Lowball Watch – Virginia

We quote without comment the following passage from A. Barton Hinkle, Government’s Mean Streak Shows Up in Va. Beach, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Aug. 5, 2011. For the whole article, click here

“Take a case now playing out in Virginia Beach. In 2009 the city condemned a
spot of beach on the Chesapeake Bay in order to take it for a sand-replenishment
project and public access. According to a December 2008 story in the
Virginian-Pilot, ‘the city wants to dump the sand from the Lynnhaven Inlet
dredging project. . . . Most of the property owners have agreed, and many want
the sand. In exchange, the city is asking the owners to agree that the public
has a right to use the beach for recreation. But some property owners say their
deeds give them the beach.’

“One of the latter group is Tommy Sheets, who owns about a quarter-acre of
beach. The city claimed the property was worth $4,000. But on June 9 of this
year, a jury said the city should pay Sheets $152,000 for his property. In
response, the city has decided — surprise! — it owned easement rights to the
property all along, so it doesn’t have to pay Sheets a dime.

“As Joe Waldo, a lawyer representing the Sheets family, put it recently,
Virginia Beach’s plan to grab the land on the cheap backfired. So now it’s
trying an end-run around its own citizens — not to mention the judicial system
and the city citizens who ruled in Sheets’ favor.

“This is hardly an isolated case. A few weeks ago The Roanoke Times detailed
the case of Ed Jennings, a farmer who has been fighting the Virginia Department
of Transportation off and on for more than three decades. VDOT tried to claim it
owed Jennings nothing for the harm it did him when it rebuilt the I-77 bridge
above his farm, dumping tons of debris onto his property. Judge Josiah Showalter
Jr. disagreed — and a jury will decide what VDOT owes.

“Then there’s the case of Wanda Beavers, who runs the Leave It to Beaver
child-care center in a working-class section of south Richmond. VDOT condemned
part of her property to widen German School Road, and offered the measly sum of
$6,683. Beavers asked for $30,000. The state took her to court instead — and
lost, big-time. A jury awarded Beavers more than $52,000. Add $61,000 in
lawyers’ fees the state had to shell out to fight the case, and the taxpayers
ended up on the hook for almost four times Beavers’ original asking price.”