Thursday, January 26, 2012

Clark asks for relief from airport verdict: Attorney says Property Owners’ objection not filed in time. Clark Regional Airport (KJVY), Jeffersonville, Indiana.

JEFFERSONVILLE — Clark County is seeking relief from a ruling that puts it on the hook to pay a property owner more than $600,000 for land it took to expand the Clark County Regional Airport.

According to a motion filed in Clark County Circuit Court on Jan. 17, attorney Greg Fifer claims the property owner, Margaret Dreyer, did not file an objection to the original value at which her property was assessed in a timely fashion, therefore negating any other decisions regarding the case made during a subsequent jury trial and appeal to the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Citing Indiana Code, Fifer said, “exceptions to the assessment must be filed no later than 20 days after the filing of the report.”

He said the Dreyers received the assessment from the county on May 7, 2009, by certified mail. Under the 20-day time frame, an objection to the amount offered would have needed to be filed by May 27. Fifer said the exception to the assessment was not filed until July 6, 2009, 61 days later.

Fifer’s motion for relief came less than a week after Dreyer’s attorney, John W. Mead, filed a motion on Jan. 13 to enter judgment against Clark County in order for his client to receive the more than $600,000 awarded to her by a jury.


The land in question, 72 acres along Beam Road, is being sought by the airport for an ongoing project to expand a runway to 7,000 feet. The project is being paid for through $11 million in Federal Aviation Administration grants, with state and local matching funds at 1.25 percent and 3.75 percent, respectively.

Dreyer has received $203,605 for a portion of the property. However, when the remaining acreage was assessed by the county, there was a large discrepancy — nearly $890,000 — in estimated value between what the county said the land is worth and what Dreyer’s apprasier said the land is worth. The difference led to Dreyer filing a suit against the air board, seeking remaining payment for her land.

When the case was heard by a jury, it was discovered that the appraisal conducted on behalf of the air board was not done according to FAA standards, which requires the board to use the “highest and best use” valuation of the property. In this case, the county’s appraiser estimated the value according to agricultural standards instead of light industrial standards, which resulted in a substantially lower dollar amount. In addition, the land was within the floodplain and modifications to raise the property were not factored in when determining the “best value” of the land by the county.

The jury awarded Dreyer be paid $865,000 for the 72-acre parcel, a decision the air board appealed but was later upheld by the state court of appeals late last month.


The Dreyers have received $203,605 for their property and are seeking $661,395 remaining from the jury verdict, along with plus attorney’s fees and interest to-date of $159,324.

But because Fifer’s motion alleges the Dreyers did not object to the original assessment within the timeframe allowed under law, he said the Dreyers are only entitled to the money they have already received for their property and the county should not have to pay the additional $661,395 and subsequent interest and fees because the issue should never have gone before a jury to decide what was owed to the Dreyers for the land.

“My opinion is the court lacked jurisdiction to have a jury trial,” he said.

But Mead said the Dreyers’ objection to the original assessment was clear from the beginning.

“I disagree totally [with Fifer],” Mead said. “I think they objected very early.”

He said the Dreyers submitted a written objection shortly after they were presented with the offer.

According to Clark County Court records, a report of the appraisal was filed April 24, 2009 with Clark County Circuit Court; signed certified mail was received by the court from Margaret Dreyer on May 11, 2009 and dated May 7; and on July 7, 2009 Mead filed defendants exceptions and demand for a jury trial.

Mead said he will file a response to Fifer’s motion some time next week.

However, it could still be some time before the issue is resolved.

Clark County Circuit Court Judge Dan Moore recused himself from further hearings and a special judge will need to be appointed to decide on the newly filed motions.

The county is under a time crunch to get an answer to Fifer’s motion because if the ruling again goes in favor of the Dreyers, additional interest will accrue in the time it takes to hear the legal challenge and payment is required within one year of the verdict.

“If we don’t get that relief judgment it says we have to pay that judgment within one year,” Fifer said of the previous rulings.

He added if the money isn’t paid, the county could lose the land as it would be returned to the Dreyers.

Calls made to air board attorney Jack Vissing, who handled the case on the air board’s behalf through the appeals process, were not returned as of press time.


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