Shared driveway resulting from DOT condemnation may be undesirable, but does not constitute a taking

by Hannah Dankbar

Bailey v Wisconsin DOT
Wisconsin Court of Appeals, April 23, 2015

Bradley and Caroline Bailey appealed the circuit court’s dismissal of their takings claim against the Wisconsin DOT. The Baileys claimed that the DOT took part of their land that resulted in a change in access to their property and left them with an “uneconomic remnant” which, according to Wis. Stat. 32.05(3m) means that the “property remaining is of such size, shape or condition as to be of little value or of substantially impaired economic viability.”

The DOT condemned two parcels of the Baileys’ property as part of a highway construction project.  As part of this project the DOT moved the Baileys’ driveway and created a new access point from the highway. The Baileys claimed that the DOT’s actions left them with an “uneconomic remnant,” but the circuit court dismissed the complaint.

The Baileys first argued that the circuit court erred because the DOT failed to make a prima facie case that the “Baileys’ property had reasonable access after condemnation.”  The DOT responded that the question of reasonable access is separate from, and plays no part in a determination whether an uneconomic remnant exists under the statute.

The Court of Appeals dismissed the Baileys’ argument over any supposed stand-alone “reasonable access” issue. Instead it focused on whether the change in access left the Baileys with an uneconomic remnant. The Baileys submitted four affidavits in support of this claim: one by the Baileys’ attorney, two by individuals the Baileys listed as experts, and one by Caroline Bailey. The circuit court excluded everything in the attorney’s and experts’ affidavits based on lack of foundation and other admissibility factors.  Caroline Bailey’s affidavit was the exception. She stated that they now shared a driveway with a neighbor whom they find difficult and threatening, and with whom they believe they will be unable to agree on driveway maintenance.  The Court of Appeals found that this only demonstrated that the Baileys’ situation is undesirable; not that the remaining property is “of little value or of substantially impaired economic viability.”

Because of these reasons the Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court’s dismissal.

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