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Property owners consider appeals

Bennets ‘very disappointed’ in appraisals of land taken for AMED substation

Two property owners whose land was taken by eminent domain for AMED’s new substation and headquarters building on Shand Avenue in Lakemont may appeal a board of view order for payments equal to AMED’s appraisals because appraisals done for the property owners were a combined $56,000 higher.

The three-person board of view OK’d a payment of $60,000 for Thomas Bennett and $45,000 for his brother, Victor, matching the AMED appraisals done by Richard Johnston of Howard Hanna Johnston Realty.

Christopher McCartney of Clyde E. Yon and Associates appraised Thomas’ property $26,000 higher and Victor’s property $30,000 higher than the amounts set for AMED.

“We’re seriously looking at appealing this for both parcels,” said the Bennetts’ attorney Tom Finn.

Such an appeal would go to the Blair County Court of Common Pleas, where a judge would hear testimony from the appraisers — before a jury if either side requests, Finn said.

His clients were “very disappointed,” Finn said.

“We don’t believe it represents adequate compensation by any stretch,” he said.

Asked the board of view’s rationale for siding strictly with the AMED appraisals, Finn said, “that’s a question I have as well.”

“I can’t read their minds,” he said. “Apparently they found the (Johnston) report more persuasive.”

The main difference between the two appraisals were the “comparable” sales they cited, Finn said.

Both experts appraised the properties on the presumption that the highest and best use was residential, despite commercialization that has occurred on Park Avenue, he said.

AMED initially sought to acquire the properties by negotiating with the Bennetts.

After negotiations broke down, the board authorized a declaration of taking in February.

After the sides couldn’t reach a compensation settlement, the Bennetts petitioned for the board of view in May, according to documents on file in the county prothonotary’s office.

The board of view held a hearing Aug. 9 and filed its ruling Sept. 11, according to AMED solicitor Dan Stants and Finn.

Board of View Chairman Allen Gibboney was unavailable for comment late Tuesday afternoon.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.

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