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landowner wins eminent domain case

Thursday, July 06, 2017 15:34 PM
Written by Stan Maddux
Category: Local News

The state has been ordered to pay a Westville woman more than four times the amount given to her for land used to widen a stretch of U.S 421.
A LaPorte Circuit Court jury awarded Janet McNair $254,388 in a June 28 decision before Judge Tom Alevizos.
The Indiana Department of Transportation exercising its eminent domain rights acquired the frontage of her property in 2010 to widen U.S 421 to four lanes between the north and south junctions of Indiana 2.
According to court documents, the land totalling just over 10 acres consisted of 85 feet of frontage on the west side of the highway and 75 feet of frontage on the east side of the highway.
INDOT went through with the acquisition as they're legally entitled to do but McNair challenged the $60,500 given to her for the property.
She was asking for close to $900,000 for the ground adjacent to 150 acres of land her family has farmed since the 1960's.
The state's offer was based on the average of three separate appraisals.
Her attorney, Greg Kuchel of Schererville argued the land was much more valuable because it was commercially zoned in an area with existing retail development and great potential for additional growth.
He also said more than 15,000 vehicles a day travel that stretch of highway designated by the town of Westville as a future high growth area.
Kuchel said the state ordered appraisals were based on frontage of other properities within a 10 mile radius not properly suited to base the value of his client's ground.
One site toward Union Mills had no development nearby and only a bumpy gravel road alongside it while another parcel in the Wanatah area was unlikely to see any future retail or office space development because of industrial buildings on the site.
''We're comparing I think the phrase is apples and oranges,'' he said.
Kuchel also alleged the appraisers used by the state although viewed as independent were too connected because of previous work they performed for INDOT.
''I think that affected their valuations,'' he said.
Christopher Serak, legal counsel in the case for the Indiana Attorney General's Office, argued the appraisals were done by independent and experienced professionals.
He also said frontage alone is not very valuable unless it comes with the land attached to it.
''Who's going to say I want to buy just this strip of property,'' he said.
Serak then stated the value of the ground probably ranged from $110,000 to $280,000 with the most accurate figure close to the lower end of that scale.
When reached on Thursday, Serak saying he was prohibited from discussing cases would not reveal if the decision will be appealed.
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