Sumner County asks state for changes to eminent domain law: The (Gallatin TN) News Examiner, 3/2/05

By Katrina Cornwell

Sumner County [TN] landowners who find themselves in the path of planned infrastructure improvements could be entitled to additional compensable damages in the future under a measure approved by the Sumner County Commission Monday.

The commission passed a resolution Monday that encourages the Tennessee General Assembly to amend state law as it applies to compensable damages to landowners whose properties are condemned for infrastructure improvements under the eminent domain law.

The legislation asks that property owners be compensated for future damage and loss of use of the overall parcel as an element of damage, which could be considered when awarding damages for condemnation of property.

The issue of additional compensation for landowners was raised recently by property owners who are impacted by a proposed 30-mile natural gas transmission line, which would cross Sumner and Trousdale counties.

Sue Carr said she and her husband Kenneth oppose the pipeline crossing their 185-acre farm mainly because it will come through some their “choice land on Alexander Lane.”

“The proposed gas line is coming through the very middle of it. The very prime choice land that we have,” she said.

County law director Leah Dennen said the issue about compensable damages under the state’s current eminent domain law was raised by District 2 Commissioner David Cummings.

State law does not address the damages the county’s resolution lays out, she said.

“When you lose land, it sets out what damages you’re entitled to,” Dennen said. “One thing that you haven’t been able to get is future use. It’s so speculative. What happens if they take a third of your property and it really damages the entire parcel. It is really asking the general assembly to look at those laws.”

Meanwhile, state lawmakers have several new pieces of legislation to consider concerning both eminent domain law and the proposed gas transmission line.

The State House of Representatives passed House Joint Resolution 7 Monday, asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to deny Midwestern Gas Transmission Company’s Eastern Extension Project.

The resolution passed with 94 “yes” votes and no “no” votes, and because it is a joint resolution between the state House of Representatives and the state Senate, it will now be considered by state senators. It would take 17 votes to carry the measure.

McDonald was pleased with the showing of support among state legislators on the resolution.

“I was very pleased,” he said. “We worked very hard to explain the situation in Sumner and Trousdale counties. I worked with all the interested parties. Several came to see me on that resolution. We were able to explain the problem and the project isn’t necessary according to the independent consultants that made a presentation on the project at the county administration building. All those things made a difference too.”

McDonald has also sponsored another piece of legislation in support of landowners in Sumner County who are opposed to the Midwestern Gas Eastern Extension Project.

He introduced House Bill 106 Jan. 31 and if it is approved, it would require a petitioner for eminent domain to obtain written permission from a landowner before entering onto any parcel of land.

McDonald recently spoke before representatives of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, who held a “scope meeting” at the Sumner County Administration Building Feb. 24 to gather citizens’ input about the proposed pipeline, which would cross 157 tracts of land.

Standing next to him were state legislators Sen. Diane Black, R-Gallatin; Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet and Rep. Stratton Bone, D-Lebanon.

McDonald said he opposes the Midwestern Gas transmission line project for several reasons.

“I continue to oppose Midwestern’s Eastern Extension project because one I don’t think it’s necessary and two I’m gravely concerned about the environmental impact,” he said. “Three, I’m concerned about safety issues, and four, I’m concerned about the devaluation of the property that the folks own. For those reasons, I continue to be opposed to it.”

The news Examiner: www.gallatinnewsexaminer.com