County eminent-domain case moves to Phila: Lancaster PA New Era, 10/3/06

Former owner seeking millions in compensation for county’s seizure of ex-Armstrong building on North Queen Street

By Jack Brubaker

Nearly two years ago the Lancaster County Commissioners seized the former Armstrong World Industries building at 150 N. Queen St. by eminent domain.

A year ago the building’s former owner, Dr. Ira Trocki, a New Jersey plastic surgeon, filed a complaint protesting the $8.3 million the county paid for the property. He believes it is worth millions more.

Now Trocki has won a preliminary skirmish in his battle to achieve more compensation from the county.

The county had preferred that the case be contested in Lancaster County Court. Trocki wanted to move the case to federal court “because of the publicity surrounding the taking,’’ according to Trocki’s Philadelphia attorney, Don Foster.

U.S. District Judge James K. Garner, in Allentown, decided recently in favor of Trocki, and the case will be heard in the U.S. District Court for the eastern district of Pennsylvania.

The issue of venue was not decided on its merits. The county’s attorney, Matthew Creme, last year missed a time limit for filing objections to Trocki’s proposal to refer the case to federal court, according to Garner’s opinion.

Now the court will appoint three persons to a Board of View that will examine the property and determine its fair market value.

“We have a significant divergence of opinion on that,’’ Foster noted.

Trocki bought the building in 1998 for $12 million, and Foster said the physician had the property under agreement for sale at $15 million at the time the county seized it.

Foster said he is in the process of obtaining a new appraisal of the property’s value.

Lancaster PA New Era: http://local.lancasteronline.com