description of the property to be taken. (Added 1985, No. 269 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; amended 2011, No. 126 (Adj. Sess.), § 2; 2019, No. 59, § 21.)