Mette, Evans & Woodside

Six Mette, Evans & Woodside Attorneys Named “Best Lawyers”

Mett, Evans & Woodside - Recognized as Best Lawyers 2020

Attorneys pictured left to right: Howell C. Mette, Timothy A. Hoy, James A. Ulsh, Thomas A. Archer, Gary J. Heim, Mark S. Silver

Six Mette, Evans & Woodside attorneys have been selected by their peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers® 2020. Attorneys Howell C. Mette, Timothy A. Hoy and James A. Ulsh were recognized again this year.  Attorneys Thomas A. Archer, Gary J. Heim and Mark S. Silver were recognized for the first time.

Best Lawyers is the oldest and one of the most respected peer review publications in the legal profession. The Best Lawyers designation is based on an exhaustive peer-review survey in which more than ninety thousand leading attorneys cast over ten million votes on the legal abilities of other lawyers in their specialties.

Selected in the tax law category, Howell C. Mette, the founding shareholder of Mette, Evans & Woodside, has long been recognized for his work in trusts and estate planning. Mr. Mette was first named Best Lawyer in 1987.  He is also AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell and has earned the recognition of Super Lawyer.

Timothy A. Hoy, current President of Mette, Evans & Woodside, was recognized for his work in banking and finance law. Mr. Hoy focuses his law practice on assisting businesses and financial institutions. In addition, Mr. Hoy has taught Payment Systems at Pennsylvania State University – Dickinson Law and at Widener Law Harrisburg.

James A. Ulsh, a long-time shareholder, was recognized for business organization law. Mr. Ulsh concentrates his law practice on banking, commercial law, healthcare issues, employee benefits programs and estate planning and administration. He has previously been named a Super Lawyer and is also AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell.

Thomas A. Archer, Chair of the firm’s Litigation Practice Group, who was selected for personal injury law, has more than twenty-five years’ experience in civil litigation. In his practice, he represents injured people and their families throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He regularly serves as an adjunct faculty member in Widener University’s Intensive Trial Advocacy Program.

Named “Best Lawyer” in trusts and estates, the focus of Gary J. Heim’s practice during his legal career of over 35 years has been agricultural law. He provides a broad range of legal services to Pennsylvania’s farm and agri-business community and has counseled thousands of the state’s family farms with the transition of those businesses to the next generation through his statewide practice.

Mark S. Silver, who has been recognized in real estate law, serves as Special Counsel to Mette, Evans & Woodside. Mark concentrates his practice in eminent domain. In addition his work in eminent domain, Mark’s legal practice encompasses other areas of real estate law including: land use, subdivision and zoning, and transactions.

Mette, Evans & Woodside has a long-standing tradition of providing comprehensive legal representation in Litigation, Estates and Trusts, Business and Real Estate. Founded in 1969, the firm provides clients throughout Pennsylvania with sound legal counsel for all facets of their professional and personal life.

Condemnation of Property…What are My Rights?

By: Mark S. Silver, Esq.

Condemnation Of Property

The Department of Transportation, school districts, sewer and water authorities, certain pipeline companies, some electric companies, and various other government agencies have the power to acquire private property for public purpose. Without such power, many important public works projects that provide benefits to us all could not be undertaken. Pursuant to the Constitution, a property owner is entitled to just compensation for the taking of his private property.

Attorneys with experience in eminent domain (condemnation for public purpose) and qualified real estate appraisers can provide valuable assistance to a property owner facing condemnation. Sometimes the offer made to the property owner by the acquiring entity is fair; sometimes it is not. In determining what is just compensation, the attorney and appraiser will evaluate whether the taking has resulted in a restriction on the use of the property following construction, as well as whether the taking has reduced or eliminated more profitable uses of the property.

Early involvement by professionals on behalf of the property owner is critical to establish and to document a claim for compensation, as well as to negotiate the most favorable terms of the taking for the property owner. For example, it is possible to negotiate a 60″ depth, rather than the standard 48″ depth, for a pipeline easement that crosses cultivated fields. It is also possible to relocate easements, as well as access routes to them, to areas that create the least functional disturbance to the land owner. Further, additional protections to the property owner that can be negotiated include: tree removal or storage of usable timber, separation of topsoil cover from sub-grade material, and separation of rock in excess of a specific diameter from the backfill material so as to enhance crop development after the installation is complete.

Property owners can contest the condemnation of their property on several bases, such as the lack of a legitimate public purpose, the lack of authority to condemn and failure of the condemning authority to follow required legal procedures. Yet, in most instances, a property owner’s money and efforts are better spent on maximizing the just compensation that is paid for the condemned property.

Owners of agricultural property have unique protections in certain circumstances, especially if the property is enrolled in an agricultural security area that has been approved by the local municipality. If applicable, the condemnor, before filing a condemnation action, must obtain a determination from the Agricultural Land Condemnation Approval Board (ALCAB) that there is no alternative to the taking of this particular agricultural property. The condemnor can have a difficult time satisfying that standard.

The law in Pennsylvania includes a provision that the condemning authority, in most instances, is obligated to reimburse the property owner up to a maximum of $4,000 toward professional fees. This can assist to offset initial expenses incurred to obtain an initial review of the matter on behalf of the property owner.

