Judge Rules in District’s Favor on Final Skyland Eminent Domain Case
In other judicial news, the city has cleared its final eminent domain hurdle in its effort to redevelop the Skyland Shopping Center in Ward 7.
Mary Rose Greene owned 8.5 acres of property located a block from Skyland. In 2005, the city offered her $943,000 for seven acres of that property as part of its Skyland development. Greene wanted more, so she hired an architect to draw up her own development plans for the property to demonstrate its worth. (She acknowledged in her deposition that those plans were "only for the purposes of this litigation.")
Before the architect completed the plans, the city sued to seize the property. The city and Greene each hired an appraiser to evaluate the property. The city appraiser found it to be worth $1.85 million, while Green's appraiser put the value much higher, at $9.56 million. At the May 2011 trial, the jury sided with the city, so Greene appealed. The D.C. Court of Appeals issued its ruling in favor of the city on Thursday.
"Setting aside her challenge to the trial court‟s subject matter jurisdiction, which we reject," the three appeals judges ruled, "Ms. Greene's central claim is that she was inadequately compensated for two reasons: (1) the trial court did not permit her to present evidence of severance damages — i.e., evidence that the taking reduced the value of her untaken land — and (2) the trial court improperly restricted her expert appraiser‟s testimony. We find no merit to these arguments."
Greene's argument for more money was based partly on the idea that by severing these seven acres from the remaining acre and a half of her property, the city was reducing the potential development value of the remaining land. The Appeals Court rejected that argument. Greene did not develop her land, leaving it, according to the court report, "wooded, undeveloped, and unused."
Unless Greene appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court, the District can go ahead with its Skyland plans, which include Walmart as the anchor tenant, and Greene walks away with just shy of $2 million.
“Now that the D.C. Court of Appeals has ruled, the final step for this last remaining case at Skyland is for the appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States clock to run out,” Jose Sousa, spokesman for the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, told Michael Neibauer, who just beat me to this story. “That will occur 90 days from the date of this order (unless otherwise extended). After that, the District will have concluded all outstanding litigation at Skyland.”
Correction: This post initially referred to Craig Iscoe as the judge who wrote this ruling. He is in fact the Superior Court judge who earlier ruled in the District's favor. We regret the error.
Skyland photo by Darrow Montgomery