As the Rocky Ripple floodwall project progresses, residents have requested more information related to the property acquisition process for impacted parcels along the river. Shannon Killion, Department of Public Words (DPW) Stormwater Administrator, has provided some additional details in a communication below for reference:
As the Rocky Ripple Town Board voted in favor of having DPW move forward to 60% design during the May 2022 Board Meeting, next steps will be right-of-way engineering, which is a part of the design process where the real estate interests required for the project are determined and then appraisals of the value of such interests are completed on a parcel-by-parcel basis, a process that could take as long as 180 days. The City will begin making offers on a parcel-by-parcel basis as the engineering work and appraisals are completed, so in a perfect world the first offers would begin to be made sometime in the fourth quarter of 2022.
Offers to acquire real estate interests, whether they be for temporary construction easements, permanent floodworks easements, or partial or total takings of parcels, will be based on the appraised value determined by a licensed appraiser, will be made in writing and will be delivered to property owners either in person or by certified mail, all in accordance with Indiana Code 32-24-1 et seq., which governs the eminent domain process. If the appraised value of any permanent real estate interest is greater than $25,000, then a second appraisal must be obtained and the offer to acquire the interest will be the average of the two appraisals. Once a property owner receives the written offer, the owner has 30 days to either accept or reject the offer (no response is considered a rejection), after which the City may file an eminent domain action in Marion County Circuit or Superior Court to take the property. If a property owner and the City are in active and good faith negotiation following the delivery of the offer, the City will not commence legal proceedings immediately following the 30-day timeframe. Similarly, if a particular acquisition is a total taking requiring the owner to relocate and entitling the owner to relocation benefits, the timeline to complete the acquisition can be subject to negotiation.
The City will always work with property owners to accommodate them as much as possible, the use of its eminent domain authority being a last resort, and so the 30-day period to respond to a written offer is not a rigid timeframe. However, the City must be mindful of the project timeline and budgetary limitations and so, to avoid delays, it will be helpful for all involved if property owners are as prepared as they can be by having whatever information that they may deem helpful in determining appropriate compensation. Property owners should understand that this is a public project utilizing public funds and so any settlement payout above appraised market values must be justified and documented; therefore, unreasonable demands will not be entertained and the City will proceed with eminent domain to avoid protracted negotiations.
The Rocky Ripple Town Board hopes this information is helpful. If you have any questions as you review, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the Board with questions.