Jury sides with VB landowner

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Tuesday night, late after the Virginia Beach courthouse was closed, a jury decided how much Jim Ramsey’s land was worth.

Ramsey had his land taken by the Virginia Department of Transportation five years ago. The land was used to make room for the London Bridge off-ramp from Interstate 264.

“I’m disappointed, naturally,” Ramsey said.

Disappointed, because after two days of testimony the jury decided the land VDOT took was worth less than what he was first offered.

10 On Your Side featured Ramsey in a special investigation of VDOT’s property acquisition process. Ramsey was just one of several property owners who lost land to VDOT for road projects. He like, the many others, was given a first appraisal, and when he decided to fight it, VDOT came back with a second and much lower appraisal.

Property owners believe it’s all part of a bully tactic to get owners to settle.

“It certainly is not,” said Richard Bennett, VDOT Director of State Right Away. “These are the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and my staff is out to negotiate and to treat everybody fairly.”

The Ramseys land was first appraised at $248,000. That money was given to the couple and invested. The second appraisal was only $92,000.

Tuesday, the jury decided the land taken was worth $234,000 — much higher than what VDOT said the land was worth.

“The jury saw that VDOT was low balling the Ramseys,” attorney Jeremy Hopkins said.

It would be a win for the Ramseys expect VDOT threatened to make the Ramseys pay back any money if the verdict came back lower than $248,000. And it did.

10 On Your Side asked Tom Busch from VDOT if there were any plans to make the Ramseys pay back the money.

“No comment,” Busch said walking out of the courthouse.

“I don’t have that money,” Ramsey added. “It’s been invested, so I probably will have to get a loan to pay back the money they offered me to start with.”

“This is exactly what VDOT hopes for,” Hopkins said. “If they come in with a low ball number, they hope the jury will come back somewhere in the middle. We’ve yet to begun to fight. This case here will change the law in Virginia.”

Hopkins wants the General Assembly to change a law that does not require VDOT to tell the jury how much the property was originally appraised for.

The Ramseys say they do plan to appeal the jury’s decision.

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