Jury in eminent domain trial nearly doubles the bill

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The School District of Beloit is facing a new $382,000 price tag for the Anna Truckenbrod property at 2570 Milwaukee Road.

Jurors issued their verdict Wednesday night on the fair market value of the 4.08 acres of land in the third day of a jury trial in Judge Barbara McCrory’s courtroom.

“The jury is the word of the people and we are satisfied the people have spoken, and we thank them for their service,” said the Truckenbrods’ attorney, Erik Olsen of Eminent Domain Services, upon hearing the verdict.

School District of Beloit Superintendent Steve McNeal, however, said he was disappointed in the verdict for taxpayers. He said he was concerned the jury was not able to know facts on what the district had paid for the other properties adjacent to the Truckenbrod property, which the district purchased.

During their deliberations, the jury had submitted two questions — did the district take more than the Truckenbrod property and what the land would be used for. However, the judge ruled they would be told there is no evidence regarding other property or no evidence provided of what the district is putting there.

“I think the sad part of this is a committee composed of experts in the area of property values during the condemnation process determined a fair market value of $203,000,” McNeal said. “Then you go to trial with jurors who have no background or knowledge of this, are given limited information, no information about the purchase prices of the properties around the Truckenbrod property because of legal limitations and have them make an arbitrary decision based on testimony from witnesses that have no relationship with the Beloit market that use commercial comparables located next to the I-90 corridor as comparables.”

However, McNeal said there would finally be closure on the issue.

“We will build a great school that will represent the Beloit community and School District of Beloit for years to come,” McNeal said.

The following is what the district paid for the other properties: four acres at 1650 Milwaukee Road (Beloit Health), free as there is a shared use agreement; four acres at 2600 Milwaukee Road (Patch property), $100,000; 3.5 acres at 2554 Milwaukee Road (Willis Densch property), $225,000; and 3 acres at 2508 Milwaukee Road (Duane Erschen property), $185,000.

The Truckenbrods had rejected the district’s final offer for their land at 2570 Milwaukee Road in September of 2013. The eminent domain proceedings then went before a Condemnation Commission. The Truckenbrods filed an appeal regarding the three-member Rock County Condemnation Commission’s award of just compensation of $203,000 for their land, a decision rendered on Oct. 3, 2013.

The district plans to build a new intermediate school at the corner of Milwaukee Road and Lee Lane and has said it will need the Truckenbrod property to do it. The school is a result of the passage of the district’s facilities referendum in April of 2012.

The trial began Monday with opening statements and testimony of the Truckenbrod’s appraiser JC Johnson. On Tuesday David Natter, with Natter Commercial Properties LLC in Edgerton took the stand on behalf of the Truckenbrods as well as Anna Truckenbrod. On Wednesday jurors heard from the district’s appraiser James Coutts and real estate developer Joel Patch.

During his testimony Patch said the 4-acre strip of land next to Truckenbrod property was held by the family for 12 years without development. The former McDonald’s property, adjacent to properties his father owned was purchased in 2007 with construction starting in 2013.

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