Diversion Authority Leave Property Owners Twisting in the Wind: “Taking” WITHOUT “Just Compensation”
Finally, the Fargo/Moorhead Diversion Authority has admitted that the private property of upstream citizens has been “taken or damaged for public use” as a result of the diversion project. A “taking” occurs when a government action impairs or damages the private property of a citizen. In this situation a “taking” has occurred because the proposed division has diminished the value and marketability of upstream properties by the threat of flooding, buyout and condemnation. Fair market value of the upstream properties has been greatly diminished, so much so that many homes are not saleable or even a good risk for refinance. The Diversion Authority has finally acknowledged that its actions have resulted in a constitutional taking to homeowners in the impacted areas and that it is responsible for just compensation for those costs or loss of value. They propose to do something about it, albeit much too little and too late.
The most egregious injustice is the hardship cases. The Diversion Authority has a responsibility to provide just compensation for those citizens, by buying out their homes, or compensating them for their loss or diminished value. Their offer, however is to request applications which they will review, for possible relief if and when they “have the money”. It is hard to believe that the Diversion Authority does not have the money to provide for just compensation for those hardship cases, or that they would lack the moral fiber to act promptly. That a taking has already occurred is self evident. The Diversion’s legal obligation is to immediately pay for the damages it has caused. The Diversion Authority’s recent actions and statements in regard to the “hardship cases” would lead anyone to question that organization’s integrity.
The just compensation requirement is in this case driven by the perceived impacts of the project and the threat of condemnation. Consequently, the buyouts are subject to the Federal rules for relocation benefits. These relocation benefits are very substantial and financially important to those forced to sell their homes by reason of the Fargo Diversion. The public law 91-646 provides for a significant level of mitigation and relocation benefits for those impacted by federally funded projects.
Reports are circulating that The Diversion Authority is shopping for out of state appraisers and avoiding local real estate appraisers in formulating its hardship or “buyout” policy. If true, this practice is a slap in the face of all citizens and dishonors all the leaders promoting this project.