Eminent domain lawsuit costing county taxpayers millions

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CHESTERFIELD, MO (KTVI)-- A battle between a Chesterfield subdivision and St. Louis county could end up costing county taxpayers millions.  At issue is land used to build the new section of Highway 141, and how county leaders got their hands on it.

Tiffany Semar is one of countless families who bought homes in the River Bend subdivision off of Olive long before ground was broken, or plans even laid out for the Highway 141 extension.  The area behind her home was quiet, wooded space with the occasional deer passing through.  Now it’s home to a closed access highway.

"Horrible,” she says of the noise.  “It’s hard to have a conversation in our front yard or our back yard.”

About three acres of the land where the highway now passes was once common ground belonging to the subdivision.  Many here believed it would always remain as it was because they didn’t think it could be transferred.

“It’s common ground and it’s not legally supposed to be sold,” another resident, Melissa Hibberty said.

But when St. Louis County officials were obtaining land for the highway back in 2010, they decided that common ground should be part of the path.

“So the county came in and said we will just condemn it and give you some money for it,” Hibberty said.

The sum was in the neighborhood of $60 thousand.  A low price for property in high end Chesterfield, if it the transaction they say the county forced was legal at all.

The subdivision’s leaders filed suit, and their first day in court came Monday, with a trial getting underway where they’ll ask jurors to award them in excess of $2 million for the land they say should not have been taken at all.

Most here say it didn’t have to come to this.  They simply wanted county officials to work with them on the highway’s routing, and help do something about the noise where necessary.

“Little things like that,” Hibberty said.  “We didn’t need to go into taking all this common ground property and turning into a highway in these people’s back yards.”

Should the residents win, they hope the money will be used on noise abatement for those hit hardest.  Though people like the Semars will tell you the damage has already been done.

“This is not the house we bought this house.  This was our dream house when we bought this house, and we just live on top of a highway.  It’s unfortunate.”

Fox 2 spoke to attorneys for St. Louis County and the River Bend subdivision, but neither would comment.

A verdict is expected in the case sometime Wednesday.




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