Jury Supports Appellate Court Ruling in Bloomfield’s Favor on Lackawanna Train Station Property Value

For almost seven years, the Township of Bloomfield has been in litigation over the .62 acre plot of land abutting the NJ Transit Station along Lackawanna Place. The former owner has repeatedly demanded more money that experts and judicial bodies have assessed its value to be. For the second time in 12 months, a judicial body has deemed the former owner’s demands unreasonable.

The property was obtained by eminent domain in June, 2012. Expert property assessors ruled in May 2012 that renovation of the existing train station on the property constituted the highest and best use of the property, and valued the estate at $440,000, an amount the Township immediately offered to the former owner. After the owner contested the property assessment, a panel of court-appointed condemnation commissioners determined the property’s value at $506,433, a number the former owner also rejected, on the assumption that the 3,617 square foot train station, situated on 0.62 acres of land would be a suitable space for a 34-unit development with almost 13,000 square feet of commercial space, and asked for the Township to pay $3,207,000.

At a 2016 trial, the judge precluded Bloomfield Township’s expert witness from presenting evidence that the seven-figure assessment was impractical, and a jury determined that the Township should pay the former owner $2,900,000. In April 2018, following the Township’s appeal of the ruling, an appellate court panel returned the case to the trial court for a new trial. Following a two week trial in December 2018, an Essex County jury returned a favorable verdict for the Township by determining the property’s fair value to be $1.6M.

Both parties have 45 days from the December 19 ruling to agree to terms, or enter more fruitless litigation.

“While we are not happy about the final judgement, we are pleased that this matter is behind us and we can move forward with the renovation of this historic train station,” said Township Administrator Matthew Watkins.

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