On August 20, 2014, the New York Appellate Division, Second Department, affirmed an award of $8,100,000 for just compensation to Split Rock Partnership for the taking of Claimant’s real property. The advance payment was $244,800. The decision can be found here.
Claimant owned 64 acres of vacant land in the Village of Hillburn, which is located in Rockland County. In February 2005, Rockland County Sewer District No. 1 acquired the subject property by condemnation for the construction of a new sewer processing facility.
The Appellate Division 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. The Court held that Split Rock demonstrated that the highest and best use of the property was for the commercial development of an office center. The Court also held that the trial court had properly found that an unconsummated contract of purchase was admissible as evidence of the subject property’s value. Furthermore, the Court noted, the fact that Split Rock knew of the potential condemnation prior to executing the contract did not demonstrate that the property owner entered into the contract in bad faith for the purpose of inflating the value of the subject property.
The Appellate Court also held that the Supreme Court providently exercised its discretion in precluding two of the Sewer District’s witnesses from testifying at trial based on non-compliance with the court rules requiring disclosure of expert witnesses. Additionally, the Court held that the trial court properly exercised its discretion in making an adverse inference against the Sewer District because of the destruction of draft appraisal reports by its appraiser and draft feasibility studies prepared by its civil engineering firm.
Goldstein, Rikon, Rikon & Houghton, P.C. represented Claimants Split Rock Partnership in its trial and appeal.