Filing 44

ORDER granting 41 Motion for Summary Judgment. Ordered by US DISTRICT JUDGE CLAY D LAND on 08/21/2017. (CCL)

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA COLUMBUS DIVISION SABAL TRAIL TRANSMISSION, LLC, Plaintiff, * * vs. * REAL ESTATE et al., * Defendants. CASE NO. 4:16-cv-119 (Estate of Richard Alston & Bobbie Alston et al.) * O R D E R Presently pending before the Court is Plaintiff Sabal Trail Transmission, LLC’s summary judgment motion on the issue of just compensation in this condemnation action. As discussed below, the Court grants Sabal Trail’s motion (ECF No. 41) and finds that $9,400 is just compensation for the easements. I. Background Plaintiff Sabal Trail Transmission, LLC received authorization from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to build an interstate natural gas pipeline. Sabal Trail brought this Natural condemnation action under the Gas Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 717-717z, seeking permanent and temporary easements over one tract of land in Terrell County, Georgia. According to Sabal Trail, the property was part of the Estate of Richard and Bobbie Alston, and Sabal Trail named as Defendants in this action the Estate and individuals “known to have or claim an interest in the Property from which easements and associated rights are sought to be condemned.” Compl. ¶ 5, ECF No. 1. Each Defendant was served personally with notice of this action in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 71.1(d)(3)(A) or by publication in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 71.1(d)(3)(B). On June 10, 2016, the Court concluded that Sabal Trail was entitled to possession of the easements it sought once it posted a security bond. Sabal Trail Transmission, LLC v. Estate, No. 4:16--CV-119, 2016 WL 3248367, at *10, *17 (M.D. Ga. June 10, 2016), amended, No. 4:16-CV-119, 2016 WL 3251577 (M.D. Ga. June 10, 2016). 2016. Pl.’s Notice of Posting Security Bonds, July 1, 2016, ECF No. 31. II. Sabal Trail posted the security bond on July 1, The only remaining issue is just compensation. Discussion Just compensation means “the fair market value of the property on the date of the taking.” United States ex rel.TVA v. 1.72 Acres of Land in Tenn., 821 F.3d 742, 756 (6th Cir. 2016) (citing United States v. Miller, 317 U.S. 369, 373–74 (1943)). In a partial takings case like this one, just compensation “is the difference in fair market value of the whole tract before and after the taking.” Id. (quoting United States ex rel. TVA v. Easements and Rights–of–Way over 6 Acres of Land, 117 F. App’x 422, 423 (6th Cir. 2004)); 2 accord United States v. 33.92356 Acres Of Land, 585 F.3d 1, 9 (1st Cir. 2009) (collecting cases); United States v. 68.94 Acres of Land, More or Less, Situate in Kent Cty., State of Del., 918 F.2d 389, 393 (3d Cir. 1990). Generally, “market or comparable sales data . . . is the best evidence of market value.” 1.72 Acres of Land in Tenn., 821 F.3d at 757. Sabal Trail argues that just compensation for the easements in this case is $9,400.00. Summ. J. 2, ECF No. 41-1. Pl.’s Mem. in Supp. of Mot. for Summary judgment may be granted only “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). In this condemnation case, Defendants have the “burden to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, what amount constitutes just compensation.” Acres of Land in Tennessee, 821 F.3d at 756. 1.72 Defendants were entitled to “present evidence on the amount of compensation to be paid.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 71.1(e)(3). None of the Defendants responded to Sabal Trail’s summary judgment motion or presented any evidence on what amount constitutes just compensation for the easements. Sabal Trail did present evidence on the issue of just compensation: the expert report of Mike Everett, a certified real property appraiser. Everett Report, ECF No. 43 at 6-76. Everett conducted an appraisal of the property and concluded 3 that the “before” value of the parcel as of July 1, 2016 was $162,000 and the “after” value, taking into account temporary and permanent easements, was $155,260. Therefore, according to Everett, just easements in this case is $6,740.00. Id. compensation Id. the at 9. for the For purposes of summary judgment, however, Sabal Trail is willing to stipulate that $9,400.00 is just compensation for the easements; that is the amount of Sabal Trail’s final offer to the owners of the property, several of whom accepted. for Summ. J. 9, ECF No. 41-1. Pl.’s Mem. in Supp. of Mot. Again, Defendants did not present any evidence on the issue of just compensation. record before it, the Court concludes that Based on the $9,400 is just compensation for the easements in this case. III. Payment of Compensation by Sabal Trail Application for Obtaining Disbursement and Claimant’s Within twenty-eight days of the date of this Order, Sabal Trail shall pay into the registry of the Court $9,400 plus prejudgment interest from the date of the taking (July 1, 2016), which shall be calculated at a legal rate of interest of seven percent per annum simple interest. Once this amount is paid into the registry of the Court, the security bond previously posted by Sabal Trail shall be released. Defendants may apply to the Court for distribution of the award in accordance with their respective ownership interests. 