Saturday, December 1, 2007

Landowner wins $37 million taking award

The owner of 24 oceanfront acres in the City of Half Moon Bay won a $36.8 million Inverse Condemnation award on Thursday (Nov. 28, 2007) following a nine-day trial in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The City had -- by "borrowing dirt" from the property in 1983-84 -- created man-made wetlands on the property. It then refused to repair the damage it had done, then refused to allow the owners to repair the damage.

In 1990 the City approved a tentative subdivision map for the property. In March 1991, the City imposed a 4-month development moratorium while it improved its sewer system. To pay for the upgrade, Plaintiffs were hit with a $962,988 sewer connection lien in 1994. After 11 extensions of the "4-month" sewer-based moratorium, it ended on March 31, 1998 (7 years later). The actual STP expansion was not completed until November 1999.

In May 2000, the City rejected Plaintiffs' application for final approval to build the subdivision, because "new wetlands" (that the City had created) had "suddenly appeared" since 1990. (Readers will kindly note the passage of 16 years since the City created the "new" wetlands.)

On Nov. 28, 2007, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker entered a 167-page Order styled "Findings of Fact & Conclusions of Law," holding the City of Half Moon Bay liable for the "taking" of the subject property, determining the compensation to be paid to Plaintiffs as $36,795,000, plus interest, attorney fees, and expenses. The Court also enjoined the City from collecting any future payments on the sewer connection lien.

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