The Indiana Court of Appeals found Wednesday that the Indiana Department of Transportation is entitled by law to acquire a portion of an Ohio County couple’s property to improve State Road 56.
In Nick Domaschko and Edwina Domaschko, and their Respective Trusts, et al. v. State of Indiana, 58A01-1206-PL-261, Nick and Edwina Domaschko challenged the trial court’s order of immediate appropriation and appointment of appraisers regarding certain portions of the 900 acres they own that INDOT sought for the road project. They claimed that some of the real estate INDOT sought to appropriate wasn’t related to highway purposes: a 50-foot buffer zone associated with the relocation of a creek and a portion of land associated with a shared driveway that straddles two properties.
The Domaschkos argued that INDOT doesn’t have the authority to acquire land to “plant trees or to maintain driveways unrelated to road construction.” But INDOT presented evidence and testimony that it needed to relocate the creek, which requires installing a 50-foot buffer zone and includes the planting of trees along the relocated portions of the creek. The buffer zone is required as part of the permitting process.
The Domaschkos also argued that the permanent acquisition of the land to be used as a shared driveway between them and the water company is unnecessary because the water company has another entrance.
“However, INDOT presented testimony explaining that the Domaschkos’ expert’s design was not viable and that a permanent right-of-way was necessary because ‘[t]he driveway is shared by two property owners, so according to Indiana design manual, we have to take permanent right-of-way. We cannot take temporary right-of way from one owner to build a drive . . . for another,’” Judge Michael Barnes wrote. “Thus, it is clear that the acquisition of this property is related to the improvement of State Road 56 and, therefore, INDOT is statutorily authorized to acquire the property for the driveway.”