Officials receive airport relocation report

With plans moving forward to relocate the Griffin-Spalding County Airport, Joe Carroll, of THC Incorporated, recently addressed the city of Griffin and Spalding County boards of commissioners regarding the fate of residents who will be displaced in the process.

According to Carroll, Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970, which he described as “the most comprehensive and equitable legislation in our history on land acquisition and the associated relocation of displaced persons,” with its primary objective being “to provide for uniform and equitable treatment of persons displaced from their homes, businesses or farms by Federal and federally-assisted programs and to establish uniform and equitable land acquisition policies for such programs.”

The process for affected Spalding County residents will begin with interviews in which they will be informed of the procedures involved in their relocation process, beginning with such preliminary services as property title searches, Phase I environmental studies, land surveying and finally, appraisals.

Carroll addressed what typically is residents greatest concern – the valuation process – by explaining not one, but two appraisals will be conducted, as well as comparable housing determinations.

“That is where, beyond the appraisal, we will go out and look at property that is comparable to what they currently have,” Carroll said, adding that this actually determines the amount of money necessary to replace residents’ homes as opposed to simply basing the offer on fair market value.

Once a purchase amount has been determined, residents will be contacted to negotiate that process. Carroll said the offer will be no less than the amount of the approved appraisal, but pointed out additional funds are available in the event it becomes necessary.

For example, in the current real estate market, if a home appraises for less than the remaining mortgage, or if it would cost more to secure comparable replacement housing for the approved appraisal amount, additional relocation assistance of up to $22,500 is available. The amount available depends on a number of criteria, such as whether the residence is owner-occupied or tenant-occupied.

“But those limits can be spilled over if necessary to obtain comparable housing,” Carroll said.

In addition, homeowners will be compensated for any differential in mortgage interest rates, as well as related moving expenses.

Throughout this process, homeowners will be involved in the negotiating process and may be represented by an attorney or appraiser of their choosing, at their own expense.

If the negotiating process fails, Carroll said an eminent domain proceeding might be initiated. However, with the current legal protections available for displaced residents, that seldom occurs.

“Less than one percent of properties go into eminent domain,” he said.

In the event a sale cannot be negotiated and eminent domain proceedings are initiated, Carroll said homeowners are still in good standing, explaining that the eminent domain process originated as a service to homeowners, not the government.

“In eminent domain, the offer cannot go below fair market value,” he said. “It can only go up.”

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