A Charleston County Circuit Court jury has awarded a realty company $3.75 million in compensation for a 0.55-acre plot of land taken by the South Carolina Department of Commerce to build a railway to support a new port terminal.
The award is more than double the $1.8 million that the Commerce Department’s Division of Public Railways offered to Gateway Properties of Greater Charleston as compensation for the taking, according to a consent order for payment.
The parties disagreed over how best to assess the value of the property. Gateway offered the expert testimony of Thomas Hartnett, a certified general appraiser and realtor who offered an alternative to the state’s estimation of the value of the property. The state filed a motion seeking to exclude Hartnett’s testimony because he employed the “cost approach” to valuing the property instead of using the more common “sales comparison” approach employed by its experts.
Gateway responded that the cost approach, which is often used in cases where there is a paucity of comparable sales to look at, was the most relevant method of valuing the property, because there were no other sales of similar properties in the area where the building sits at 1799 Meeting Street Road.
The company argued in opposing the motion to exclude that Hartnett’s use of the cost approach was superior because it took into account the cost of the “extensive electronic and technological systems” in the building. The court ultimately ruled to allow Hartnett’s testimony, and the jury returned its verdict on March 28.
Karen Manning of the South Carolina Department of Commerce, Keith Babcock and David Paavola of Lewis Babcock in Columbia, and Derek Dean of Simons & Dean in Charleston represented the state. The attorneys did not respond to requests for comment before press time. Trenholm Walker and John Linton Jr. of Walker Gressette Freeman & Linton in Charleston represented Gateway Properties. They declined to comment on the verdict.
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VERDICT REPORT — EMINENT DOMAIN
Amount: $3.75 million
Injuries alleged: Taking of 0.55 acres of land and an office building
Case name: South Carolina Department of Commerce, Division of Public Railways v. Gateway Properties of Greater Charleston, LLC
Court: Charleston County Circuit Court
Case No.: 2017-CP-10-05382
Judge: Alex Kinlaw
Date of verdict: March 28, 2019
Deposit amount: $1.8 million
Most helpful experts: Thomas Hartnett of Mount Pleasant (appraiser) and Steve Morey of Design Build Corporation in Charleston (cost estimate)
Attorneys for defendant: G. Trenholm Walker and John Linton Jr. of Walker Gressette Freeman & Linton in Charleston
Attorneys for plaintiff: Karen Manning of the South Carolina Department of Commerce, Keith Babcock and David Paavola of Lewis Babcock in Columbia, and Derek Dean of Simons & Dean in Charleston