A jury awarded a Jersey Township woman $2.3 million Thursday for 8.9 acres of land taken by the Ohio Department of Transportation for the Ohio 161/37 widening and relocation project.
Mildred Fry, 74, lost the land from the middle of her 32-acre farm at the southwest corner of Beech and Dublin-Granville roads. She was awarded compensation that included $1.5 million for land and structures removed and $830,000 for damage to land not taken.
Fry’s attorneys, William Goldman and Michael Braunstein, convinced the Licking County jury of their case in Judge Thomas Marcelain’s courtroom in Common Pleas Court. ODOT had offered $657,450. The lawsuit was filed in 2005.
“I don’t believe she got a nickel more than it was worth,” Goldman said. “Her land and future financial security were substantially disrupted by ODOT’s taking of her property. We are delighted that the jury agreed that Fry needed to be fairly compensated.”
ODOT District 5 spokeswoman Cindy Brown said ODOT’s offer was based on the opinion of a certified appraiser and ODOT believed its offer was fair. Brown said ODOT has not made any decision on whether to appeal the verdict.
Goldman said the major difference between the two sides was the potential commercial use of the land, located adjacent to New Albany, just down the street from utilities and in an area that would be commercial.
The ODOT offer was not an attempt to cheat Fry or deliberately undervalue her land, Goldman said.
“ODOT had an appraiser who felt his was correct,” Goldman said. “It was an honest difference of opinion. This was not an exceptionally unusual case.”
ODOT offered $30,000 per acre and she won $165,000 per acre, Goldman said.
Fry lost a house, fitness center, barn and all of the property’s access to Ohio 161. She still owns 10 acres north of the land taken and 11 acres to the south.
She has since moved to live with her daughter and granddaughter, Goldman said.
Goldman and ODOT will meet again in Licking County Common Pleas Court, on April 30 and May 10 in front of Judge Jon Spahr, in other cases involving land taken for the Ohio 161/37 project.
Newark OH Advocate: http://www.newarkadvocate.com