News From Terre Haute, Indiana

July 16, 2013

Trial on fair market value of land begins

Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — A six-member jury began hearing arguments Monday in a civil trial over the fair market value of an approximately 22-acre site on the southwest corner of Interstate 70 and Indiana 46.

The property has gone through eminent domain as the state of Indiana plans to use a portion of the property as an off-ramp for a reconfigured I-70 interchange that will connect to the 641 bypass.

However, property owners and the state could not reach an agreement in mediation, sending the issue to Vigo County Superior Court Division 2 for a jury to decide the land’s value.

Property owners Dr. Primo A. Andres, Dr. Ramon R. Contreras and Dr. Zenaida M. Contreras contend the property is valued as of June at $1.2 million. However, property owner Sylvia A. Andres, a registered nurse and Realtor for the past 33 years, in testimony Monday, said it was her opinion the property value is $100,000 per acre.

At that price, the entire property would be worth $2.2 million.

The state is contending the land value is far less. Sylvia Andres testified in court that the state’s offer was $325,000 in mediation. At that point, the attorney for the state moved to have that comment stricken and Judge Phil Adler agreed. Adler said the trial was not about prior mediation.

The state contends no commercial development has been done on the southwest corner of the interstate, while the northwest quadrant has developed with a Walmart and several warehouses.

The state also contends a pond on the property makes the land less valuable.

Sylvia Andres said a developer would consider the property with the pond, adding that they are often used as retention ponds. The physician owners sold similar property for the development of Lowe’s and Kmart.

Andres said the group purchased the land at I-70 and Indiana 46 in 1995 as a retirement investment, and based on selling prices of land around Walmart, contend the value was about $100,000 per acre in 2005. However, the group could not sell the land after news of the bypass development four years later and the land was placed under eminent domain.

The state will bring testimony of appraised land values and surrounding property values as the case continues today.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger