What's This Right of Way Stuff?

I have spent the better part of 15 years of my career trying to explain this Right of Way (ROW) stuff. When I am asked what I do for work, I say: “I am a Right of Way consultant.” It is usually met with a nod and a glazed over look of confusion and that’s where the questioning ends. In a rare occasion I will hear “Hey my Uncle Jim had a farm and the government came in and stole his land! Then I say to myself: “Now this conversation could get real interesting.”

Unfortunately, this used to be the situation, lands were taken without compensation and in some cases literally overnight. Right of Way is defined as the private property needed for public use. This would be sidewalks, highways, freeways, airports, sewers, and utilities. Essentially everything that supports infrastructure for the public good. We cannot drive our cars, take a bus, turn on our lights, fly to grandma’s or flush the toilet without securing some type of Right of Way.

Fortunately, federal rules were enacted to protect people’s lands and rights. The Uniform Act was passed by congress in 1970 to ensure landowners’ rights were protected. This ensured that landowners had rights if their land was being acquired or federal funds if they were being displaced by a project.

Now, this is not to say this makes it all perfect and every government entity follows these rules. There are still unfortunate stories that exist, in fact the book Little Pink House by Jeff Benedict is one of my favorite reads about the misuse of eminent domain and the fight of one courageous lady to save her home.

This is where we come in. We can help clients understand landownership rights and begin the discussion of options and solutions. Keep in mind, not every ROW project ends up with such frustrating or sad conclusions. Our approach is not to negotiate, but to facilitate the transaction. This simple approach puts everyone on equal ground right out of the gate. These transactions can become very personal and emotional and requires empathy, creativity, and lots of patience. We know from experience how to achieve the most successful results for the community, land owners and public agencies which are consistent and help projects move forward. At first blush, this line of work can sound daunting – but I live for this stuff. Yes, I am a Right of Way geek.

If you would like to learn more about ROW and what DCI can do for your property, please return to DCI’s blog page for my future posts.

About the author

Roxanne Grimm

Roxanne Grimm, Associate Principal is an accidental Right of Way professional who has spent 23 years of her career working in state government and the last five years in the private sector as a Right of Way consultant. She is a real estate junkie and is currently building a tiny house with her dad.

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