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United States v. 17.83 Acres of Land

ELR Citation: 28 ELR 21132
Nos. 97-1466, 139 F.3d 897/(4th Cir., 03/18/1998)

The court holds that owners of property atop South Mountain in Washington County, Maryland, were not entitled to an increase in the amount awarded them in a condemnation proceeding. The property owners contend that the district court erred in granting the U.S. government's motion in limine seeking to exclude evidence of a telecommunications tower as the highest and best use of the mountain property. The court first holds that the property owners' failed to show that the highest and most profitable use of their property would be as a telecommunications tower site because they failed to demonstrate that such use was either physically or economically feasible. The property owner's proffered the testimony of three experts regarding the potential value the property had as a site for telecommunications towers. None of the proffered evidence showed how much it would cost to convert the property from its current use as a recreational property to one suitable for a telecommunications tower. Without showing the cost of development, the property owner's contention that a telecommunications tower would be profitable is conclusory. Furthermore, without electrical power, which the property lacked, such use is merely speculative and not reasonably probable.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Ronald M. Spritzer
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000

Counsel for Defendants
Gorman E. Getty III
Law Offices of Gorman E. Getty III
23 Washington St., Cumberland MD 21502
(301) 777-8032

Before Hamilton, Williams, and Butzner, JJ.