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The State of Rhode Island Constructs Bike Path on Private Property Without Permission

States and municipalities have the authority to use and take title to parcels of private property in Rhode Island using eminent domain powers. For a private property taking to be valid, the state or municipality must follow certain procedures, most importantly offering just compensation to the original property owner. The Rhode Island Supreme Court recently heard a case of the state being sued by a property owner, who alleged that the state constructed a bicycle path across their property without following the proper procedures or offering fair compensation for the land.

The plaintiff from the recently decided case is the owner of a coastal parcel of property in Providence. In 2015, the state of Rhode Island started proceedings to purchase a strip of the plaintiff’s land to construct a bike pathway. The city erroneously believed that the strip of land was owned by the city of Providence, and pursued condemnation proceedings against the city to gain title to the property.

Once construction started on the bike pathway, the plaintiff attempted to assert his property rights over the strip of land, contacting the state and demanding that construction cease. Eventually, the plaintiff filed an action in state court to assert his property rights over the strip of property and seek damages for the taking. According to the analysis from the appellate opinion, the trial court found that the strip of land did not belong to the city of Providence, and that the state’s 2015 condemnation of the property was invalid. As a result of this ruling, the plaintiff will be compensated for the value of the land that was taken by the state, as well as the loss of value that he may suffer from adjacent properties.

The trial court’s ruling was appealed to the state supreme court, which accepted the lower court’s decision that the condemnation was invalid. The high court also rejected the plaintiff’s claim that the defendant director of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation could be sued in his individual capacity. The court found that the Director was protected from suit based on the doctrine of qualified immunity. Even with this ruling, the plaintiff will still be entitled to damages from the state of Rhode Island, just not from the Director in his individual capacity.

Do You Have Questions About Eminent Domain?

If you are facing an eminent domain claim or another claim against your property, you have legal rights that you should know be familiar with. Rhode Island state and federal law protect property owners from the government’s attempts to take their property, and strict procedures must be followed in order for a taking to be valid. If you have questions about your situation, and what you can do about it, an experienced Rhode Island real estate attorney with Bilodeau Capalbo can help. Our qualified attorneys can help ensure that you are being treated fairly throughout the process. Contact us to schedule a free consultation with a qualified Rhode Island real estate attorney at Bilodeau Capalbo by calling 401-300-4055 today.

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