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Appeals court orders $4m paid in River's Edge land dispute

Posted by Matt Byrne  July 28, 2010 12:29 PM

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The Mystic Valley Development Commission drastically under-valued a plot of land it took by eminent domain in 2004 during the development of the River’s Edge complex and now must pay the parcel’s owner millions, according to a lawyer in the case.

The commission must pay the Walk family more than $4 million – about $3.6 million for the land and $400,000 in interest – for a 5.5 acre parcel that abuts the Malden River, said George A. McLaughlin, lead attorney for the plaintiff.

“There isn’t anything sexy about this case,” McLaughlin said. “It’ a run of the mill appeal, and the appeals court really slammed them.”

The commission appealed on four points: Lawyers for the commission contended that the trial judge improperly included or omitted pieces of evidence, improperly limited certain testimony, and wrongfully submitted a question of zoning law to the jury at trial. The appeals court squarely rejected each point in a concise, four-page decision.

The Walk family, which once owned WILD-AM and a radio tower that stood on the property, was not fairly compensated when the commission paid $280,000 six years ago, the court affirmed in the latest decision handed down July 21. The 5.5-acre parcel was one of more than a dozen plots taken to develop the expansive 200-acre business and residential complex.

Medford Mayor Michael McGlynn, who is also chairman of the commission, could not be reached for comment. It was unclear if the commission will seek a further appeal, which would have to be taken into special consideration by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.

McLaughlin said the verdict is a long-awaited resolution to what he said was an ordinary case. “One way or another, they’re going to have to pay the Walk family,” he said.

Malden Mayor Richard C. Howard testified last year that the plot was “very run down” and overgrown when the commission took it, according to the decision. Howard told the jury that an office complex, a 204-unit residential complex, a boat house, and a park have since been built on the parcel, the decision said.

The Walk family sued and won their case last July in Middlesex County Superior Court. The latest verdict marks the end of a six-year legal battle over a sliver of the massive development.

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