Last week, the New York Appellate Division, Second Department, affirmed a condemnation award of $7,855,200 plus interest for just compensation to Split Rock Partnership for the taking of its property. In Matter of Western Ramapo Sewer Extension Project, Index No. 2013-03693, 2014 NY Slip Op 05889, decided August 20, 2014, the appellate court held that the measure of damages must reflect the fair market value of the property in its highest and best use on the date of the taking, regardless of whether the property is being put to such use at the time of the taking.
Split Rock owned 64 acres of vacant land in the Village of Hillburn, Rockland County, New York. In November 2004, Split Rock entered into a contract for sale to sell the property to developer, Wilder Companies. The sale was never completed as Rockland County Sewer District No. 1 acquired the subject property using its power of eminent domain in February 2005 to construct a new sewer processing facility.
The Court concluded that Split Rock satisfied its burden of demonstrating that the highest and best use of the property was for the commercial development of an office center and that the trial court had properly considered the "unconsummated Wilder Contract" for sale as admissible evidence of the subject property’s value. The Court also noted, that Split Rock's knowledge of the potential condemnation prior to executing a contract for sale of the property did not demonstrate that Split Rock acted in bad faith or simply to inflate the value of the property.
Additionally, the appellate court held that the Supreme Court correctly exercised its discretion in preventing two of the Sewer District’s witnesses from testifying at trial because the District failed to comply with the court rules requiring the timely disclosure of expert witnesses. Remember friends as we've learned from our late night viewing of Law & Order, the "Supreme Court" in New York refers to the trial court and the "Court of Appeals" refers to the state's highest court.
The case was tried and appeal argued by OCA New York Member Michael Rikon, a partner of Goldstein, Rikon, Rikon & Houghton, P.C., a law firm founded in 1923 which limits its practice to the representation of private property owners in eminent domain matters.
Read the firm's press release about the decision here.