Category: Fair Market Value

He saw his land go, and now VDOT wants dough

Imagine losing land to the state so it can build a road, then being told to return $158,000 because, on second look, the government says the property was worth less than it thought.

That’s the scenario facing James and Janet Ramsey in their legal fight against the state highway department. The case, which goes to trial Monday in Circuit Court, highlights what eminent domain lawyers say is a common practice by VDOT to pressure property owners into settling.

What VDOT does is allowed by law. James Ramsey, a retired Virginia Beach city employee, called it appalling.

“You can’t buy something and go back five years later and say you want half your money back,” said Ramsey, 65. “For them to pull a trick like that is just outrageous.”

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Partner Darius Dynkowski Featured on dbusiness magazine “View From the Top” podcast!

“View From the Top” Ep. 31 from Specs Howard TV on Vimeo.

Many hurdles remain if Michigan and Ontario are to build a bridge over the Detroit River connecting Detroit and Windsor, not the least of which is acquiring homes and businesses at fair market value in the affected area near I-75 and Dragoon, says Darius Dynkowski, a partner with Ackerman Ackerman & Dynkowski in Bloomfield Hills, a law firm specializing in eminent domain.

Fair Market Value in a Down Market

These are difficult times to ascertain values. Residential values have fallen from 30 to 60 percent of the “abnormal” peaks seen a few years ago. In the past six months, previously flat retail/commercial rental rates have fallen as much as 35 percent in many areas. The decrease leads to even more substantial losses in value, given the retention of fixed costs in the face of decreasing variable rents.

In the condemnation setting, most jurisdictions utilize a date of taking premised upon the date in which title vests. Jury instructions contemplate the valuation as of a specific date. This presents a situation in which the potential for a much lower value, premised upon the value of a specific property on a specific date, exists. Yet, for the parties, precise relocation as of the date does not occur.

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