Have Questions about Commercial Real Estate Valuation?

By Mark Silver Esq.

Selling? Buying? Refinancing? Tax Assessment Appeal? Condemned?

Commercial Real Estate

When establishing a value for commercial real estate, a qualified and experienced PA Certified real estate appraiser is essential. You should engage a professional appraiser who has been certified as a MAI, SRPA or SREA and will comply with the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice.

You can help facilitate the process by gathering documentation including: two years of gross revenue; operating and maintenance expenses; real estate taxes; vacancy history; costs of recent improvements and/or major repairs to the land or structure(s).

In order to support their estimate of value, the appraiser may utilize one (or more) valuation approaches including: market (sales comparison); cost in limited instances; or income. If more complex issues arise, the appraiser should work with an experienced real estate attorney to assure a comprehensive appraisal that supports the opinion of value.

If you would like to discuss your commercial real estate legal concerns, contact Mark Silver, Esq by phone at (717) 232-5000 or by email at mssilver@mette.com.

Pipeline Right of Way Protection for Landowners

by Mark S. Silver

Pipeline Right Of Way Protection For Landowners

If a pipeline company has contacted you to install a pipeline on your property, you should contact an attorney experienced in this type of work. The process can be confusing and intimidating. Typically, pipeline companies will make repeated telephone and mail contact in an attempt to obtain signatures on documents that may contain provisions that are not fair to you. The landowner should insist that language protecting their rights is included in the written document. If it is not, there are no protections.

Experienced legal counsel can draft comprehensive revisions to documents and propose construction specifications to provide protections for the landowner.

Issues of full just compensation for the easement and its impact on remaining property are critical and best addressed by legal counsel who, together with an appraiser, can provide documented support for the compensation amount sought to be paid.

If you would like to better understand your rights and options, please contact Mark Silver, Esq. at (717) 232-5000 or at mssilver@mette.com.

What To Do when Faced with Eminent Domain

by Mark Silver

Faced With Eminent Domain

Q: I have received notification that my property is to be taken for public use; what do I do and what are my rights?

A: The answers vary depending on the type of property to be taken (residential; commercial; industrial; development; agricultural, etc.); the entity seeking to acquire the property and the expressed purpose; whether the taking is partial or total; whether there are structures or site improvements contained within the area of taking; if a business is involved whether the taking will interfere with its continued use and operation, and other factors specific to the property involved and the taking plans.

Both the United States Constitution (Amendment V) and the Pennsylvania Constitution (art.1, Sec. 10) provide: “…nor shall private property be taken…or applied…for public use, without just compensation…”. It is the quest for just compensation that requires assistance of experienced counsel early in the proceedings to seek to address issues that arise from the acquisition of part or all of the subject property that may include in addition to just compensation for the actual area of acquisition the recovery of specific statutory benefits for which the condemnee may be eligible.

The earlier the condemnee makes contact with counsel, the better. First, it must be determined that the taking is legal, and not subject to objections. Then the property must be inspected to determine existing conditions; plan revisions considered; a real estate appraiser and engineer, if necessary, employed…all to review current conditions and the relevant taking plans, to determine the impact of the taking, and if not total, the effect the taking will have on the remaining property (severance damage). Factors such as relevant zoning; availability of public/private utilities; access; topography; visibility, and the like are critical to the full understanding of the property, its current and potential highest and best uses, and how it may be impacted by the taking.

The Condemnee is to be paid “just compensation”, defined in the Pennsylvania Eminent Domain Code to: “…consist of the difference between the fair market value of the condemnee’s entire property interest immediately before the condemnation and as unaffected by the condemnation and the fair market value of the property interest remaining immediately after the condemnation and as affected by the condemnation”. Although the words that comprise the definition of “just compensation” in the Pennsylvania Eminent Domain Code seem straightforward, the experience and insight of counsel, the appraiser, and when necessary an engineer, can serve to identify and quantify elements of damage not initially appreciated, but compensable in accordance with applicable law.

Counsel can also serve to identify claims in addition to “just compensation” for which the condemnee may be eligible that may include interest; limited reimbursement of professional fees; moving and related expenses; business reestablishment expenses; replacement search costs; rent loss; and others where the facts and governing law so provide. In certain residential taking scenarios, the condemnee may be entitled to a replacement housing supplement; increased mortgage interest differential payment; and payments for title search, transfer tax, and other closing costs, in addition to moving expenses.

Pennsylvania law does not currently provide compensation or reimbursement for business loss or loss of business profits. Business Dislocation Damages; however, may be payable in certain circumstances (for example: where the taking is total and a business not part of a chain of three or more similar establishments is taken along with the real property), are limited to a maximum of $60,000, and are dependent on tax returns.

It is noteworthy to mention that the process of obtaining full and comprehensive just compensation for any taking, whether total or partial; residential, commercial, or otherwise; is time consuming and can include many legal, engineering, and appraisal issues not immediately obvious or known to professionals who do not have experience in this type of work.

Should you wish to discuss issues of importance to you that are involved in a taking of your property, I would be more than pleased to review them with you.

Mark S. Silver
717-232-5000
mssilver@mette.com