COEUR d'ALENE - A commercial developer has been awarded $675,000 for 16 acres of right of way along U.S. 95 at Athol after a condemnation dispute with the Idaho Transportation Department.
H.J. Grathol, which is owned by Hughes Investments, had sought $2 million after asking for about $3 million earlier during negotiations.
Judge Charles Hosack recently made the decision in First District Court in Coeur d'Alene.
Hughes owns 56 acres at the northeast corner of Highway 54 and U.S. 95 at Athol and is planning a travel center, grocery store and hotel near where the state is constructing a new interchange.
A $21 million, 5-mile widening project under way in the Athol and Granite areas will include an elevated interchange.
"I think everyone lost except the attorneys," said Alan Johnson of Hughes. "We didn't get the true fair market value for our property, were awarded no severance damages, and the taxpayers have to fund legal billings."
Barbara Babic, ITD spokeswoman, said the agency incurred $870,000 in attorney fees during the case.
"ITD incurred considerable expenses in litigating this case, but in doing so, it was able to save the taxpayers ... (from paying a higher price for the land)," Babic said.
ITD intends to seek the recovery of the costs and attorney fees, Babic said.
The deadline for appeals is July 16.
Johnson said fair market value for the land was proven to be about $2.5 million during the case. He said his firm spent about $250,000 on the case.
"ITD builds great roads, but I am appalled at how heavy-handed they are when they condemn private property," Johnson said.
Babic said ITD is pleased with the court ruling because it demonstrated ITD's process for assessing the value of property needed for highway improvements is fair and just.
"It is unfortunate that ITD and H.J. Grathol needed to go to court to settle the dispute," Babic said. "More than 95 percent of the time when ITD needs to purchase land from a citizen or business for highway improvements, a fair settlement is reached without needing to go to court."
ITD officials said right-of-way disputes involving ITD have only gone to trial one other time in North Idaho in the past 20 years.