Thursday, November 19, 2009

VDOT Sues Daycare Center

From today's Richmond Times Dispatch comes an editorial blasting the Virginia Department of Transportation(VDOT)
"Two years ago, as Angela Pellerano of WTVR first reported, the City of Richmond asked VDOT to acquire part of Beavers' property -- about half the front yard -- so German School Road, which could use widening, would get some. VDOT offered the underwhelming sum of $6,683. Beavers made a counter-demand: $30,000.

So VDOT took her to court, filing for condemnation under the state's eminent-domain power. It wound up losing badly. A jury ordered VDOT to pay Beavers and her business partner -- her mother -- $52,216.

The agency should have quit while it was behind. Instead, it has appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court. So far, VDOT has shelled out almost $61,000 in attorney and appraiser fees. Why isn't the attorney general's office, which is a shop full of house lawyers for the state, handling the case? Because there are too many condemnation cases and not enough lawyers to do the job. For decades, condemnations routinely have been farmed out to attorneys in private practice.

State Senator Mark Obenshain attacked VDOT saying:
"Not only did VDOT fail to take the "fair compensation" requirement seriously in this eminent domain fight, but the Department now appears on track to pay considerably more in court costs -- to say nothing of the fair-market value of the seized property, which the court will likely order them to pay -- than they would h...ave by offering a reasonable sum in the first place.

This isn't about whether the taking is permissible; it appears to be a relatively clear-cut case where the state is permitted to use its eminent domain authority. The constitutional requirements don't end there, though: just compensation is also required. By trying to circumvent that obligation, the Department has made life miserable for a day care facility -- and is wracking up a far larger bill for the taxpayers to pay in the process!"

Your tax dollars at work.


dennis said...

How could this happen? Here's why. The incentives in Virginia favor litigation instead of mediation. There's no financial incentive for VDOT, or the private attorneys it hires for condemnation, to settle cases.
In Virginia property owners must pay their legal fees when they fight back. So, even when they win in court, they are never made whole because the expenses come from their final just compensation award. In Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Washington and Wisconsin the state must pay legal fees when the state low-balls the property owner, as was done in the Leave it to Beaver case. Repeated attempts to change this system have been defeated in Richmond by VDOT and its network of allies.
Dennis Hartig

Virginia Gentleman said...

Thanks for your comment. I wholeheartedly agree.