§ 42-64-9. Condemnation power.
(a) If, for any of the purposes of this chapter, the Rhode Island commerce corporation shall find it necessary to acquire any real property, whether for immediate or future use, the corporation may find and determine that the property, whether a fee simple absolute or a lesser interest, is required for the acquisition, construction, or operation of a project, and upon that determination, the property shall be deemed to be required for public use until otherwise determined by the corporation; and with the exceptions hereinafter specifically noted, the determination shall not be affected by the fact that the property has been taken for, or is then devoted to, a public use; but the public use in the hands or under the control of the corporation shall be deemed superior to the public use in the hands of any other person, association, or corporation; provided further, however, that no real property or interest, estate, or right in these belonging to the state shall be acquired without consent of the state; and no real property or interest, estate, or right in these belonging to any municipality shall be acquired without the consent of the municipality; and no real property, or interest or estate in these, belonging to a public utility corporation may be acquired without the approval of the public utility commission or another regulatory body having regulatory power over the corporation except for the following real property or interest or estate in these: the underground electric distribution system, located at the Quonset Point/Davisville industrial complex ("QP/D"), North Kingstown, Rhode Island, consisting of lines of buried wires and cables and lines of wires and cables installed in underground conduits, together with all equipment and appurtenances to these for the furnishing of underground electric service running from the southwesterly side of Kiefer Park Substation 81 located in QP/D in an easterly and southeasterly direction to Carrier Pier Substation 82 located in QP/D together with any and all rights and easements as may be necessary to repair, maintain, operate or otherwise gain access to the above-mentioned property.
(b) The corporation may proceed to acquire and is authorized to and may proceed to acquire property, whether a fee simple absolute or a lesser interest, by the exercise of the right of eminent domain in the manner prescribed in this chapter.
(c) Nothing contained in this section shall be construed to prohibit the corporation from bringing any proceedings to remove a cloud on title or any other proceedings that it may, in its discretion, deem proper and necessary, or from acquiring property by negotiation or purchase.
(d) The necessity for the acquisition of property under this chapter shall be conclusively presumed upon the adoption by the corporation of a vote determining that the acquisition of the property or any interest in property described in that vote is necessary for the acquisition, construction, or operation of a project. Within six (6) months after its passage, the corporation shall cause to be filed in the appropriate land evidence records a copy of its vote together with a statement signed by the chairperson or vice-chairperson of the corporation that the property is taken pursuant to this chapter, and also a description of the real property indicating the nature and extent of the estate or interest in the estate taken and a plat of the real property, which copy of the vote and statement of the chairperson or vice-chairperson shall be certified by the secretary of the corporation and the description and plat shall be certified by the city or town clerk for the city or town within which the real property lies.
(e) Forthwith thereafter the corporation shall cause to be filed in the superior court in and for the county within which the real property lies a statement of the sum of money estimated to be just compensation for the property taken, and shall deposit in the superior court to the use of the persons entitled to the money the sum set forth in the statement. The corporation shall satisfy the court that the amount deposited with the court is sufficient to satisfy the just claims of all persons having an estate or interest in the real property. Whenever the corporation satisfies the court that the claims of all persons interested in the real property taken have been satisfied, the unexpended balance shall be ordered repaid forthwith to the corporation.
(f) Upon the filing of the copy of the vote, statement, description, and plat in the land evidence records and upon the making of the deposit in accordance with the order of the superior court, title to the real property in fee simple absolute or any lesser estate or interest specified in the resolution shall vest in the corporation, and that real property shall be deemed to be condemned and taken for the use of the corporation and the right to just compensation for the condemned property shall vest in the persons entitled to compensation, and the corporation thereupon may take possession of the real property. No sum paid unto the court shall be charged with clerks' fees of any nature.
(g) After the filing of the copy of the vote, statement, description, and plat, notice of the taking of that land or other real property shall be served upon the owners of, or persons having any estate or interest in, the real property by the sheriff or his or her deputies of the county in which the real estate is situated by leaving a true and attested copy of the vote, statement, description, and plat with each of those persons personally, or at the last and usual place of abode in this state with some person living there, and in case any of those persons are absent from this state and have no last and usual place of abode therein occupied by any person, the copy shall be left with the person or persons, if any, in charge of, or having possession of the real property taken of the absent persons, and another copy shall be mailed to the address of the person, if the address is known to the officer serving the notice.
(h) After the filing of the vote, description, and plat, the corporation shall cause a copy to be published in some newspaper having general circulation in the city or town in which the real property lies at least once a week for three (3) successive weeks.
(i) If any party shall agree with the corporation upon the price to be paid for the value of the real property so taken and of appurtenant damage to any remainder or for the value of his or her estate, right, or interest therein, the court, upon application of the parties in interest, may order that the sum agreed upon be paid forthwith from the money deposited, as the just compensation to be awarded in the proceedings; provided, however, that no payment shall be made to any official or employee of the corporation for any property or interest in the property acquired from the official or employee unless the amount of the payment is determined by the court to constitute just compensation to be awarded in the proceedings.
