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ATC wins dispute over transmission line

By: //April 30, 2010//

ATC wins dispute over transmission line

By: //April 30, 2010//

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By Paul Snyder

A Walworth County Circuit Court judge has ruled that a familys property in Delavan still has value after American Transmission Co. LLC built a transmission line project in the area.

Scott and Lynnea Waller wanted the chance to prove their property was essentially worthless after Pewaukee-based ATC in 2008 built a transmission pole and distribution pole and put up a 139-kilovolt transmission line on the Wallers’ 1.5-acre property.

After a circuit court trial in March, a jury concluded the project significantly damaged the property, but still valued the property at $38,000.

Walworth County Circuit Court Judge John Race ruled Friday that the jury’s assessment killed the Wallers’ argument for further review.

“I agree with the jury,” Race told the courtroom. “If they came back with a figure of $0, then that answers the question of uneconomic remnant, but they said the property is worth $38,000, and $38,000 is not something to sniff at.”

ATC Attorney Patrisha Smith said the company is pleased with the decision.

Scott Waller said after the hearing he and his wife will appeal within 30 days.

“This is a fiasco,” he said. “There was no thought in there.”

Lynnea Waller also said she was disappointed.

“Every time,” she said, “it seems like we just sit and listen to the ATC tell the judge how it’s going to be.”

The Wallers did not leave court empty-handed, though. The jury in March determined the transmission line project had caused $94,000 in damage to their property. The Walworth County Condemnation Commission in 2008 ordered ATC pay the Wallers $90,000, and Race on Friday approved an additional payment of $4,000.

But Waller said he and his wife deserve more to cover expenses incurred last year during their move to Sharon.

The state Department of Commerce requires a company pay to help people move if the land it buys cannot be developed. According to court documents, ATC first offered $99,500 for the Wallers’ Delavan property, then offered $132,000 if they agreed to waive their right for moving assistance. But the Wallers rejected the offer.

“We weren’t going to sign away our rights,” Lynnea Waller said.

At issue is both sides’ interpretation of essentially worthless property. Mark Steinich — a lawyer with Madison-based Boardman, Suhr, Curry & Field LLP representing ATC in the case — said during the trial that $38,000 was still a substantial value for the property.

But the Wallers’ attorney — Hugh Braun of Milwaukee-based Godfrey, Braun & Frazier LLP — said nobody should be required to live on property valued that low.

“In the end,” he said, “this is an outrage.”

Smith declined to speculate on the Wallers’ looming appeal.

“We’ll deal with an appeal,” she said, “when it is filed.”


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