- Getting Around
Pierce Transit Acquisition
Pierce Transit improves people’s quality of life by providing safe, reliable, innovative and useful transportation services that are locally based and regionally connected. To keep pace with our growing population and increasing demand for public transportation, Pierce Transit is tasked with improving and upgrading its transit system. In many cases, these improvements can be made within the existing public right-of-way. In other cases, Pierce Transit needs to acquire real property from adjacent property owners. While we prefer to improve the transit system with no impact or inconvenience to any of our neighbors, that isn’t always possible. Nevertheless, Pierce Transit’s intent is to treat property owners and tenants fairly, minimize hardships, and seek cooperative and fair settlements.
This brochure outlines what happens when Pierce Transit needs to acquire property from you. We will work together with you to ensure we provide the information you need to help you in the decision-making process.
Why do you need my property?+
In order for Pierce Transit to build and operate the local transit system, made up of local bus routes, transit centers and park and ride lots, the agency must occasionally acquire real property.
Guided by federal and state regulations, Pierce Transit strives to provide consistent and equitable treatment of all affected property owners and tenants. Pierce Transit will make reasonable efforts to acquire real property expeditiously through negotiations based on appraised fair market value. The Pierce Transit Board of Commissioners will determine when real property must be acquired by eminent domain.
How much property will you need?+
Pierce Transit begins a capital improvement project by carefully examining the proposed site: studying traffic trends and accident patterns, testing the soil, surveying the surrounding area, talking to potentially affected property owners, identifying potential environmental impacts, and weighing the costs of different design alternatives. After considering these factors, we develop a plan which identifies what is needed for the project.
Will I have a chance to comment on the plan?+
Yes. Public meetings will be held at different stages of the project. The purpose of these meetings is to provide opportunities for public participation to ensure that the location and design of transit facilities are consistent with federal, state, and local goals and objectives. We will notify potentially affected property owners and encourage them to attend and comment on the preliminary plans.
Valuing Your Property
How will you determine my property’s value?+
Pierce Transit will make an offer of “just compensation” for the property to be acquired based on its “fair market value”. Fair market value is the value of the property under normal market conditions. In most cases, your property will be appraised by an independent state-certified appraiser hired by Pierce Transit. The appraiser is a professional with considerable training, experience, and knowledge of property sales in your area. Property owners will be given the opportunity to accompany the appraiser during the inspection. As permitted by federal and state regulations, in certain cases where the proposed acquisition is determined to be non-complex, an administrative offer may be prepared by a qualified member of Pierce Transit’s real estate staff or a knowledgeable consultant that is familiar with standard valuation practices.
What will Pierce Transit pay for?+
Compensation may include the fair market value for land, buildings, and other improvements to the property. It also may include any loss in fair market value (damages) to any portion of the property that remains. If the remaining portion of property is of such a size or shape that it has little or no value or use, it is called an “uneconomic remnant”. Pierce Transit will offer to buy this remnant from you. The offer to the owner is based on a determination of “just compensation” and may not be less than the amount established in the approved appraisal report.
How will Pierce Transit make me an offer?+
An agent representing Pierce Transit will present or mail a written offer for your property. The agent will then work with you to answer any questions you may have about the offer.
What happens if I accept the offer?+
The agent will handle all the details of the sale, preparing the paperwork, and clearing title to the property. You may meet with the agent several times to prepare and sign all the necessary documents. Please call the agent whenever you have questions about the sale. As with any property sale, this process can be lengthy and confusing. The agent’s job is to address your concerns and facilitate the purchase.
Who pays the closing costs?+
When Pierce Transit buys your property, we pay all the costs of the sale including: recording and escrow fees, title insurance premiums, and other normal expenses. There is no real estate commission.
When will I receive the money?+
Closing can take up to several months depending on the complexity of the transaction and the number of encumbrances on the title. Payment is made when the title is cleared and the documents are recorded. The date on which payment is made available to you is called the “date of closing”. On that date, Pierce Transit becomes the owner of the property.
When will you take possession of the property?+
Owners are not required to surrender possession of property until they have been paid the agreed purchase price or an amount equal to Pierce Transit’s established estimate of just compensation has been deposited with the court for the owner’s benefit.
Will I have to pay capital gains tax on the proceeds?+
Because tax laws change frequently, we recommend that you check with the Internal Revenue Service, a tax consultant, or your attorney about current capital gains tax laws. You will be required to complete IRS Form W-9.
What if I feel Pierce Transit’s offer is too low?+
If you believe Pierce Transit’s offer is too low, explain to the agent why you believe you should receive a higher settlement. You may point out any items of value that you think the appraiser overlooked, recent sales of comparable properties, and other data you believe support a higher value. The agent will take this information into consideration in working with you. You also have the right to seek an evaluation of Pierce Transit’s offer to assist you in your consideration of the offer. As per RCW 8.25.020, Pierce Transit will reimburse you at the time of final settlement for up to $750.00 of your evaluation cost, upon presentation of the bill or paid receipt. After reviewing the evaluation and the information that supports it, Pierce Transit’s agent will work with you to reach a fair and equitable settlement.
Can I prevent my property from being acquired?+
Our state constitution grants certain public agencies the right of “eminent domain”, or the right to acquire property for public use upon payment of just compensation. Without this right, Pierce Transit could not meet public needs for transportation facilities. However, Pierce Transit would have to prove to a court why your property is needed for a public purpose and must fairly compensate you for the property needed.
What if we can’t agree on a price?+
The law safeguards you from receiving less than the fair market value for your property. But it also prevents Pierce Transit from making payments that would be unfair to the taxpayers funding the project. When there are indications that agreement on the purchase of your property cannot be reached, a legal action to acquire the property by eminent domain may be filed.
What happens if I go to court?+
You may hire an attorney to represent your interests. Trials are normally held in Pierce County Superior Court and are tried before a jury, unless you waive the right to a jury trial. The verdict is binding on both parties unless there is a valid basis for an appeal.
Can I recover any of the trial costs?+
Under certain conditions, the court may set an amount that Pierce Transit must pay to reimburse a property owner for attorney and witness fees. Generally, to receive such an award, the owner must: Grant immediate possession and use of the property and receive a verdict at least 10 percent over the highest offer made by Pierce Transit 30 days before the trial. You should consult with your attorney before the trial about recovering attorney and witness fees.