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June 28th, 2010 — By — In News & Events

Milwaukee VFW eminent domain battle: ‘You can’t fight city hall’

The Daily Reporter (Milwaukee, WI) posted an article June 22 by Sean Ryan detailing the VFW eminent domain case refused for review by the U. S. Supreme Court (see our previous post here). Mr. Ryan’s article ‘You can’t fight city hall’: VFW loses eminent domain battle outlines the history of the case – a near decade long battle waged by the VFW Post 2874 against the Milwaukee Redevelopment Authority over just compensation for the Post’s valuable long-term leasehold. The article also discusses why many eminent domain attorneys believed a review of the case by the Supreme Court was warranted.

As Sean Ryan pointed out in his article, the use of the “undivided fee rule” (or “unit rule”) to value a property taken by eminent domain as one unit despite multiple ownership interests is conflicting from state to state. Courts in some states have required condemning authorities to compensate leaseholders for the loss of a valuable leasehold interest, even if the total amount of just compensation paid exceeded the fair market value of the property. As the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling stands, leaseholders, such as the VFW Post 2874 with a renewable 99 year lease at $1 per year, may be denied just compensation for a valuable ownership interest simply because the property is less valuable than the lease. “[A] Supreme Court ruling on the case could have fixed the inconsistent way courts in different states have ruled when tenants own leases that can be more valuable than the building that a government has acquired.”

“We’re sort of shot down,” said Robert Drakos, commander of Post 2874. “Our group has fought in many wars, and this is, well, you know the old expression, ‘You can’t fight city hall’? But we fought them to the end.”