Land grab! Is INDOT giving fair market value?

Reporter: Liza Danver
New Media Producer: Nick Storm

The I-69 extension project may be costing some Indiana residents more than others.

INDOT, the Indiana Department of Transportation, is buying property to build the interstate. One landowner who's been through this process before believes the price the state is offering is unfair.

When Jerry Lehman bought his land 30 years ago, he didn't think it would become part of a highway. A few years back INDOT told Lehman they needed to buy some of his land, but Lehman says the state's offer was 50 percent less than a court appointed assessor said it was worth, and Lehman believes tri-Staters facing I-69 buyouts are getting the same low estimates.

Lehman took the state to court and won. ALthough he didn't get paid until the two year long court battle was over.

Jerry Lehman, says, "You can fight this thing, spend attorneys fees and its going to be years before you get your money and they know that, and they take advantage of that."

Lehman says he's lucky because the state didn't take his home, but the same may not be true for the folks we've told you about in Gibson County, who have to move to make room for I-69. Jerry says these families usually can't wait for lengthy court proceedings, they need money to buy a new house.

Jerry Lehman, says, "There's a lot of things about this that aren't fair."

Kent Ahrenholtz, INDOT spokesman, says, "The reason they use independent appraisers to do that work is to make sure they get the property at fair market value."

Most homeowners we've talked to believe INDOT is not giving them a fair price for their property. Although some are willing to make concessions, saying it's the price of progress.

INDOT says it's buying some 400 parcels of land for the I-69 extension. Construction is expected to begin next year.