In a monumental victory for property owners in a 10 year running inverse condemnation dispute, our clients have been awarded $5.1 million against the County of San Bernardino. The London Group were expert witnesses and provided analysis, consultation and valuation services.
Since the mid 1990’s, the County was interested in realigning an intersection in the City of Colton, and in order for the County to do so; it required them to target portions of the plaintiff’s property for acquisition. In 1997, the County acquired a portion of the subject property with rights of temporary use and occupancy for 6 months. The County confirmed that acquisition was under threat and in lieu of condemnation, and as part of right of way acquisition, the agreement provided construction easements for 6 months beginning at the commencement of the road construction and ending upon completion, but no later than December 31, 1998.
As of December 31, 1998, the County’s construction had not commenced and the rights of temporary use and occupancy had been terminated. The County continued to promise that the right of way would be completed and that the temporary rights of use and occupancy were still required by the County; although they never acquired these rights. While they continued to have access and construction began, the subject property was not developable even though the property owners continued to pursue development.
Ultimately, the County delayed construction of the realignment project until June 2007 (realignment was complete in October 2008) and during construction, approximately 40% of the subject property was used by the County. Despite representing on more than one occasion that a fence would be erected to protect plaintiffs’ property, the County failed to do so and currently, the property is damaged due to slopes erected on the remainder of the property by the County’s project. The County recognized damages but the Plaintiff’s contended that the damage, including the use, occupancy and damage of the subject property as well as the inability to develop the site, is well in excess of the County’s opinion of compensation.
The London Group conducted supply and demand studies as well as general market analysis for various proposed land uses on behalf of the plaintiffs. These studies analyzed medical office, general office, retail and hotel development at the subject site; located in the City of Colton. This inverse condemnation case proved that the County of San Bernardino was responsible for the delay of the proposed road realignment at this location. If the realignment would have been completed when promised, the subject property could have been purchased and developed during the peak of the market.
Based on our market analysis, we determined that the subject property could have accomplished any of these land uses (medical office, general office, retail and hotel); some land uses better than others, and based on our understanding of the ownership of the property, we determined that the owners would have had a developable or marketable property during the peak market period; 2000 to 2006. Due to the taking of the land from the County, delay of construction, and uncertainty of the construction timeline and the County’s development strategy, past development opportunities and offers by other individuals/developers could not be solidified.