VDOT settles in eminent domain lawsuit

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Back on June 20, Old Dominion Demolition’s Dan Crispino told WAVY.com he’s tired of getting jerked around by the Virginia Department of Transportation. Well, he fought hard, and along with the help of 10 On Your Side, things are looking up.

“They’re dragging their feet. I’m dying. They aren’t doing right,” Crispino said in June.

Crispino claims VDOT was making it difficult for him to continue operating his business while they dragged their feet in giving a fair offer for his land, which is needed for the Martin Luther King Expressway project in Portsmouth.

For two years, Crispino’s been fighting VDOT for fair compensation of his land. They only wanted to pay for the part they needed to build a bridge across the middle of his property. The bridge will take drivers from the MLK Expressway to Interstate 264. The property on either side of the bridge would be worthless property, Crispino said.

Crispino’s attorney, Joe Waldo, who is nationally recognized for his expertise in Eminent Domain cases, agreed.

“It would be like if I cut the bottom of this tie off and said I’m only going to use the bottom of this tie and I’m only paying you $2 dollars for it. Well, you’ve ruined the whole tie,” Waldo said.

VDOT has to pay for the whole tie, and following 10 On Your Side’s reports, Waldo said VDOT got the message that fair is fair.

WAVY.com also reported about how VDOT was slow in reimbursing Crispino for his moving expenses, forcing him to come out of pocket, and not reimbursing in a speedy manner. But watching 10 On Your Side’s report was Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne.

“They were dead wrong on the value, and there was no way a business could move over night. 10 On Your Side brought that to the attention of the public, and I think VDOT saw that … We do know Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne saw it on television. He told us he saw it on television. I have to believe when the public knows what’s going on, that is good for government,” Waldo said.

In an agreement approved last Friday, VDOT’s first offer of $125,607 is listed for the part they wanted, and below that, the new payoff for Crispino is $925,000 — almost nine times what was first offered.

The attorney representing the Commissioner of Highways, David Arnold, did not return WAVY.com’s phone call for comment. So, we asked Waldo how there could be such disparity between VDOT’s first and last offer.

“I think what it shows is the government is not always right … they threw that first appraisal out after Dan Crispino brought it to their attention, and we showed them it wasn’t right,” Waldo said.

Crispino will also get quicker reimbursements for moving expenses to a his new business site in Chesapeake, and he gets to keep the land that VDOT doesn’t want. Waldo said in the end, Dan Crispino just gavel a civics lesson.

“You can fight City Hall,” Waldo said. “You can fight the government and win, and that’s the only way you will get justice is to stand up, and you have to fight for it.”

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