By Pam Recksiedler Barnard
When we talk about right-of-way (ROW), where do we begin? While ROW has many positions that work together, each has different responsibilities. From the initial start of a construction project, we move through the planning, surveying, engineering and development phases, and finally end up with ROW. With that in mind, I am going to approach ROW as a known, simple concept: ROW staff does everything and anything to prepare for purchasing property for easements.
Finding and hiring skilled staff licensed in appraisal, real estate and/or title abstracting can be a challenge. Having a multitude of licenses and cross-training in different disciplines is imperative to providing services to a client in an efficient and effective manner. That’s how we help projects stay within budgets and meet deadlines. Ongoing education, mentoring and teaching provides ROW staff with the skills needed and required for these positions.
Additional training that is beneficial, but not widely recognized, is voice intonation, which words are used and body language. Most people are aware of the far-reaching outcomes these subtle actions can have, but few deliberately time and energy using these methods to communicate with a property owner to respond positively to what is being asked of them.
Many of us have used these techniques on our children with varying results. I call it “becoming a chameleon.” While maintaining a professional attitude, you can create a positive connection with a property owner. This builds trust within our guidelines, and establishes a relationship with both the client and the property owner.
Since ROW is one of the final steps in the process of a construction project, this adds a degree of difficulty to the process. Delays in the construction timeline could provide a roadblock, which in turn affects the timing, activities and achievements needed to complete the proposed work.
Many laws and regulations govern the work of a ROW professional. The most common is the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP). Additional regulations include:
- 40-year title research (client-driven)
- Easement writing (survey-driven)
- Negotiations, acquisitions and closing (legal-driven)
- Relocation, governed by the federal Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970
These laws and regulations have evolved over time to preserve the integrity and equitable treatment of those affected by a project ensuring fair treatment of everyone involved in the ROW process, including the ROW agent. The standards, laws and guidelines ensure the work is done without coercion, favoritism, preferential treatment, discrimination or prejudice.