MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

December 3, 2013

State court: Couple due $3.1 million from Jenks


— JENKS  (AP)  — An Oklahoma appeals court says a jury was correct to award two landowners $3.1 million for 12.7 acres of undeveloped land acquired for a school expansion.

District Judge Mary Fitzgerald had said the Jenks School District was entitled to a new trial, believing that she was wrong to let jurors consider the lease value of billboards on the property when determining what the land was worth.

The Tulsa World reported Tuesday that the Court of Appeals reversed her decision.

Jenks’ school board had voted in 2007 to condemn land along U.S. 75 so it could expand the Jenks West Elementary School.

It initially offered $395,000, but court-appointed commissioners in 2008 put the value at $1.4 million, which was paid to the landowners, Patrick Taylor and Marshaleta Taylor.

The Taylors argued the property was worth even more because of the billboards and took the district to court. Jurors agreed with them, but Fitzgerald ruled last year that she had made an error when she told the panel it could consider the billboards when assessing the land’s value.

The Court of Civil Appeals ruled last week that Fitzgerald had not erred in the trial and reinstated the $3.1 million award.

The Taylors are due $1.7 million  — the amount of the award minus the amount they have already received.

Attorney Robert Nichols, representing the Taylors, said Monday that the ruling clarified some areas of eminent domain law, which allows governments to take property for public use in return for payments to property owners.