Fox Rothschild Achieves $17.25 Million Victory for Eminent Domain Client in York CountyJuly 18, 2008
Fox Rothschild LLP won a $17.25 million jury verdict for client Peter Alecxih – a high-end custom home developer – in a controversial eminent domain case that has played out in York County, Pennsylvania, over the past four years. The award was $15.25 million higher than the County’s original offer when it seized the land. The award is believed to be one of the highest ever awarded in an eminent domain case in the Susquehanna Valley.
The case involved a 79-acre tract of land known as Highpoint. The land, which was taken in May 2004 by the County for use as a park, has been called the finest piece of land for residential development in the Susquehanna Valley, thanks to unparalleled views of the Susquehanna River.
Alecxih purchased the land in 2002 for $1,755,000 with the intention of subdividing it. He obtained final subdivision approval for 51 lots, arranged for public water and public sewer to the site, and obtained all other approvals necessary to develop the property for 51 high-end luxury homes of superior quality. Prior to seizure by the County, Alecxih had sold two of the 51 lots for a combined total of $950,000.
“The County’s original offer of $2,000,000 was obviously not fair market value for this land as of the date of seizure,” said Herb Bass, Fox Rothschild’s lead attorney on the case. “We brought in appraisers, area builder/developers and an area bank executive who all agreed that the property was worth much more – at least $16 to $17 million.”
Working on behalf of Alecxih, Bass and his team of Fox Rothschild attorneys took the case before the Board of View – a three-member hearing board appointed by the County. After several months and many days of hearings, the Board of View awarded Alecxih $10.5 million.
“It still wasn’t enough,” Bass said. “Our client had received nearly $1 million for two of the 51 lots. If that trend continued as the property was developed with homes, the land was worth a good deal more than what the County had paid. We knew we had to continue to fight for our client.”
For its appeal from the Board of View award, the County hired a new attorney who then retained three new appraisers. The County appraisers valued the property at $7.5 million, $7.9 million and $7.95 million, respectively. Based on those appraisals, the County paid Alecxih an additional $5.5 million over the original $2 million – for a total of $7.5 million – but Bass and his team were unwilling to budge, holding steady at a request for $17 million.
Bass, along with Fox Rothschild attorneys Marc Needles, David Snyder, and Brett Berman, took the case to trial. After presenting the testimony of various witnesses who valued the property between $16 and $17.775 million, the jury returned a verdict in Alecxih’s favor of $17,250,000.
“No one wants to have their land taken away – whether for the purpose of a park or a highway,” said Bass. “The jury recognized that our client’s development opportunity was worth far more than the County contended it was worth. We’re extremely pleased with the result.”