WV Department of Transportation v. Victor Echols, et al.
QUESTIONS CERTIFIED BY THE GRANT COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT:
1. When the completion of a highway construction condemnation project by the West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways (“DOH”), has rendered a large parcel of land (which is otherwise economic) landlocked, is the DOH required to institute a formal condemnation proceeding on the residue or remainder tract without first being given the opportunity to construct an access road to mitigate the landlocked nature of the real estate?
Answer: No because it would be unreasonable to require the DOH to purchase a large tract of land when the landlocked nature of the real estate could be remedied by the construction of an access road at potentially a lesser expense to the taxpayer than the purchase of the entire remainder tract and if the real estate is economic with the provision of an access road.
2. When the DOH offers to construct an access road to a landlocked remainder tract following the completion of a highway construction project, do the landowners have the right to refuse the construction of the access road?
Answer: Yes because the landowners should be able to reject an offer which they feel does not provide reasonable access to the real estate or is unreasonable for other reasons, such as that it diminishes the value of the real estate or will create an unreasonable cost to maintain. Should the landowners rejects the offer, the matter should proceed to trial in due course to a determination of the fair market value of the taking due to the condemnation action, with consideration given to the landowners’ refusal to allow the DOH to construct reasonable access to the real estate.