In what may be the largest eminent domain verdict in county history, a Franklin County jury last week awarded a Washington man $1.2 million in connection with the taking of his property for the Highway 100 widening project.
The jury deliberated approximately 50 minutes in the case of State of Missouri, ex rel. Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission vs. James C. Krafft, trustee, et al., before rendering the verdict in connection with the condemnation of an approximate 29-acre tract of land on the north side of Highway 100, east of the Route 100/East Fifth Street intersection.
The case was tried over two days, Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, before Associate Circuit Judge Dave Hoven. The verdict was $937,500 higher than the $262,500 the state paid to the court in 2008 after that amount was set by a panel of appointed commissioners.
Both parties filed exceptions to that award which led to the trial last week. The case involved testimony on the value of the land that was impacted in the case.
Washington Attorney Steve Kuenzel, who represented the property owner, said the damages encompassed the actual taking of about 2.6 acres, the economic loss to the remaining 26 acres in the parcel, an area taken for a temporary construction site during the construction of the highway project and the economic damages associated with the loss of a billboard on the property.
“The actual taking for the widening of Highway 100 was only 2.6 acres,” Kuenzel explained, “but in a condemnation case the jury has to look at the damage done to the entire parcel.”
Philip E. Morgan Jr., who represented the Highway Department in the case, said it was unlikely that the state would appeal the verdict. He declined further comment on the case. Kuenzel said that one of the main points of contention in the case was over how a proposed second entrance or connecting entrance to the property would be impacted by the condemnation which was essential to developing the site as a shopping center.
“Our position was that in today’s world, all retailers want two entrances to their site for fire and safety reasons and so if there is an accident, and one of the entrances is blocked, the shopping center isn’t shut down for business. The state took the position that the placement of the connecting road where we had it was not practical according to its engineers,” Kuenzel explained Friday.
Kuenzel said that the state could have designed the highway widening project differently to avoid last week’s verdict.
“In my opinion MoDOT had an opportunity to work with Jim Krafft to preserve the most valuable use of his property which would have included the connecting entrance and they made a conscious decision not to work with him,” Kuenzel added.
According to Kuenzel, the jury heard expert testimony from the state that the damage to the property was $254,000. He said that his expert testified that the damages amounted to $945,000.
Kuenzel said that Jim Krafft also testified in the case. He valued the economic loss to his property at $1,745,000.
Kuenzel tried the case with the assistance of Colleen Kuenzel of his law firm.