Category Archives: Easement Agreements

Nelson Couple Grants ‘Immediate Access’ for ACP

The Lynchburg News & Advance reported on February 27, 2018, that, “Hours before their case was scheduled to go before a federal judge, Will and Lilia Fenton, owners of the Nelson County-based Fenton Inn, reached an understanding with Atlantic Coast Pipeline, allowing the project ‘immediate access’ to their property.” Fenton said they decided to allow ACP immediate access because “we didn’t think there would be any positive results for going to court [for] this particular [issue],” and added that the access understanding should not be a reflection on his family’s feelings about the pipeline, and that they have fought both the pipeline from its inception, especially the concept of eminent domain.

The News & Advance article also reported that other cases were argued in federal court in Lynchburg on Monday and Tuesday. “Lawyers representing the landowners and ACP attorneys questioned a handful of witnesses Monday and Tuesday, focusing on why ACP would need immediate access to the properties in question; potential harm to landowners; and how the easement negotiation process works, including how ACP determines the compensation it offers landowners for temporary and permanent rights of way.”

In the hearing, ACP witnesses discussed the land acquisition and appraisel processes, as well as the “irreparable harm” the ACP would suffer if not allowed to proceed. Landowners testified about the harm to their properties and businesses.

Judge Moon had not issued an opinion as of February 27, but said he hoped to do so in the “next day or two.”

Read the full article here.

ACP Route Landowners Meeting, Tuesday 27 February


ACP has started suing landowners. Unlike MVP, ACP is filing suits in batches, using a strategy that makes it harder for landowners to coordinate efforts. On Tuesday, February 27, 2018, landowners will meet at the Rockfish Presbyterian Church on HWY 151 at 7pm.  Please enter the door around the back of the church.  We will have three guests who can help inform landowners.  Chris Johns and Isak Howell are lawyers who focus on representing landowners across the country in pipeline takings; they currently represent several landowners on the ACP and will give an overview of where things stand with the project and legal challenges to it.  Josh Korman is a licensed appraiser with vast experience in valuing the impact that pipelines have on land values.  Event organizers Richard and Jill Averitt welcome anyone interested in the ACP project to attend this informational meeting on Tuesday, and Friends of Nelson urges all landowners whose property is crossed by either the pipeline and/or its access roads to attend.

Property Values Drop on Properties with Easements


Press Release from BREDL: February 20, 2018.  Contact: Sharon Ponton, 434 420-1874, ponton913@msn.com

Property Values Plunge for Some Landowners Who Signed Easements for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in Highland and Nelson Counties

Lovingston, VA—A property records search conducted in Highland and Nelson Counties by the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League reveals property values plunged on parcels whose owners sought relief through the reassessment hearing process. Three properties in Nelson County with signed easement agreements with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) for pipeline construction and/or roads to access the pipeline route, received reductions in property values averaging 32.5%.

“The construction of the proposed pipeline and resultant losses in property value are devastating for directly affected landowners,” stated Sharon Ponton, a Nelson resident and the Stop the Pipelines Campaign Coordinator for the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League. “It is also important for every property owner to understand these reductions will affect them, too. The governing bodies of these localities will be forced to increase real estate tax rates for every property owner to offset the difference in lost values caused by the proposed ACP. Lower property values will cause higher tax rates for all,” Ponton stated.

The three Nelson property assessments, which indicated current fair market value totaling $459,000, were adjusted downward by $148,900 to a market value of $311,000. The properties were reduced by percentages as high as 39% to a low of 15%. “The assessors for Nelson only considered pipeline easements in their computations if a landowner came forward during the hearing process. Property owners with signed easement agreements who did not come forward were unknown to county assessors. Therefore, pipeline easements have not been considered for those properties,” Ponton explained.

In Highland County, while some properties with signed easements increased in value, many were devalued, from a high of 75% to a low of 2%. The average overall loss on those properties with signed easements was 8%. Interestingly, in Highland, consideration paid by the ACP to landowners was approximately $1.3 million for 172 acres. In Nelson, the ACP has paid just $1.8 million for easements covering 316 acres. The acreage figures include permanent and temporary rights-of-way, as well as extra work space and access roads.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission dismissed the concerns of affected landowners, citizens, and grassroots groups regarding lower property values along the path of the proposed ACP in its Final Environmental Impact Statement. ”Plainly, FERC was wrong. Property values are affected,” stated Ponton. “Blowing off our mountain tops and cutting millions of trees which can never be replaced while building a pipeline affects property values. We implore all landowners who have signed easement agreements with ACP and who did not seek relief during the reassessment hearing process, to present their cases before the Boards of Equalization in their specific counties. These directly affected landowners shouldn’t be abused twice–once by having their land taken by ACP and then a second time by being required to pay taxes on inflated property values,” Ponton concluded.

