Tuesday July 13th, 2010 informationliberation.com
After long battle, Developer settles eminent domain case at over $6 million dollar loss: "I hope that they all choke to death on their victory." (Washington Examiner)
I havent been down [to the property] since [the sanitation authority] took control of it, said Charles Hooff III. Im just too bitter. (Andrew Harnik/Examiner)

The Alexandria Sanitation Authority has agreed to pay a group of local property owners an additional $16 million for land the city agency seized using its eminent domain powers.

The settlement comes after more than three years of court battles between the sanitation authority and the land's previous owners, who are led by local real estate developer and longtime Alexandria resident Charles Hooff III.

"I think that their original appraisal was so flawed that even they recognized that it was ridiculous," Hooff said of the sanitation authority's initial $20 million offer.

The city agency in December 2008 took ownership of the 10-acre parcel -- near Eisenhower Avenue and the Capital Beltway on the city's south side-- and announced plans to use the plot for a new water treatment facility.

The agency paid the owners $20 million for the property based on an independent appraisal. Sanitation officials said at the time that "as a responsible steward of public funds" they would not pay more.

But the land's former owners -- a group of four Alexandria families that had owned the property for decades -- said the $20 million appraisal was absurd, and said previous appraisers had estimated the plot to be worth between $42 million and $51.5 million.

Hooff said private buyers were making offers in excess of $40 million before the threat of the eminent domain seizure scared them away.

The Alexandria families took the sanitation authority to court seeking what they said was the property's at least $40 million value. But after years of postponed court hearings and hefty legal bills, the $36 million settlement offer was too much to pass up.

"We had $2.5 million already tied up in this damn suit, and we would have burned another $500,000 a week in court," Hooff said.

He and the other owners chose to settle.

"It's over. And I wish [the sanitation authority] the worst of luck," Hooff told The Washington Examiner on Thursday. "I hope that they all choke to death on their victory."

Edward Semonian, chairman of the Alexandria Sanitation Authority, said in a statement: "We believe the agreed compensation is a fair price for both parties. We are glad this matter is now resolved."

A spokeswoman from the sanitation authority declined to comment beyond the published statement, and calls to the agency's attorney were not returned.