ROSELAND, N.J./May 8, 2006 -- The Township of Howell agreed recently to settle this condemnation action by paying the sum of $12.6 million to acquire a parcel of undeveloped property within the Township that defendant, George Harms Construction Company, Inc. had used for the mining of sand and gravel. The filing of the condemnation action followed a suit filed by George Harms Construction in the United States District Court against the Township and others, George Harms Construction Company, Inc. v. New Jersey Water Authority et al., alleging that the Township had conspired to deprive Harms Construction of constitutional rights by using municipal zoning powers and the Green Acres Act, N.J.S.A. 13:8C-28, for the improper purpose of negatively impacting the market value of the subject site to enhance defendants’ ability to acquire the site from Harms Construction. Harms Construction was represented by Connell Foley partners Kevin J. Coakley in the condemnation action, and Brendan Judge in the federal court action.
During negotiations in the federal court action, the defendants had proposed that the parties agree to a fair market value of between $2.5 million and $5 million. Prior to filing the condemnation action, the Township had offered $9.3 million to acquire the property. On December 1, 2005, the Condemnation Commissioners found the property to be worth $12,350,000, after accepting Harms Construction’s argument that the date of valuation must be the date of the filing of the condemnation complaint, rather than a prior date when the Township’s appraiser conducted an inspection of the property. In conjunction with the settlement of the condemnation action, the complaint in the federal court action was dismissed.