Lowball Watch — Oregon

Word reaches us from Oregon that the Beaverton School District wound up with a $6.7 million verdict against it, on its offer of $1.8 million, for a 15-acre tract of land it took for a school site. See Beaverton School District eminent domain trial ends with $6.7 million verdict, click on http://www.oregonlive.com/beaverton/index.ssf/2014/05/beaverton_school_district_emin_1.html .

The jury deliberated for 10 hours. The jury verdict was 9 to 3. “In addition to the $6.7 million for the 15 acres, the district must cover legal fees for both sides, which could be hefty.” No further details are given.

Lowball Watch — Virginia

Because of its first-person sincere-sounding tale of a citizen’s confrontation with a lowball offer, and its happy ending, we reproduce this story in its entirety.

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Jack Remembers: In eminent domain, if God can be miserly so can elected officials, Richmond News (On line), Apr.25, 2014.

By Jack Hackley

This is an election year and few people realize when they vote for mayor, aldermen, county commissioners and some state officials, they are actually giving these people the right to take their property at whatever price they so desire.

 
It is called “power of eminent domain.” It is the ultimate power we give our elected officials and it should not be abused.

 
Our farm is located on the edge of town bordering I-70.  We have been hit with eminent domain seven times, probably a state record. All have been a disaster, and the last one the worst.  The city of Oak Grove put in a new sewer plant and had to go through a high fertility field on our property with 2,000 ft. of sewer line and five manholes.  For this 20-foot easement and five manholes that we would have to farm around forever, we were offered $145.  The city had paid an appraiser $7,000 to come up with that figure.

 
The mayor at the time had publically stated that God had made all of his decisions pertaining to the city.  After being offered $145, he had almost convinced me that God was a miser.
When I complained to him and the aldermen, they informed me that the city manager was handling this acquisition.  When I went to the city manager, he informed me that since they had to take us to court it was now in the hands of the city attorney and his associates.

 
I was never able to determine what the city paid a fleet of lawyers from Lee’s Summit to go before a Lexington judge to defend the $145 offer.

 
Everyone I communicated with in the exercise of eminent domain across our property, the only fair one was the judge who told the lawyers and the city administrator to go back to Oak Grove and negotiate in good faith.
We had to hire a lawyer and finally received $12,000 instead of $145.

 
So remember when you vote, ask yourself this question: “If this office holder takes my property, will he give me a fair price?”

Jack can be reached at PO Box 40, Oak Grove, MO 64075, or jack@aol.com.  Visit www.jackremembers.com

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Postscript: With all due respect, Mr. Hackley’s statement that government officials can give land owners whatever price they desire for land being taken, is incorrect. As Mr. Hackley demonstrates, you can fight city hall and win. All it takes is a competent lawyer who knows his business, who in this case saw to it that Mr. Hackley was awarded over ten times the amount of money the county offered for his land.

Lowball Watch — The Feds

A tip of our hat to Dwight Merriam for alerting us to a new U.S. Court of Federal Claims decision, Lost Tree Village Corp. v. United States, No. 08-117L, opinion filed March 14, 2014.

This was an inverse condemnation case arising out of the denial of a federal development permit under Section 404, and the valuation figures of both sides painted a stark picture. Following an earlier detour to the Federal Circuit on the issue of liability, once liability was found, and the case went to a valuation trial, the owner contended that the before value (with permit) was $4,285,000, and the after value (without the permit) was $25,000. The government contended for a before value of $3,910,000, and an after value of $30,000.

The court found a taking using the Penn Central three-factor approach, and awarded $4,217,887.93, with attorneys fees to be calculated later. For earlier rounds of this litigation, see 100 Fed.Cl. 412 (2011) and 707 F.3d 1286 (Fed.Cir. 2013),

You can find a link to the entire 15-page opinion in today’s post on Robert Thomas’ blog www.inversecondemnation.com

Lowball Watch — Texas

Digitaljournal.com reports a condemnation case from Cleburne, Texas, as follows. The taking was by Peregrine Pipelineline Co. for a mile long pipeline easement, from Eagle Ford Land Partners. The offer was $80,000. The jury awarded $1.6 million, and after the court added interest, the total award came to $2.1 million. The controversy centered on the presence vel non of severance damages. PR Newswire, Texas Landowners Win $2.1 Million Judgment Against Pipeline Company Over Lower Property Value, March 24, 2014..

