Thursday, July 16, 2015
An appeals court panel on Wednesday reversed a Supreme Court decision that Orange County won in a dispute with a Kiryas Joel property owner over whether a 1.5-acre slice of roadside that the county seized for road improvements was worth $33,000 or $1.1 million.
The county took the land through eminent domain to smooth a dangerous curve on County Route 105 and did the work in 2006, but wound up in a costly, heavily litigated dispute with landowner Irving Bauer over how much the county must pay him. State Supreme Court Justice James Brand, presented with wildly disparate estimates, sided with Orange County's estimate of $33,000 instead of Bauer's $1.1 million.
More than two years later, a panel of Appellate Division judges reversed that decision and ordered the case returned to Supreme Court "to recalculate the value of the subject property." The judges concluded that the county had undervalued the property, but pointed out that the court "was not bound to accept" Bauer's appraisal either.
The disputed land is a corner of 70-acre, wooded peninsula of Kiryas Joel that Bauer has owned since 1989 and that now makes up the last major swath of undeveloped land in the densely populated Hasidic community. Bauer had calculated during that trial more than 1,000 condominiums could be built on his entire property at Kiryas Joel-style density and that just half of that land was worth around $27 million.
Orange County is waging a separate court fight with Kiryas Joel over who must pay the county's legal bills for the condemnation case, which totaled about $490,000 as of June.
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