April 14th, 2010 — By — In News & Events

“Most condemned property in America” in court today

The Jennings Family farm house

Left: The Jennings Family farm house, built in 1810, sits near the banks of the New River and is nestled under VDOT’s I-77 overpass that spans the New River in Max Meadows, Virginia. It’s hard to imagine that the bridge at one time did not exist and that this family home once enjoyed peaceful and private times without the noise and debris of passing interstate traffic.

Photo credit: Jeanna Duerscherl, The Roanoke Times
Last month we posted “Virginia farm may be ‘most condemned property in America’” about Edd Jennings and his family’s 300 acres farm that has been condemned for easements and other public uses by state agencies and utility companies on 10 different occassions since the 1970s.  Today Edd Jennings, who is part owner of the property with his brother, Gordon, and attorney Joe Waldo (Disclosure: Joe Waldo is OCA’s Virginia member) are in Wythe County Circuit Court arguing their claims of inverse condemnation against the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).

In the 1970s VDOT condemned portions of the family’s land to construct the I-77 overpass (pictured above). Recently, VDOT made improvements to the I-77 bridge, which VDOT performed without requesting an additional easement on the Jennings property, such as a temporary construction easement or other negotiated use.  However, Jennings’ inverse condemnation complaint alleges that the repair project itself caused damaged property which amounts to an inverse taking.

Circuit Court Judge Joey Showalter ruled against VDOT’s motion to dismiss in 2009 and will hear testimony today and tomorrow regarding the property owners claims of inverse condemnation, arguing that private property was taken for public use without payment of just compensation. If Judge Showalter rules in favor of the property owners, the case will move forward to a valuation trial.  Virginia law provides that a jury shall determine the amount of just compensation in an eminent domain/inverse condemnation action.  It will be

See Peace cut to pieces: Wythe Co. landowner seeks justice in eminent domain case for more background on the history of condemnations of the Jennings property and additional images of what eminent domain looks like to these property owners.

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