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Ramsey v. Commissioner of Highways

Supreme Court of Virginia

April 16, 2015

JAMES M. RAMSEY, JR., ET AL.
v.
COMMISSIONER OF HIGHWAYS

FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT FOR THE CITY OF VIRGINIA BEACH. William R. O'Brien, Judge.

L. Steven Emmert (Jeremy P. Hopkins; Brian G. Kunze; Sykes, Bourdon, Ahern & Levy; Waldo & Lyle, on briefs), for appellant.

Trevor S. Cox, Deputy Solicitor General (David Oakley; James Webb Jones; Mark R. Herring, Attorney General; Jeffrey M. Bourne, Deputy Attorney General; Jeffrey R. Allen, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Christopher D. Eib, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Poole Mahoney, on brief), for appellee.

Amicus Curiae: Owner's Council of America (Jeffrey M. Summers, on brief).

OPINION

Page 488

CLEO E. POWELL, JUSTICE

PRESENT: All the Justices

James M. Ramsey, Jr. and Janet D. Ramsey (" landowners" ) appeal from a final order entered April 21, 2014 in a condemnation proceeding instituted against them by the Commissioner of Highways (" Commissioner" ).

I. BACKGROUND

In 2009, the Commissioner sought to acquire a .387-acre portion of landowners' property to facilitate road improvements to Route 264 in the City of Virginia Beach, Virginia. Before making an offer, the Commissioner ordered an appraisal of the property as outlined in Code § § 25.1-204 and -417. Thomas M. Savage (" Savage" ) completed this appraisal on August 24, 2009, valuing the entire property before acquisition at $500,000, and just compensation for the to-be acquired portion, including damages, at $246,292. The Commissioner then attempted to purchase the property directly from the landowners, but was unsuccessful.

On December 7, 2009, the Commissioner filed a Certificate of Take with the trial court, certifying that the Commissioner deposited $248,707 with the clerk of court as the Commissioner's estimated fair value of the property sought to be acquired. The landowners withdrew the money from the clerk of court. On June 4, 2010, the Commissioner filed a Petition in Condemnation, seeking an order confirming that the title to the desired portion of property vested in the Commonwealth, and requesting that a jury ascertain the value of the property.

The Commissioner hired Lawrence J. Colorito, Jr. (" Colorito" ) to conduct a second appraisal of the property because Savage had retired. Colorito completed his appraisal on September 5, 2012. He testified as an expert witness at trial February 10-11, 2014. Colorito assessed the market value of the landowners' property at $250,000 and just compensation for the acquired portion, including damages, at $92,127. Due to the fact that the Virginia Department of Transportation (" VDOT" ) had already completed the improvements to Route 264 on the property, Colorito adopted a $3,000 value of landscaping from Savage's appraisal into his own appraisal.

During trial, the landowners sought to have Savage's appraisal admitted into evidence. The trial court denied admission of the appraisal, but allowed limited cross-examination of Colorito regarding the existence of Savage's appraisal and Colorito's adoption of the landscaping value from Savage's appraisal. Landowners proffered testimony that the only places in the Savage appraisal where the $3,000 figure appeared were on pages 2 and 32. Notably, the pages also contained Savage's determination that the value of the land was $7 per square foot and that total estimated market value of the property to be acquired was $246,292. The trial court excluded these pages from evidence.

Also during trial, the landowners proffered that the Commissioner gave them the Savage appraisal showing that their entire property was valued at $500,000. The ...


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