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Court of Appeals Unanimously Sides with the District, Clearing the Path for Skyland to Move Forward

Friday, December 14, 2012

Court of Appeals Unanimously Sides with the District, Clearing the Path for Skyland to Move Forward

WASHINGTON, DC – A ruling by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals last week effectively brought to an end the litigation that has held up the Skyland Shopping Center redevelopment in Ward 7, litigation that has saved more than $9 million in land costs for the project, Mayor Vincent C. Gray and Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan said today. In the final case last week, a three-judge panel of the court unanimously upheld a jury verdict that rejected a demand by Mary Rose Greene for nearly $10 million for her property, the last remaining portion of the land to be developed. Ms. Greene could within 90 days of the decision seek review by the U.S. Supreme Court and unless such review is in the Supreme Court’s discretion granted, the case is over.

With the litigation against the former owners and shopkeepers concluded, the District will be able to make significant strides in this economic redevelopment project that is projected to create hundreds of jobs, provide affordable housing opportunities, and encourage private economic development in this struggling District neighborhood.

The District filed its first land acquisition cases in the area in 2005 to determine just compensation for Ms. Greene and other property owners. The litigation was complex, involving a dozen different cases in both federal and District courts.
        
After taking over the Skyland litigation in 2007 from the old National Capital Revitalization Corporation (NCRC), the Office of Attorney General worked to strengthen the District’s litigation position, developing and filing takings cases that had been left undone by NCRC. After years of discovery proceedings and opposition from landowners, the District was ultimately victorious in defending the constitutionality of the takings in all cases.

The District obtained high-quality expert appraisals that helped lead to favorable results by settlement or trial. Superior Court juries rendered verdicts that were at or very near the District’s position on the amounts of just compensation for property owners.

In the latest case, the Appeals Court said, “Ms. Greene was given a full and fair opportunity to present evidence to the jury regarding the value of her taken property, and the jury’s rejection of [the] almost ten million dollar price tag for her land cannot be attributed to any procedural deficiency at her trial.”
Attorney General Nathan commended lawyers William D. Burk and Edward (“Ted”) Henneberry of his office’s Commercial Division, who handled the trial work in the cases, and their supervisor, Susan Longstreet, and the Office of Solicitor General’s lead appellate attorney in the Greene case, Carl J. Schifferle, working with Solicitor General Todd S. Kim and Deputy Solicitor General Donna M. Murasky.

Nathan said, “Our lawyers’ efforts in the Skyland litigation were truly exceptional. Over seven years, our attorneys had to overcome scores of procedural obstacles and other legal challenges. We are pleased that we finally have prevailed with results that were fair to the District’s taxpayers as well as the landowners, paving the way for a high-quality, multi-use project east of the Anacostia River.”

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