City blows eminent domain proceeding, losing lots: Hillsdale NY Independent, 2/8/07

By Diana Ladden

Edward Keegan, Sr. has regained title to land on North Fifth Street [in Hudson NY] he lost to the city as the result of an eminent domain proceeding.

The city initiated eminent domain proceedings in 2004, characterizing Mr. Keegan's lots at 61-65 and 67-69-71 North Fifth Street as urban blight. The eventual seizure of the lots, which the city wanted for low-income housing, was upheld by an appeals court last year. But the whole case has now unraveled because of a procedural error by the city, said Mr. Keegan's lawyer.

As the case made its way through the appeals process, the city filed an updated appraisal required by the court, but it failed to meet the deadline set by law. The city's appraiser Anthony Concra was unable to attend court, having been called away on a family matter. According to Mr. Keegan's lawyer, Andrew Howard, the city's lawyer, Robert Gagen, then withdrew his case.

The matter was dismissed with prejudice, which means the city cannot pursue its claim to the lots.

According to Mayor Richard Tracy, Mr. Gagen informed him during the hearing on the case Wednesday, February 7, before state Supreme Court Judge Christian Hummel, that the judge would not grant a postponement and that an affidavit given by Mr. Concra was not accepted.

"Our appraisal on the property was $100,000," said the mayor. "Our lack of an appraisal left us with the option of paying $293,000 for the property, the amount from the Keegan's appraisal." The mayor said the city was not prepared op pay the higher price for the properties.

Mr. Keegan expressed both delight and surprise at the latest turn of events, adding, "But I'm sure the taxpayers won't like the end result. They have to pay my legal fees for the last four years."

Mr. Howard said Mr. Keegan was never formally offered compensation for the properties. The city had an appraisal done in June 2004, but it was never updated.

The deadline for filing updated appraisals was last December 1. "The city tried to file their appraisal from 2004 on the eve of the evaluation hearing, but it was not only late, but outdated," said Mr. Howard.

Mayor Tracy called the situation frustrating. "I hope Mr. Keegan will do what's right and pursue the necessary improvements to these properties," he said

Hillsdale NY Independent: http://www.zwire.com