Campground owner disappointed by jury award

 A Warren County Circuit Court jury working into early Saturday morning awarded a campground owner a total of $55,500 for property taken and damages incurred as a result of a state bridge construction project through part of her land.

The jury’s award was more than Virginia Department of Transportation officials wanted to pay Gloria Marcom, 88, the owner of the Gooney Creek Campground, which is five miles south of Front Royal at 7122 Stonewall Jackson Highway.

But the amount was also far less than Marcom had sought, and her attorney, Charles Lollar, vowed to press Circuit Judge Ronald Napier to reject the jury’s findings. Lollar said he also plans to file a motion challenging the legality of the process by which VDOT seized Marcom’s property. Lollar cited errors by VDOT staff that led the agency to underestimate the amount of land appraised in calculating how much money Marcom should receive as fair compensation. The amount of land in question is 8,691 square feet.

An attorney representing VDOT, Mark A. Moorstein, told Napier the error was minor, inadvertent and made in “a good faith effort” to determine fair compensation for Marcom.

Marcom had sought $197,390 from VDOT for the loss of land and the bridge’s financial impact on her 13-acre campground. VDOT’s attorneys and appraiser argued she should receive only $28,500 for 1.2 acres the agency deemed necessary to build a new bridge on Stonewall Jackson Highway. 

The trial, scheduled for two days, dragged on into early Saturday morning before the jury returned a decision after 1 a.m.

Marcom, who has owned the campground for 21years, said the bridge has severely hobbled her ability to draw visitors. The bridge forces campers to cope with traffic noise, loss of seclusion and campsites and inconvenient access to the campgrounds, Marcom said. 

Marcom said in an interview Sunday that construction work, which began in February 2014 and is expected to be completed in October, has also been a burden. Sometimes trailers drive into the campground and drive back out after seeing the construction, she said.

“I have lost business, and nobody seems to care about that,” Marcom said.

The state’s appraiser, Walter Robinson, testified Friday that he saw no basis for awarding any money to Marcom for a loss of business.

Despite her advanced age, Lollar said, Marcom works from dawn to sundown during camping season.

That’s her passion and that’s her livelihood. That’s why she challenged the highway department on that valuation,” Lollar said of his client. “Certainly she feels the verdict means additional money, and she very much appreciates that, but she still feels she is not being made whole.”