What is the highest and best use of land and why is it an important concept in partition cases? Attorney Philip Hundl answers that question and provides illustrations of the concept in this video. Call or text 800-929-1725 for an appointment with Mr. Hundl.
Summary of the Highest and Best Use in Partition Cases Video
Hi, I’m Philip Hundl. I’m an attorney, and my practice focuses on land litigation. I primarily represent land owners facing eminent domain and condemnation cases. When I refer to land litigation, I’m also referring to land partition cases.
I recently did another video talking about highest and best use in condemnation cases. What I want to talk about today is highest and best use of land in partition cases.
If you’re facing condemnation as a landowner or you need to partition some property amongst you and some co-owners, it’s always important to take into consideration the highest and best use of the land. Highest and best use is what the land could be used for.
So you shouldn’t consider land that’s along a busy highway, that’s very much in line for future development as just agricultural or recreational land — even if that’s all it’s being used for now. The highest and best use of that land might be retail or commercial. That’s a pretty easy concept. I think everybody agrees with that.
Also if you have some property that has pipelines or maybe multiple pipelines on it, your property’s highest and best use could be as a pipeline corridor. This concept or theory has been around for a long time.
Now I want to transition into when you’re partitioning property. I’ve got a partition case involving a large property in Brazoria County. The property actually has about 11 to 12 pipelines on it. These pipelines are stacked one right next to the other. So without a doubt this portion of the property has a highest and best use as a pipeline corridor.
My clients want to partition this property, or some of the co-owners of this property want to partition it. In evaluating the highest and best use of the property, we have to consider all the different features of property being partitioned.
Highest and Best Use Will Likely be Different for Different Parts of the Property
We’ve said this before in other videos, but here’s a simple example. Suppose you’ve got a hundred acres, and you’ve got 20 co-owners. They each own 5% of the property — 20 owners equally on a hundred acres.
That doesn’t mean everybody automatically gets five acres. That scenario could happen if the land is completely homogeneous — exactly the same everywhere on the property. If the value of every piece of that property is the same then yes, theoretically each person would get five acres.
However, most land is not like that. The land may have some areas along a creek or water source that adds a certain amount of value. If it’s in a flood plain, it might have a lower value. If the property is along a major highway, that’s a different valuation for commercial or industrial development.
All these things are characteristics of land that need to be taken to consideration for valuations when you’re doing any partition. We’ll talk about the steps of a partition and the process of partition in another video.
In a partition, the special commissioners come up with a report to partition the land. Or the parties might try to negotiate and come to an agreement on a partition that takes all of these different features into consideration. Which part of the property is next to a road? Maybe another part of the property has access to water irrigation. One part of the land may be in the city, and another part is not in the city. One part has a pipeline corridor or a power line corridor on it. All of these examples of highest and best use matter for valuations in partition cases, just like valuations in condemnation cases.
A Family Pizza Illustration of the Concept
I’ve heard someone use this example as an illustration of highest and best use and I think it’s pretty good so I’ll repeat it here. Think about ordering a pizza for your family. My family orders Domino’s Pizza by phone. You can make that pizza pretty much however you want. In my family, everybody’s got different tastes. I love Supreme, so I’ll have a quarter that pizza made as a Supreme. A quarter of the pizza will be just pepperoni and then another quarter will be pepperoni, hamburger and sausage. The last quarter of our family pizza is just cheese.
Different quarters of our family pizza have unique characteristics. The cheese quarter shouldn’t have the same value as the quarter that’s Supreme. Domino’s doesn’t charge you as if that whole pizza is just cheese. That Supreme quarter of pizza could represent a retail, commercial, or pipeline corridor as the highest and best use for that pizza. The cheese quarter of the pizza might represent recreational or lower agricultural highest and best use.
So anyway, hopefully that’s helpful. If you’re dealing with a land partition, you have to consider the highest and best use of various portions of the property in determining the value. Good luck. Thanks.
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