(j) Any owner of, or person entitled to any estate or right in, or interested in any part of, the real property taken, who cannot agree with the corporation upon the price to be paid for his or her estate, right or interest in the real property taken and the appurtenant damage to the remainder, may, within three (3) months after personal notice of the taking, or if he or she has no personal notice, may within one year from the time the sum of money estimated to be just compensation is deposited in the superior court to the use of the persons entitled to the compensation, apply by petition to the superior court for the county in which the real property is situated, setting forth the taking of his or her land or his or her estate or interest in these and praying for an assessment of damages by the court or by a jury. Upon the filing of the petition, the court shall cause twenty (20) days' notice of the pendency of a trial to be given to the corporation by serving the chairperson or vice chairperson of the corporation with a certified copy of the notice.
(k) After the service of notice, the court may proceed to the trial thereof. The trial shall be conducted as other civil actions at law are tried. The trial shall determine all questions of fact relating to the value of the real property, and any estate or interest, and the amount of this value and the appurtenant damage to any remainder and the amount of this damage, and the trial and decision or verdict of the court or jury shall be subject to all rights to except to rulings, to move for new trial, and to appeal, as are provided by law. Upon the entry of judgment in those proceedings, execution shall be issued against the money deposited in court and in default against any other property of the corporation.
(l) In case two (2) or more petitioners make claim to the same real property, or to any estate or interest, or to different estate or interests in the same real property, the court shall, upon motion, consolidate their several petitions for trial at the same time, and may frame all necessary issues for the trial.
(m) If any real property or any estate or interest, in which any minor or other person not capable in law to act in his or her own behalf is interested, is taken under the provisions of this chapter, the superior court, upon the filing of a petition by or in behalf of the minor or person or by the corporation, may appoint a guardian ad litem for the minor or other person. Guardians may, with the advice and consent of the superior court, and upon any terms as the superior court may prescribe, release to the corporation all claims for damages for the land of the minor or other person or for any estate or interest. Any lawfully appointed, qualified, and acting guardian or other fiduciary of the estate of any minor or other person, with the approval of the court of probate within this state having jurisdiction to authorize the sale of lands and properties within this state of the minor or other person, may before the filing of any petition, agree with the minor or other person for any taking of his or her real property or of his or her interest or estate, and may, upon receiving the amount, release to the corporation all claims for damages for the minor or other person for the taking.
(n) In case any owner of or any person having an estate or interest in the real property fails to file his or her petition, superior court for the county in which the real property is situated, in its discretion, may permit the filing of the petition within one year subsequent to the year following the time of the deposit in the superior court of the sum of money estimated to be just compensation for the property taken; provided, the person shall have had no actual knowledge of the taking of the land in season to file the petition; and provided, no other person or persons claiming to own the real property or estate or interest shall have been paid the value; and provided, no judgment has been rendered against the corporation for the payment of the value to any other person or persons claiming to own the real estate.
(o) If any real property or any estate or interest is unclaimed or held by a person or persons whose whereabouts are unknown, after making inquiry satisfactory to the superior court for the county in which the real property lies, the corporation, after the expiration of two (2) years from the first publication of the copy of the vote, statement, description, and plat, may petition the court that the value of the estate or interest of the unknown person or persons be determined. After the notice by publication to any person or persons that the court in its discretion may order, and after a hearing on the petition, the court shall fix the value of the estate or interest and shall order the sum to be deposited in the registry of the court in a special account to accumulate for the benefit of the person or persons, if any, entitled to it. The receipt of the clerk of the superior court shall constitute a discharge of the corporation from all liability in connection with the taking. When the person entitled to the money deposited shall have satisfied the superior court of his or her right to receive that money, the court shall cause it to be paid over to him or her, with all accumulations thereon.
(p) The superior court shall have power to make any orders with respect to encumbrances, liens, taxes, and other charges on the land, if any, as shall be just and equitable.
(q) Whenever, in the opinion of the corporation, a substantial saving in the cost of acquiring title can be effected by conveying other real property, title to which is in the corporation, to the person or persons from whom the estate or interest in real property is being purchased or taken, or by the construction or improvement by the corporation of any work or facility upon the remaining real property of the person or persons from whom the estate or interest in real property is being purchased or taken, the corporation shall be and hereby is authorized to convey that other real property to the person or persons from whom the estate or interest in real property is being purchased or taken and to construct or improve any work or facility upon the remaining land of the person or persons.
(r) At any time during the pendency of any proceedings for the assessment of damages for property or interests taken or to be taken by eminent domain by the corporation, the corporation or any owner may apply to the court for an order directing an owner or the corporation, as the case may be, to show cause why further proceedings should not be expedited, and the court may upon that application make an order requiring that the hearings proceed and that any other steps be taken with all possible expedition.
(P.L. 1974, ch. 100, § 14; P.L. 1995, ch. 163, § 1; P.L. 2013, ch. 243, § 3; P.L. 2013, ch. 490, § 3.)