Pursuant to Wyoming statutes, the power of eminent domain may be exercised to acquire property for a proposed use only if all of the following are established:
- The public interest and necessity require the project or the use of eminent domain is authorized by the Wyoming Constitution;
- The project is planned or located in the manner that will be most compatible with the greatest public good and the least private injury; and
- The property sought to be acquired is necessary for the project.
Findings of the public service commission, the interstate commerce commission and other federal and state agencies with appropriate jurisdiction are prima facie valid, relative to determinations under subsection (a) of this section, if the findings were made in accordance with law, with notice to condemnees who are parties to the condemnation action, and are final with no appeals from the determinations pending.
When a public entity determines that there is a reasonable probability of locating a particular public project on specifically identifiable private property and that the project is expected to be completed within two (2) years of that determination, the public entity shall provide written notice of the intention to consider the location and construction of the project to the owner as shown on the records of the county assessor. The notice shall include a description of the public interest and necessity of the proposed project. The public entity shall provide an opportunity for the private property owners to consult and confer with representatives of the public entity regarding the project[i].
If a proposed use cannot be obtained under W.S. 1-26-813, any condemnor may exercise the power of eminent domain to acquire property appropriated to public use if the proposed use will not unreasonably interfere with or impair the continuance of the public use as it then exists or may reasonably be expected to exist in the future. The burden of proving that a proposed use will not unreasonably interfere with or impair the continuance of the existing public use is on the prospective condemnor. Where property is taken under subsection (a) of this section, the parties shall attempt to make an agreement determining the conditions upon which the property is taken and the manner and extent of its use by each of the parties. Except as otherwise provided by law, if the parties are unable to agree, the court shall fix the terms and conditions upon which the property is taken, and the manner and extent of its use by each of the parties[ii].
A condemnor shall make reasonable and diligent efforts to acquire property by good faith negotiation. In attempting to acquire the property by purchase under W.S. 1-26-510, the condemnor, acting within the scope of its powers and to the extent not otherwise forbidden by law, shall negotiate in good faith and may contract with respect to:
- Any element of valuation or damages recognized by law as relevant to the amount of just compensation payable for the property;
- The extent, term or nature of the property interest or other right to be acquired;
- The quantity, location or boundary of the property;
- The acquisition, removal, relocation or disposition of improvements upon the property and of personal property not sought to be taken;
- The date of proposed entry and physical dispossession;
- The time and method of payment of agreed compensation or other amounts authorized by law; and
- Any other terms or conditions deemed appropriate by either of the parties.
Good faith negotiation shall include, but not be limited to, written notice of the following:
- To the extent reasonably known at the time, the proposed project, the land proposed to be condemned, plan of work, operations and facilities in a manner sufficient to enable the condemnee to evaluate the effect of the proposed project, plan of work, operations and facilities on the condemnee’s use of the land;
- The name, address, telephone number and, if available, facsimile number and electronic mail address of the condemnor and his designee, if any;
An initial written settlement offer that shall include:
- A description of the general location and extent of the property sought, with sufficient detail for reasonable identification;
- An offer that, at the condemnee’s request, a representative of the condemnor will tour the property sought with the condemnee or the condemnee’s representative at a mutually agreeable time prior to the deadline for the condemnee’s response to the initial written offer to discuss issues related to the property sought and the initial offer;
- An estimate of the fair market value of the property sought and the general basis for such estimate;
- A discussion of the reclamation planned by the condemnor for the property disturbed by the condemnor’s project;
- An offer to acquire the property sought, allowing the condemnee up to sixty-five (65) days from the date the initial written offer was sent via certified mail to respond or make a counter-offer in writing; and
- A written notice that the condemnee is under no obligation to accept the initial written offer but if the condemnee fails to respond to the initial written offer, the right to object to the good faith of the condemnor may be waived under W.S. 1-26-510(a), that the condemnor and the condemnee are obligated to negotiate in good faith for the purchase of the property sought, that formal legal proceedings may be initiated if negotiations fail and that the condemnee has a right to seek advice from an attorney, real estate appraiser, or any other person of his choice during the negotiations and any subsequent legal proceedings.
- A written response from the condemnor to any counter-offer made in writing by the condemnee to the initial written offer pursuant to subparagraph (iii)(E) of this subsection.
The written notice required under subsection (c) of this section shall be given to the condemnee of record as shown on the records in the county assessor’s office at the time, no less than ninety (90) days prior to commencement of a condemnation action. The condemnor shall send by certified mail, return receipt requested, a notice of final offer at least fifteen (15) days prior to commencing a condemnation action. A condemnee shall make reasonable and diligent efforts to negotiate in good faith with the condemnor including a timely written response to the written offer identified in subparagraph (c)(iii)(E) of this section, specifying areas of disagreement. The condemnor shall reimburse the condemnee for all reasonable litigation expenses if a court finds that the condemnor failed to negotiate in good faith as required under subsections (b) through (e) of this section or to comply with W.S. 1-26-504(a)(ii) and (iii). At any time in the negotiation, at the request of either party and upon mutual agreement, dispute resolution processes including mediation or arbitration may be employed or the informal procedures for resolving disputes established pursuant to W.S. 11-41-101 through 11-41-110 may be requested through the Wyoming agriculture and natural resource mediation board[iii].
A public entity may not commence a condemnation action until it has first adopted a written resolution in substantial conformity with this section, authorizing commencement and prosecution of the action. The authorization may be amended or rescinded at any time before or after commencement of the condemnation action but if rescinded the public entity shall pay the litigation expenses of the condemnee. In addition to other requirements imposed by law, the condemnation authorization required by subsection (a) of this section shall include:
- A general statement of the proposed public use for which the property is to be taken and a reference to the specific statute that authorizes the taking of the property by the condemnor;
- A description of the general location and extent of the property to be taken, with sufficient detail for reasonable identification; and
- A declaration that a taking of the described property is necessary and appropriate for the proposed public use[iv].
When a person possessing the power of condemnation takes possession of or damages land in which he has no interest, or substantially diminishes the use or value of land, due to activities on adjoining land without the authorization of the owner of the land or before filing an action of condemnation, the owner of the land may file an action in district court seeking damages for the taking or damage and shall be granted litigation expenses if damages are awarded to the owner[v]. Except as provided in subsection (b) of this section, the measure of compensation for a taking of property is its fair market value determined under W.S. 1-26-704, as of the date of valuation. If there is a partial taking of property, the measure of compensation is the greater of the value of the property rights taken or the amount by which the fair market value of the entire property immediately before the taking exceeds the fair market value of the remainder immediately after the taking[vi].
[i] Wyo. Stat. § 1-26-504
[ii] Wyo. Stat. § 1-26-505
[iii] Wyo. Stat. § 1-26-509
[iv] Wyo. Stat. § 1-26-512
[v] Wyo. Stat. § 1-26-516
[vi] Wyo. Stat. § 1-26-702