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Class Action Filed In Purple Line Land Acquisition

May 9th, 2016 by WCBC Radio

A class action filed today by homeowners along the Purple Line in Montgomery County alleges that the Maryland Transportation Authority (“MTA”) is systematically short-changing them on the purchase price for land needed to construct the Purple Line. MTA needs to take only part of the Plaintiffs’ property, but its offer did not include payment for loss of value to the remaining property, which is worth far more than the cost of the land that MTA needs to acquire.

MTA must pay “just compensation” when it buys private land for public use including (1) the value of the land taken; and (2) any “diminution in value” that the remaining property may suffer. MTA’s appraisals only value the land taken, do not include “diminution in value” damages, and do not even reference the law that allows for it.
The plaintiffs claim their homes will significantly decrease in value. MTA has offered to pay $11,200 for part of Andrew Hoddick’s front yard along Wayne Avenue in Silver Spring. “My house is about 75 feet from where the train will run. Starting at 6:15 in the morning, 135-foot trains will rumble by my home every 7 ½ minutes. Of course my house will be devalued,” Hoddick said. As in other instances, MTA’s appraisal of Hoddick’s land did not acknowledge decreased property value as a compensable damage or cite the law authorizing it.

Plaintiff Karen FitzGerald said “MTA has selectively shared information about the Purple Line, and did not mention actual adverse impacts until after the alignment was selected. We have since learned how much Wayne Avenue will be widened, that "wheel squeal" and ground vibrations will be significant, and that the operator must monitor 'radiated emissions.' The fact that MTA has tried to avoid compensating impacted homeowners for the decline in property values is just more of the same — a denial of the way the Purple Line will harm us."

Other known impacts of the Purple Line potentially affecting property values include safety concerns, particularly with respect to young children; and the prominent visual impact of overhead wires and support poles.

Michele Rosenfeld, the plaintiffs’ attorney, said “MTA’s ability to take private property is one of the most intrusive governmental powers that it can exercise. Finding money to build the Purple Line has been a challenge but fleecing my clients to help pay for it is not legal or fair.”

The $5.6 billion Purple Line will be built and operated by a private contractor and is only the second transit project in the nation to include private financing — $ 1 billion for construction costs. Maryland’s Board of Public Works approved the 800-plus page contract in April, a month after the contract was made public. There were no public hearings on the contract. MTA is waiting for the Federal Transit Administration to approve $ 900 million in federal construction grants, expected in July. The contractor has begun pre-construction work.

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