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Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon v. Walnut Hill, LLC

Court of Appeals of Oregon

June 20, 2018

TRI-COUNTY METROPOLITAN TRANSPORTATION DISTRICT OF OREGON, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
WALNUT HILL, LLC an Oregon limited liability company, Defendant-Respondent.

          Argued and submitted November 8, 2016

          Clackamas County Circuit Court CV12110510; Jeffrey S. Jones, Judge.

          Keith M. Garza argued the cause for appellant. With him on the briefs were Law Offce of Keith M. Garza and Erik Va n H a gen .

          Neil N. Olsen argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief were Brian J. Best and Zupancic Rathbone Law Group, P.C.

          Before DeHoog, Presiding Judge, and Hadlock, Judge, and Aoyagi, Judge. [*]

         Affirmed.

         [292 Or.App. 418] Case Summary:

         In this condemnation action, Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet) appeals, among other things, a general judgment refecting a jury's fair market value determination. TriMet contends that the trial court erred by denying its motions in limine and excluding evidence that a trust that owned Walnut Hill also had ownership interests in neighboring properties. TriMet argues that the evidence would have shown that its acquisition of interests in the Walnut Hill property did not decrease the value of the remainder of the property as much as it would have otherwise. Held: The trial court did not err. The ownership evidence that TriMet proffered would not have supported, or been otherwise relevant to, a nonspeculative argument about what a hypothetical purchaser would pay for the property.

         [292 Or.App. 419] HADLOCK, J.

         As the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet) prepared to construct the Portland-Milwaukie light-rail line, it acquired interests in certain properties that the new rail line would cross or otherwise affect, condemning some property interests pursuant to the General Condemnation Procedure Act, ORS chapter 35. Among the affected properties is the one at issue in this case: a corner lot located on SE Monroe Street in Milwaukie (the Walnut Hill property) owned by Walnut Hill LLC. TriMet acquired both a temporary construction easement on part of that property and a permanent dedication of a strip of the property that runs along SE Monroe Street. In this condemnation action, TriMet sought to establish that the fair market value of those property interests was $19, 700. Walnut Hill LLC asserted that the condemned property interests were worth substantially more. The case went to trial and a jury returned a verdict valuing the acquired interests at $118, 117. That award was reflected in a general judgment and, in a supplemental judgment, the trial court awarded Walnut Hill attorney fees and costs.

         On appeal from both judgments, TriMet contends that the trial court erred by excluding evidence that a trust that owned Walnut Hill LLC also had ownership interests in some neighboring properties; according to TriMet, that evidence would have shown that its acquisition of interests in the Walnut Hill property did not decrease the value of the remainder of the property as much as it would have otherwise. We disagree with TriMet's contention that the ownership evidence was admissible for the purposes for which TriMet offered it. Accordingly, we reject the three assignments of error in which TriMet challenges the trial court's evidentiary rulings and seeks reversal of the general judgment. We therefore also reject TriMet's fourth assignment of error, which is based solely on TriMet's assertion that it will be entitled to reversal of the supplemental judgment awarding attorney fees and costs if its "appeal from the general judgment is successful." Consequently, we affirm.

         For purposes of this appeal, the pertinent facts are undisputed. The Walnut Hill property consists of a [292 Or.App. 420] single-family residence on a roughly half-acre lot. George and Marie Corti acquired the property in the 1950s and used it primarily for residential rental. When the couple died, the property transferred to the George Corti Trust, for which the couple's children are cotrustees.

         The north side of the Walnut Hill property borders SE Monroe Street (which runs east to west) and most of the west side of the property borders a railroad right of way. Before the light-rail line was constructed, vehicles could be parked on or adjacent to the property in three ways. First, through a licensing agreement, vehicles could be driven across the railroad right of way to the back (south portion) of the property. That licensing agreement was terminated in association with construction of the light-rail line; termination of the agreement is not pertinent to the issues on appeal. Second, vehicles could park along SE Monroe Street, along the north edge of the property. Third, a single-car garage was located on the property, with a driveway that provided access from SE Monroe Street at a curb cut.[1]

         TriMet did not condemn the entire Walnut Hill property in association with constructing the light-rail line. Rather, TriMet generally acquired two property interests: (1) a temporary construction easement, and (2) a permanent "dedication in lieu of fee" of an east-west strip of land at the north edge of the property, along Monroe Street. TriMet also constructed a new retaining wall on the property, which is sloped. As a result of those actions and others, vehicles may not lawfully be parked on SE Monroe Street in front of the property. In addition, the curb cut for the garage driveway has been eliminated because of sight-line limitations, rendering the garage essentially unusable ...


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