Easement Limitations


Did you know that if Virginia signs off on the water certificate for the ACP and MVP pipelines, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission can allow the pipeline developers to seize the land of private citizens by eminent domain to bury these pipelines? Did you know that the landowners still have to pay property taxes on that seized land, often a 120′ wide easement, on which no tree can ever be planted, no structure can ever be built, and no fully loaded truck (including a fire truck) can ever cross? Did you know that environmentalists and Tea Party libertarians, conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats have come together to protect our right to own our land and say no to land grabs for private greed, not public need?

Legal Representation

On November 16, 2017, the Charlotte Observer reported that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is ready to start seizing private property early next year to start construction on the 600-mile ACP, beginning legal condemnation proceedings against holdout property owners as soon as it has received all state and federal permits.

In late October, the Mountain Valley Pipeline sued landowners to gain pipeline easements through eminent domain.  On November 16, 2017, a federal judge slowed MVP’s effort to fast-track one of two lawsuits against hundreds of landowners seeking to use eminent domain to gain easements for construction over the more than 300-mile route across West Virginia and Virginia.  Judge  John Copenhaver indicated “he is going to press MVP attorneys to personally serve all of the landowners with the lawsuits against them, and demand detailed explanations if the company ultimately says it couldn’t find all of the owners and wanted to rely on a public notice in the newspaper instead. ‘The court wants these people located,’ Copenhaver said. ‘The court is expecting due process.'”

Most of the landowners on the ACP route in Nelson County have legal representation. If you do not, email us at friendsofnelson@gmail.com and we will give you the information you need to protect yourself and your land.  (And please take a look at our Eminent Domain page.)  We will continue to stand up and support and back up landowners threatened by the ACP. This is not a done deal. We are still here and ready to help!

Eminent Domain


Nearly six hundred Nelson residents heard Dominion representative Emmett Toms use the threat of eminent domain in August 2014 at the public meeting with the Nelson County Board of Supervisors and Dominion personnel. His remark was something along these lines: “We don’t like to use eminent domain, but we will if we have to.”

On October 27, 2017, the Roanoke Times reported that, “Mountain Valley sues landowners to gain pipeline easements and access through eminent domain.” The story described how “Mountain Valley Pipeline filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday [October 24, 2017] in Roanoke against hundreds of landowners in Virginia to initiate acquiring easements for the project across private properties through eminent domain.” The lawsuit includes landowners in both Virginia and West Virginia, and, according to coverage in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, “The Virginia complaint lists more than 300 separate pieces of property — with the property descriptions taking up 192 pages of a 196-page complaint — and the West Virginia filing lists more than 140 separate property parcels. ‘Condemnation is necessary because MVP has been unable to negotiate mutually agreeable easement agreements with the landowners,’ the MVP lawyers said in both of their complaints.”

In anticipation of possible court proceedings by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline against property owners on the proposed ACP route, we offer information based on suggestions originally prepared by Preserve Montgomery County for landowners on the proposed MVP route.

  • If you are an impacted landowner and have not yet hired an expert eminent domain attorney, we urge you to do so ASAP. Impacted landowners include those whose property the ACP proposes to cross as well as those on whose property the ACP wants to build access roads or staging areas.
  • To hire eminent domain counsel does NOT mean you’re “giving up the fight” – rather, it means you’re getting help to navigate it – you’re preparing for the time you may need to either negotiate or go to trial.
  • If you hire an eminent domain lawyer:
    • You don’t have to pay anything up front
    • If it never comes to eminent domain, you will never pay them
    • All of them charge a similar percentage of an eventual settlement (33% of the DIFFERENCE between the original written offer and the final written offer), so you never need to pay them out of pocket

Among the consequences of negotiating without experienced representation is the risk of being grossly under-compensated in an eventual settlement.

Eminent domain experts say that under federal court rules, landowners have 21 days from the date of service of papers on the landowner to file an “answer/response,” which is a reply in court challenging the ACP’s assertions of their right to take your property. This filing can be basic, but it must be done correctly and in timely fashion. Eminent domain lawyer Chuck Lollar, quoted in the Roanoke Times article, said, “a year could pass before all condemnation cases filed by Mountain Valley go to trial,” but landowners must still file their responses within 21 days.

OPPOSE “early entries.” Many landowners, through their attorneys, will object to “early entry” by the pipeline company or its subcontractors for ANY reason, including tree cutting. Don’t allow anyone associated with or hired by MVP/ACP to take your trees down or do any other “pre-construction activity.” Your attorney will make motions to stop ALL pre-construction activity including tree cutting. If you encounter tree cutters on your property or have questions about their presence on your neighbor’s land and their right to be there, call your attorney, your police or sheriff’s office, or simply call 911 and ask for law enforcement assistance.

Please refer to our Eminent Domain page for additional information on eminent domain and on eminent domain lawyers.