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Madison landlord might sue city (UPDATE)

By Paul Snyder

A Madison property owner is considering suing the city to increase its offer for her Burr Oaks neighborhood apartment building.

The city is offering Nedra Bobo $252,000. She wants $280,000.

“In the end, all we’re asking for is our assessed value,” she said. “We have two years to appeal the offer, and we’re going to exercise every option we have.”

Madison’s Community Development Authority this week is expected to close deals on seven apartment buildings, owned by four people, so the city can demolish the buildings and build a senior-living center. Horizon Development Group LLC, Verona, will develop the project in three phases.

Bobo, as of Monday, was the only holdout of the four landlords. If she doesn’t accept by Wednesday, the city is expected to pay her about $252,000 and take the property using eminent domain.

All four landlords and one CDA member have criticized the city’s approach to the deals. In the past year, the CDA’s overall offer for the properties has gone from $1.4 million to $2.1 million. The properties have a combined assessed value of $2.3 million, and the city budget allows for a $3 million payment.

The city is not trying to deliberately shortchange the landlords, said Alderman Tim Bruer, who represents the Burr Oaks neighborhood and is a CDA member.

“In a perfect world, I’d like to see them totally happy and satisfied,” he said. “But the reality is there is a very strict framework to be followed.”

City Attorney Michael May said eminent domain law requires the city pay fair market value, which is open to debate. The city uses appraised value, he said, but any landlord can fight for a deal based on assessed value.

“In any condemnation case, there’s an opportunity for any argument about determining fair market value,” May said. “The city has to find a balance between trying to avoid litigation but also not just giving more money away than we have to because of the threat of litigation.”

The overall appraised value of the properties is about $1.4 million. Appraised values are determined by factors such as the local market and recent sales of similar properties. Assessed values are determined by the city’s tax assessor to determine property taxes.

Stu Levitan, a CDA member, said he is “mortified” by the city’s behavior and wants the landlords and other members of the public to pressure the CDA and city to rectify the mistake.

“I expect public demonstrations at the groundbreaking and opening of the senior housing project,” he said. “It may take a lawsuit appealing the offers and directing the city attorney to pay the assessed values.

“How my fellow commissioners don’t understand this is beyond me. This agency depends on public good will, and we’ve not acquitted ourselves well.”

Levitan last week failed to get a second when he asked the CDA to reconsider the offers and help the landlords find other properties in the city.

Bruer said Levitan’s proposals only create false hope for the landlords. If Bobo or any other property owner sues, Bruer said, he is confident the city can defend its offers.

“It’s bad public policy and fiscally irresponsible to make decisions based on the court of public opinion,” Bruer said. “Not only do we need to be clearly responsible to the property owners, but also to the taxpayer. Imagine if we spent more for the buildings than we had to.”

Still, Bobo said, the city should spend more.

“I’m not disputing whether they were within their legal bounds to do what they’ve done,” she said. “But they behaved very poorly, and it’s very sad and disappointing the way this has played out.”


  1. Let me get this straight. The property is assessed at $280,000 (the amount I’m sure taxes were based on) and the city wants to pay only $252,000 or take it by eminent domain.
    Folks this is the United States of America, not some dictatorship.

  2. At the same time that Madison is shortchanging these individuals, Madison is ready to give $16 million of public assistance to a wealthy developer to build high end condos and an ultra-luxury hotel on a prime piece of lakefront property.

    By giving the $16 million of TIF, Madison robs its own operating budget and the schools of $3 million annually for the next 16-20 years.

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