Appraisal process to start in Fred Meijer River Valley Trail lawsuit

By Ryan Jeltema • Last Updated 11:22 am on Thursday, December 01, 2011

WASHINGTON — The process of appraising properties involved in a federal lawsuit over the Fred Meijer River Valley Trail is under way.

The U.S. Department of Justice Natural Resources Section and Missouri attorney Mark “Thor” Hearne, who is representing landowners along the trail, agreed to a schedule Wednesday for appointing an appraiser.

A U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Edward Damich in Washington, D.C., ruled on Oct. 25 that dozens of landowners along the trail are eligible for financial compensation from the federal government.

Damich’s opinion says the government unlawfully took the land by allowing the trail to be developed when it should have reverted back to the landowners after Mid-Michigan Railroad stopped using it.

The appraiser will be determining the value of parcels without the trail passing through them and the value with the trail. The government could be required to pay the difference to the landowners.

Hearne and Justice Department attorneys each will submit lists of appraisers to each other by Dec. 30 and interview potential appraisers from Jan. 3 through 13.

Appraisal work could begin in January if the landowners and the government jointly agree on a single appraiser to work for them. Both sides have 30 days after the appraiser’s report is filed to accept or reject the valuations.

Further proceedings would be required if either side rejects the appraisals.

Hearne has said the financial judgment could be substantial.

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