By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
A jury ruled in favor of the city of Starkville in an eminent domain case against a local man yesterday at the Oktibbeha County Courthouse.
The city brought a case against J. Prate Montgomery Sr. to determine the amount he should be compensated for two easements on his property for the installation of a sewage line from 2006. The city initially offered Montgomery $1,808 for the easements, an offer he rejected because he said he felt the land was worth much more.
The property in question is located between Highway 25 and Bluefield Road. The city needed to give the Cornerstone Industrial Park, which borders Montgomery’s property, access to a sewer line. According to testimony from Doug Devlin, the Starkville public service director, the city looked into a number of different options so to be least invasive to Montgomery’s property as possible. The final plans were to install the line from the northwest corner to the west border of Montgomery’s property.
There were two easements in the project. The first was a temporary construction easement that was 40 feet wide across 1.01 acres, while the second is a permanent maintenance easement is 10 feet wide across a quarter of an acre. Montgomery still owns the land, but the city is allowed to come onto the property if any maintenance is needed on the sewer line.
Real estate appraiser Stewart Stafford appraised the portion of land at $1,808. Montgomery argued that because a portion of his land — approximately 600 feet which borders Highway 25 — is zoned as commercial land, the value of the land should be closer to $15,000 based on a previous real estate sale he made.
However, Stafford said that the area of land is clearly in a residential zone bordering Bluefield Road and is within the set back area — an area of land within 30 feet of a road that cannot be built upon according to city ordinance — thus devaluing the land.
The jury returned with a verdict in under half an hour and sided with the city. The city will pay Montgomery $1,808 for the easements.