State court upends ruling
Landowner's win over VDOT overturned by Supreme Court
Front Royal campground owner Gloria Marcon’s courtroom win over the Virginia Department of Transportation in an eminent domain case has been overturned by the state Supreme Court.
The court ordered the case sent back to Circuit Judge Ronald Napier for unspecified further action. For now, Marcon has lost an opportunity to force VDOT to pay her far more than the $55,000 she was to receive from the agency for 1.2 acres of land on which VDOT recently built a longer and higher bridge on U.S. 340.
A jury in Warren County Circuit Court awarded Marcon the $55,000 in 2015, about double the amount VDOT considered the land to be worth but much less than what Marcon had been seeking. Napier later overrode the jury verdict with a decision that would have allowed a retrial or an out-of-court settlement, either one of which would have given Marcon a chance to obtain the $197,300 she believed the land to be worth.
Marcon, 90, owns the Gooney Creek Campground about five miles south of Front Royal off of U.S. 340.
She contends that the bridge has ruined much of the value of her campground, which occupies a total of about 13 acres. She has cited increased highway noise, loss of privacy at campsites and increased difficulty reaching the campground from Stonewall Jackson Highway.
Marcon reiterated Tuesday that access to the campground isn’t what it was before VDOT reconfigured access to her property as part of the bridge project.
“It has hurt business because they come off the wrong land, and they get mixed up and turn around,” Marcon said of prospective campers. “Everybody hates that driveway.”
The Supreme Court rendered its decision with almost no comment, except for a few brief lines of legal wording and a fleeting reference to a recent court decision that appears to have guided its collective thinking about the Marcon case.
Attorneys from both sides said they were unsure of what will happen to the case when it returns to Warren County, but Marcon may be left with no choice but to accept the $55,000 jury award.
VDOT’s attorney, Mark A. Moorstein of Gainesville, said the likeliest outcome will be confirmation of the jury award, “and then the case will be over.”
“We think that’s what the result should be,” Moorstein said.
Virginia Beach attorney Steve Emmert, who represented Marcon before the Supreme Court, said the court decided the case without taking briefs or hearing oral arguments, a departure from its usual practice. Emmert speculated that a case decided in June, VEPCO vs. Hylton, raised similar issues that led the court to forgo further explanation in Marcon’s case.
“I guess they felt the issue had been fully adjudicated in Hylton case, and they didn’t feel the need to go over it again,” Emmert said.
Moorstein defended VDOT’s work on the bridge as a benefit for Marcon’s property that has made it easier to reach the campground from the highway.
“I think VDOT has done a great job on the entrance, and I think anybody who would take a ride down there would say it’s an improvement on the previous entrance,” Moorstein said.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org
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