What Happens if the City/Municipality Decides to Expropriate Land?
Local governments, such as the City of Nanaimo, are empowered by section 31 of the Community Charter to expropriate land. Section 289 of the Local Government Act gives the same power to regional districts. Expropriation is the taking of land without the owner’s consent and is an exceptional power which isn’t often exercised. The Expropriation Act must be adhered to by the local government and covers procedural requirements to be taken, as well as compensation for the land itself and disturbance caused to the landowner. Local governments can expropriate in order to provide services for the benefit of all or part of the community or in order to provide any services which are considered necessary or desirable.
In 2011 Nanaimo City Council adopted bylaw no. 7130 to expropriate land along Bowen Road. The purpose was to improve the public road and to carry out the replacement of the Quarterway Bridge. The city was unable to acquire the land through negotiation, although negotiation is the preferred option. Local governments secure certainty of costs if able to negotiate a set purchase price, while under expropriation, expenses and damages to be paid to the landowner are much less certain. Local governments are statutorily obligated to pay the market value of the property plus reasonable damages for the disturbance caused by the expropriation – amounts that are challenging to predict.
After a decision to expropriate, the local government will need to physically inspect the land, as certain issues can affect the value of the property. Under section 6 of the Expropriation Act, notice of intent to expropriate the land must be given to the owner, as well as posted on the land itself. Section 32 of the Community Charter provides authority for a local government to enter and inspect the land. Section 290 of the Local Government Act provides the same power for a regional district to enter and inspect, as does section 9 of the Expropriation Act. Consent of the owner is not necessary, but the local government is responsible for paying any compensation related to loss or damage caused by entrance and/or inspection. In compliance with the Expropriation Act, the local government will conduct an appraisal of the market value of the land which would have been obtained had the owner sold under normal circumstances. Reasonable compensation to be paid to the owner must also be calculated, covering factors such as moving expenses, legal expenses, and potentially increased mortgage rates for the owner’s subsequent property purchase.