Category: Lowball Watch

No Springtime for Hitler in Austria, or, How Do you Say “Lowball” in German?

The New York Times brings the dispatch that the Austrian government took the house in Braunau am Inn in which Adolph Hitler was born, after years of unsuccessful negotiations with its owner. The government used a compulsory purchase order and awarded the owner the equivalent of $350,000 for the three-story apartment building. The owner sued to prevent the taking, but lost. She then sued for additional compensation in the District Court in Ried im Innkreis, which awarded the equivalent of $1.7 million, which was the exact amount claimed by the owner and testified to by her appraiser, and almost five times the amount of the government offer.

The purpose of the taking was to prevent the building from falling into the hands of neo-Nazis who might use it to celebrate Hitler’s memory. The actual future use of the taken building is unclear at this time. We gather from the Times write-up that the answer to this question is something of a hot potato as far as the Austrian government is concerned: Preserve it and risk being accused of perpetuating Hitler’s memory, or raze it and be accused of tampering with Austrian history.

For the Times story go to https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/07/world/europe/hitler-austria-house.html   It contains a picture of the subject property.

Afterthought. A well informed colleague has called our attention to a New Jersey case that echoes this one. No, no Hitler involvement in that one, but New Jersey courts have approved the taking of private property ostensibly for open space (even though the township had no plans  to put  the property to recreational uses after its taking). In other words, the New Jersey taking was  for the purpose of preventing a developer/land-owner from constructing perfectly legal homes because they would be “affordable to upper income families” but not serve the “public interest” of lower priced “assisted living facilities” or multifamily housing rather than one-family homes. Which inspires us to ask: if that is the law of New Jersey, then what the hell is the purpose of zoning laws which permits the construction of detached single-family homes, if the courts can by their subjective say-so require that those laws be ignored for the avowed purpose of judges engaging in subjective social engineering?

See Mt. Laurel Township v. MiPro Homes, 878 A.2d 38 (2006, N.J. App. Div.) affirmed 910 A.2d 617 (2008, N.J.).

Lowball Watch — Pennsylvania

The York Dispatch reports that the Commonwealth Court has affirmed a jury award of $1.25 million for the taking of a 2.9-acre parcel of land with an old, former prison building on it. The Redevelopment Agency paid the owners $65,000, the amount awarded by commissioners. But after a trial, the jury took only 30 minutes to bring it its $1.26 million award.

According to our calculator, that jury award comes to almost 20 times the city’s offer.

Liz Evans, York City Must Pay $1.25 Million For Old Prison Property, Appellate Court Finds, York Dispatch, March 14, 2018. https://www.yorkdispatch.com/story/news/local/2018/03/14/york-city-must-pay-1-25-m-old-prison-property-appeals-court-affirms/425532002/

Lowball Watch — Virginia

The Roanoke Times reports that in a taking for road improvements the Virginia DOT offered the owners “less than $1 million,” but a “special jury of landowners” (commissioners?) awarded $1.18 million for the part taken, plus $ $1.94 million in severance damages. After trial, the case settled for a total of $2.97 million.
Laurence Hammack, VDOT Agrees to 2.97 Million Settlement in Dispute With Botetourt County Landowners, The Roanoke Times, June 14, 2017.

http://www.roanoke.com/news/local/botetourt_county/vdot-agrees-to-million-settlement-in-dispute-with-botetourt-county/article_7d32a6c0-71a4-53f3-bda2-077ff9143df1.html

Lowball Watch — California

Word reaches us from San Diego that the Tri-City Medical Center has decided to abandon a condemnation action it had filed earlier to take a three-story medical office building in Oceanside. The condemnor deposited $4.7 million, but after trial, a jury awarded $16.8 million, and the trial court also awarded litigation expenses in the amount of $2.2 million. See Paul Sisson, Tri-City Says It Wants to Abandon Eminent Domain Fight, San Diego Union, Dec. 19, 2016,

http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/health/

The unusual twist in this case is that the owners seek to prevent the condemnor from abandoning and are filing an appropriate motion with the court. They argue that under the circumstances, an abandonment of the condemnation action cannot restore the owners to the status quo ante. So far, the condemnor has spent some $2.6 million in litigation expenses of its own on this litigation.

More is certain to come, so we will try to keep an eye on this one. Stay tuned.

Lowball Watch — Arkansas

ArkansasOnline.com/news of October 21, 2016, reports that the State Highway and Transportation Department, having deposited $639,000 into court, but having been confronted with the owners’ appraisal of $1,600,000, thought better of it and settled via a consent judgment for $1,525,000.

The initial bone of contention was that the State’s initial deposit failed to take into account the substantial impairment of access to the remainder caused by the partial taking, and the loss of parking on the remaining land, after the partial taking.

http://arkansasonline.com/news/2016/oct/21/land-suits-costing-state-city-after-i-4/?f=news-arkansas

Lowball Watch — Virginia

The Roanoke Times reports the settlement of an eminent domain case. Couple, City of Radford Settle Eminent Domain Case, Aug. 28, 2016. http://www.roanoke.com/news/local/radford/couple-city-of-radford-settle-eminent-domain-case/article_8172b94f-39a5-5a5d-b5be-07827446fafc.html

The city originally disregarded severance damages, even though the taking moved a driveway off the owners’ property.

The city’s offer was $2128, but the settlement, entered into on the eve of trial, was $21,000 — about 10 times the offer.

Lowball Watch — Pennsylvania

The Central Pennsylvania Business Journal of August 5, 2016, reports that a local jury awarded $1,250,000 to a property owner for the taking of his property, after the owners rejected the city’s offer of $60,000. The story does not report what legal or factual issues divided the parties. The city vows to appeal.

See http://www.yorkdispatch.com/story/news/2016/08/05/city-pushes-new-trial-after-125m-verdict/88307564/

Lowball Watch — Utah

Http://Fox13now.com reports (Mark Green, “Court Affirms Prior Judgment, UDOT Ordered to Pay $15 Million in Eminent Domain Case, 6/24/2016) that after offering a property owner $5.2 million (without severance damages) Utah DOT took 63 acres out of a 350-acre larger parcel) for a highway. After trial, the court awarded $9 million for the part taken, plus $4 million in severance damages, plus about $1.9 in interest, for a total of $15,014,933.

 

Lowball Watch — New Jersey

NJ Advance Media for N.J.com brings the dispatch from Essex County, new Jersey, that a local  jury just awarded a property owner $2.9 million in an eminent domain case. The city of Bloomfield took the owners’ property — a commercial parcel that the owner meant to develop — in order to develop it itself. The taking took place in 2012.

The case went to trial two years later. The city’s appraiser testified to a value of $440,000 and the city argued that the parcel could not be developed. The jury disagreed and brought in a verdict for $2,900,000 — or, 6.5 times the city’s evidence. The owner’s trial counsel was Anthony DellaPelle of McKirdy & Riskin, a law firm in Morristown, New Jersey.

See  http://www.nj.com/essex/index.ssf/2016/06/town_must_pay_29m_for_property_seized_via_eminent.html#incart_river_home

 

Lowball Watch — North Carolina

Word reaches us that in a case in New Hanover County, North Carolina, involving the taking of the property of a building supply company, the state DOT presented evidence of $303,000 as just compensation (and later offered $700,000). The owners demanded $1,000,000 to settle. After trial, the jury verdict came to $2,995,000 — the amount of the owners’ evidence. After adding interest the total award came to $3,426,000. That’s over eleven times DOT’s original offer.