 

Lowball Watch — Louisiana

We are informed that in an eminent domain case in Terrebone Parish, Louisiana, the Parish originally deposited $236,492.90, to which it added another $48,7899.18. The case then went to trial where after four days of trial (March 17-20, 2014), the jury awarded additional compensation, bringing the total up to $959,448.23, plus interest as well as attorneys and expert fees to be calculated later.

The case is Terrebone Parish Consolidated Government v. CMM Properties, LLC, No. 165775, 

Lowball Watch — New York

The AAA-Electricians case was a taking of 18.8 acres by the Village of Haverstraw which then transferred the subject land to a developer. The  village offered the owners $3,480,000, and it made an “advance payment” of $2,596,150, claiming a miscalculation. But at trial, the village came in with an opinion of value of $1,512,000, less $512,000 for cleanup. While this went on, the village resold the property to a developer for $3.5 million.

The trial court (there are no juries in New York condemnation trials) found that the village acted in bad faith and awarded $6,500,000 as just compensation for the taking.

On appeal. Held: affirmed.

For a more detailed writeup of this case by Michael Rikon, the owner’s counsel, go to http://eminent-domain-blog.com/appellate-division-affirms-award-in-aaa-electricians/

Lowball Watch — Colorado

Word reaches us informally that the case in Boulder County, Colorado, involving the taking of the old Dillard’s department store in Longmont for redevelopment has been resolved. We lack any details — which we will supply when we get them. But the essentials are that the redevelopment agency offered some $3 million, but after a trial on the right to take (which went in favor of the redevelopment agency) the case settled for over $6 million.

Earlier, a local court ruled in favor of the redevelopment agency on the right to take, with the valuation trial to take place later. But it looks like there won’t be any valuation trial because the parties have agreed on compensation at a figure about twice what the redevelopment agency had originally offered.

The case is Boulder County District Court, Longmont Urban Renewal Agency v. DSS Uniter, LLC, Case No. 13 CV30828.

Stay tuned for the rest of the story.

Lowball Watch — Mississippi

This is quite a story, and it comes to us from Gulfport, Mississippi. Mary Perez, Jury Awards Dedeaux Utility $8.1 Million Plus Interest,  The Sun Herald, Dec., 23, 2013.  This was the third trial, which gives you a hint of what is going on here. In 2004, the city took Dedeaux Utility Co., a local utility, and the jury awarded $3.6 million. The city appealed, and the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed and remanded  for another trial, in which the [second] jury awarded $5.1 million. The city didn’t take the hint and appealed again, getting another reversal from the appellate court, and yet another (third) trial, in which the jury awarded $8,063,981, plus interest.

The Sun Herald story fails to disclose what the city’s offer or evidence was, but it does tell us that the city now owes the Dedeaux Utility Company another $3.6, plus about $3 million in interest. Do you think the city will appeal again?

What is interesting to us is how much money the city and the Mississippi courts have spent to far on this caper, which might give us a clue as to how big this lowball was and whether this game is worth the candle. Maybe we will find out. Stay tuned just in case.

Lowball Watch — Oklahoma

This one’s a doozy. The Associated press (Dec. 3, 2013) reports that  the school board of Jenks, Oklahoma,  offered $395,000 for 12.7 acres of the Taylor’s land, but the commissioners awarded $1.4 million. When the matter was then tried to a jury, it awarded $3.1 million. However, at this point, the trial judge decided that she shouldn’t have permitted jury consideration of the value of billboards on the subject property, so she granted a new trial.  The owner appealed, and the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals reversed the new trial order and reinstated the jury verdict.

So the bottom line of this one is that on the board’s original offer of $395,000, the owners were eventually awarded $3.1 million. They were also awarded interest on the difference between the commissioners’ award (which the board paid) and the ultimate award.

 

Lowball Watch — North Carolina

We are reliably informed of the following settlement of an eminent domain case in Mecklenburg County in North Carolina. N.C. DOT v. Independence Tower Building.

DOT initially offered $256,000 (based on a $231,700 appraisal) for the taking of 0.4 acres out of a 5-acre parcel improved with a 12-story commercial  office building, which reduced parking by 62 spaces, affected  the subject property’s highest and best use, and changed access to it.

When the owners rejected its offer, DOT conducted another appraisal and upped the offer for the taking to $534,200. At this point the owners retained counsel (who pointed out that the rents used by DOT were project influenced).  That revelation  caused DOT to conduct a third appraisal which came to $4,889,425. After further negotiations, final settlement came to $5,228,014.19. In other words, the settlement came to 93 times DOT’s original offer.

The moral of this story is that even if you have reason to think that you are a sophisticated owner of a valuable property, it’s a good idea to retain and consult both lawyers and appraisers who really know what they are doing.