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Couple Will Accept $2.2 Million for Land in Roanoke Eminent Domain Case

The Roanoke Times
May 25, 2010
By Sarah Bruyn Jones

Burkholders decide against further appeals in case of land sought by city for research park

Jay and Stephanie Burkholder have decided to end the legal battle to keep the government from taking their commercial property on Reserve Avenue in Roanoke.

The couple said Monday that they will not appeal a Roanoke Circuit Court decision that allowed the Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority to condemn their 3-acre tract of land for a Carilion Clinic biomedical park. The park has since converted into a key to the city’s economic revival based on medicine and biomedical research.

In making the decision the couple will be paid $2.2 million for the property. It’s a sum that a five member jury reached in March after the Burkholders challenged the price the government had offered for the land.

By law the property value had to equal the fair market value for the property on June 29, 2007, the day the housing authority filed the lawsuit to take the land. 

The price tag represents a significant increase in the value of the land since the Burkholders bought it in 1999 for $168,840.

In the end the Burkholders said the decision was a financial one.

"It’s basically a change of finances," said Stephanie Burkholder. "We haven’t changed in our hearts. We’re still very passionate about what they have done to us."

The Burkholders, as the owners of B&B Holdings LLC, said the process of challenging the housing authority’s use of eminent domain to seize their land has cost them nearly $600,000 in attorney and expert witness fees.

"After spending that kind of money and all of this time, we’ve lost our property," Stephanie Burkholder said. "With the economy the way it is we are making the decision we need to make for our financial future."

Both said they still plan to fight for an amendment to the Virginia Constitution in the fall to prevent others from losing their property in similar circumstances.

"I hope it has brought a little bit of awareness to a bad situation that still exists," Jay Burkholder said. "We’re going to try and do what we can to effect some changes in the law. ... We’re reasonably optimistic. Public sentiment is in favor and the current governor and current attorney general are in favor of it."