4 Defendants may apply for a distribution of the award by sending an application to the Clerk of Court, P.O. Box 124, Columbus GA 31902. The Clerk shall docket each application electronically. The application should include:  The applicant’s any). name, address, and email address (if  The applicant’s claimed interest in the property and the basis for that claim.  Proof of the applicant’s interest in the property. Applications must be postmarked by December 1, 2017. Any questions regarding the application process should be directed to the Clerk’s office via telephone ( (706-649-7816) or email If multiple applications are received, the Court will schedule a hearing to determine how the proceeds should be distributed. IV. Providing Notice to Defendants None of the Defendants have registered for electronic filing through the Court’s electronic filing system and thus will not receive electronic notice of this Order automatically. The Clerk shall serve a copy of this Order via U.S. mail on each of the Defendants listed in Appendix A to this Order. And, within seven days of the date of this Order, Sabal Trail shall mail a copy of this Order to any Defendant who is not listed in Appendix A but whose address is known to Sabal Trail. 5 Sabal Trail shall also assist the Court with service of this Order by publication on those Defendants whom Sabal Trail represents could not be located despite a diligent Those Defendants are listed in Appendix B to this Order. on Sabal Trail’s prior representations, the search. Based appropriate newspaper for publication of this notice is The Dawson News. Within twenty-eight days of the date of this Order, Sabal Trail shall: 1. Prepare to the notice Federal for the Clerk of Court’s signature a cover letter publisher providing instructions for publishing the in accordance with the requirements set forth in Rule of Civil Procedure 71.1(d)(3)(B).1 2. Provide to the Clerk a check made out to the publisher for the cost of publishing the notice; and 3. Prepare and submit to the Clerk a proposed notice to be published. Once Sabal Trail provides the cover letter, check, and proposed notice to the Clerk, the Clerk shall submit these items to the publisher and cause publication of the notice. The Clerk shall note on the docket when this task is complete. Once publication is complete, Sabal Trail shall obtain and submit to the Court via CM/ECF a publisher’s affidavit demonstrating that the notice was published. 1 The Court recognizes that Rule 71.1(d)(3)(B) provides the procedure for service of an initial condemnation notice by publication. The Court finds that this procedure should be used to notify Defendants who could not be located of the just compensation award and the process for applying for a share of the award. 6 V. Legal Title to Easements After Sabal Trail pays into the registry of the Court the amount stated above and files the publisher’s affidavit demonstrating that notice of this Order was published, Sabal Trail shall submit to the Court a proposed final order vesting Sabal Trail with legal title to the permanent and temporary easements. IT IS SO ORDERED, this 21st day of August, 2017. S/Clay D. Land CLAY D. LAND CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA 7 APPENDIX A The Clerk shall serve a copy of this Order via U.S. mail on each of the following Defendants: Corrick Alston 1559 Guardian Drive Jacksonville, FL 32221 Day’Unna Alston 445 DE Short Road Dawson, GA 39842 Dorothy Louise Alston 212 Johnson Street Bronwood, GA 39826 Jarrett Alston 4160 New Hope Road Dawson, GA 39842 King Alston 311 Flint Street Bronwood, GA 39826 Marvin Alston 148 Killong Street Bronwood, GA 39826 Melvin Gene Alston 2097 George Jennings Road Bronwood, GA 39826 Richard Lee Alston, Jr. 2097 George Jennings Road Bronwood, GA 39826 Wanda Dodson Alston 445 DE Short Road Dawson, GA 39842 Willie James Alston 207 Oak Street Dawson, GA 39826 8 Willie James Alston 207 Oak Street Bronwood, GA 39826 Mae Ola Alston Barge Ra’Oof 100 Lakeside Trail Fayetteville, GA 30214 Dorothy Alston Coleman 1421 George Jennings Road Dawson, GA 39842 Vangela Hall 212 Pine Level Road Americus, GA 31719 Teresa Alston Harris 8064 Sleepy Bay Boulevard Navarre, FL 32566 Shabricca Jackson 2845 McLain Lane Albany, GA 31707 Gabriel Johnson 837 Summit Drive, NE Dawson, GA 39842 Labreka Morris 2122 Oxford Road Albany, GA 31721 La’Sherra Alston Rogers 4160 New Hope Road Dawson, GA 39842 Barbara Alston Sherman 1174 South Herod Road Dawson, GA 39842 Barbara Alston Sherman 1174 Herod Hwy Dawson, GA 39842 9 APPENDX B The following Defendants may be served with a copy of this Order by publication: Bernece Alston John Alston Marvin Alston Mary Alston Valerie Alston Shirley Armstrong April Cannon a/k/a April Mobley Estate of Richard Alston & Bobbie Alston Tenesha Huckaby Minni Mitchell 10

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