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McCrory owners may not object

City possession process to potentially be simplified

The owners of the derelict McCrory’s building on 11th Avenue apparently don’t intend to file preliminary objections to the city’s declaration of taking on the property.

That might simplify the process of obtaining possession — but without guaranteeing that the city can take control immediately, according to the city solicitor.

If the 30 days for filing expire Friday without an objection, the main issue will be payment of just compensation, said Tom Finn at a City Council meeting Monday. Council members reiterated their concern that the building won’t be salvageable unless it’s stabilized before winter.

“(But) just because 30 days have expired, we don’t get to march in there and do whatever we want,” Finn said afterward.

If no preliminary objections are filed by Friday, the city could make an offer of “estimated just compensation” — an amount “the condemnor reasonably believes to be fair based on appraisals” by one or more experts, according to information from the law firm Lamb McErlane of West Chester in an article on eminent domain.

Further, the city can ask the court for a “writ of possession” if the old owner refuses to allow the takeover, according to information in the article.

In practice, however, there can be complications, according to Finn.

One of those is documenting just compensation, he said.

The owners have obtained an appraisal but haven’t shared it with the city — although he’s taken legal steps to get a copy, Finn said.

That appraisal would help provide a basis for the city to judge how far apart the parties might be on the worth of the property, officials said.

The city may have commissioned its own appraisal, although Finn declined to confirm it.

“I don’t have an appraisal in my possession,” he said.

If and when the city makes an offer, the owner can accept or reject it, and if the owner rejects and refuses to turn over the property, the city can ask the court for a possession order, Finn said.

But that means filing a petition, the service of that petition on the old owner, and if the owner contests the matter, the scheduling of arguments and a hearing by the court.

All of that takes time, he said.

Once he sees the appraisal from the owners, he’ll have a better idea how long it may take for the city to get control of the building, Finn said. It would be simpler if the parties come to an agreement on the amount to be paid.

If the parties can’t come to an agreement, the matter can go to a board of view, Finn said.

Either party can request a board of view, and that request must be made within six years of the declaration of taking or the payment of estimated just compensation, according to Lamb McErlane.

There’s one attorney and generally two real estate experts on the board, appointed by the court, Finn said.

The board takes testimony, listens to expert opinions, then comes to a recommendation on fair market value under current conditions, Finn said.

Either party can appeal the board’s ruling to Blair County Court.

The judge would not be bound by what the board recommended and could hold a fresh hearing, Finn said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 814-949-7038.

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