A family that moved after the construction of a nearby transmission line plans to appeal a circuit court decision and try again to get $98,000 from the company that built the project.
Scott and Lynnea Waller argue Pewaukee-based American Transmission Co. LLC‘s 139-kilovolt line made their 1.5-acre Delavan property worthless. They want ATC to buy the land and reimburse the family for its moving expenses. They also want to make their case to a jury.
“Some things just irritate you,” said Scott Waller, who now lives in Sharon with his wife. “This isn’t right and you have to ask: How many people has this happened to that couldn’t do anything about it?”
A jury in March concluded that even though ATC’s acquisition of a portion of the Wallers’ land caused $94,000 in damages to the property, the Wallers’ remaining property still is worth $38,000.
Walworth County Judge John Race in April then dismissed the family’s request that ATC buy the rest of the land and cover moving costs because, according to the judge, the property retained value, which means ATC cannot be held liable under the state’s uneconomic remnant law.
According to the law, if a company’s project results in worthless, leftover property, the company has to cover the loss in value. The state Department of Commerce also requires a company pay for people to move if the remaining land cannot be developed.
Hugh Braun, the Wallers’ attorney with Milwaukee-based Godfrey, Braun & Frazier LLP, said Wednesday his clients deserve to make their case, and he will file an appeal this week.
The Wallers, Braun said, want ATC to acquire the remaining property for $38,000 and give the family $60,000 for moving costs.
ATC spokeswoman Anne Spaltholz said the company agrees with Race’s decision and will seek dismissal of the Wallers’ appeal.
“This has already been litigated twice in our favor,” she said. “And we think the way this has been handled is correct.”
The Wallers launched their legal battle in 2008 after ATC used eminent domain to take a 45-foot-wide easement to build the line. The Wallers based their case, which the circuit court dismissed, on the uneconomic remnant law.
However, the District 2 Court of Appeals in 2009 ruled the Wallers deserved a trial and sent the case back to circuit court.
The March jury trial proved the property still has value, according to Race’s ruling, so ATC is required to pay the $94,000 in damages but not the additional $98,000 the family wants.
Due to that ruling, Waller said, he and his wife could not testify that two appraisers, including one provided by ATC, said the family’s former house has no value. He said his family deserves a chance to speak out.
“I’m not asking ATC to build me a $10 million mansion,” Waller said. “I’m not asking for anything outside the law. I don’t understand why it’s not happening.”