Jury: Sale of land was fair

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Milton School District will not have to pay any more money for land it bought through eminent domain after a 12-member jury decided Friday that the district paid the fair market value for the land.

The jury deliberated in Rock County Court for less than 30 minutes, unanimously ruling the district-appraised value and sale price of $620,000 was the fair market value at the time of the sale on Aug. 30, 2006.

The value of the 24 acres west of the high school was set by county condemnation commissioners.

The former landowners—Rollin Natter of Milton, Charles Thompson of Wisconsin Dells and Bette Shadel of Janesville—argued their appraisal valued the land at $977,900.

Milton school officials and their attorney, Robert Krohn, said the verdict reflected their appraised value.

“It shows that the legal process works, and both sides conducted themselves appropriately,” Superintendent Peg Ekedahl said. “And we’re glad that we can now move on with the use of the land.”

A new high school to deal with the district’s expanding student population is planned for the site.

The district has proposed spending $60 million to $80 million to build the new school. The school board this week approved an architectural firm to begin preliminary design work but has not announced a date for a referendum.

The district bought the land west of the high school under the eminent domain law, which allowed it to take the property for just compensation even if a landowner is unwilling to negotiate a price for its sale.

Judge James Welker instructed jurors that their only decision to make was the fair market value of the land on Aug. 30, 2006.

The plaintiff’s attorney, Ben Southwick, asked the jury in closing statements to return a verdict in the “vicinity” of their appraised value, which was $357,900 more than the paid price.

Shadel, a former landowner, said she was very disappointed in the jury’s decision.

“I felt that in a lot of ways the school district was not really fair with us,” she said.

Following the two-day trial and verdict, Shadel said she didn’t know what, if anything, was next for the former landowners.

Last updated: 8:57 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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