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A room with no view: Homeowners back in court over dune project p2

We are continuing our discussion from July 14. The subject is a real estate dispute about the value of property and what makes property valuable, especially in the context of an eminent domain action. The property in question is a beachfront home. The home is located in a township that itself is one of a few townships on a barrier island.

The communities banded together to work with the Army Corps of Engineers on a dune-building and sand-replenishment project. When completed, the higher dunes and deeper beaches would protect the businesses and homes on the island from storm damage, particularly damage from storm surges. The problem for this house and its owners was that the higher dunes blocked part of the view.

So many little things add to or detract from the value of a home. Here, the homeowners and the township agreed that the view was a valuable part of the home. What they did not agree on, though, was how much that view was worth. The town's estimate was much, much lower than the homeowners' -- $300 versus $500,000.

The homeowners took the town to court. The town's argument featured the testimony of an expert who believed that the work the Army Corps of Engineers did actually increased the property's value. The homeowners asked the court not to allow this testimony at trial. They argued that the dune work had provided "general benefits" to everyone in the community, so the value of those benefits should not be considered when calculating the impact of the project on the homeowner's property value.

The judge agreed, and the jury did not hear the testimony. The jury ended up awarding the homeowners $375,000 to compensate for the lost view.

The town appealed the verdict, saying that the expert testimony should have been allowed. The appellate court didn't buy it and found, again, for the homeowners.

That was six months before Hurricane Sandy made landfall and tested the newly rebuilt dunes and deeper beaches.

We'll wrap this up in our next post.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Dune Project Award Sent Back for Recalculation," Chris Fry, July 10, 2013