Suit yourselves

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At its most recent meeting, City Council voted to authorize condemnation proceedings to secure a section of the $30 million Hillsdale Drive Extended project between Kmart and what will soon be a new Whole Foods grocery store. The southernmost portion of the road, which intersects Hydraulic Road, is part of a larger extension meant to alleviate congestion on Route 29N.

The southern portion of Hillsdale Drive Extended will guide drivers to a new Whole Foods (shown under construction) off of Hydraulic Road.

Eminent domain—the seizure of private property for public use—has been used sparingly by City Council to acquire properties. However, City Attorney Craig Brown told Council that eminent domain was justifiable in this instance because the Hillsdale extension has already been built, and is a “high transportation priority for the city.”

Councilor Satyendra Huja, who supported the resolution, said that Hillsdale is an “important artery that benefits the city” and noted that “it’s important that we do this.” Vice Mayor Holly Edwards, however, said she didn’t “feel comfortable with condemnation proceedings.”

Hillsdale Drive was built by Meadowbrook Creek, LLC—also the developer of the Whole Foods store—with $2 million provided through the Charlottesville Economic Development Authority. In exchange for the city funding, Meadowbrook Creek was slated to dedicate Hillsdale Drive Extended to the city as a right-of-way—which, said Brown, the developer was willing to do.

But last spring, Kmart Corporation filed a lawsuit against Meadowbrook Creek that claimed construction of the grocery store and Hillsdale Drive Extended occurred within the boundaries of Kmart’s property, and thus breached the lease agreement between the two companies. The 1991 lease states that the landlord, Meadowbrook Creek, “will not erect any buildings or other structures on the land.” Alan Taylor, a vice president at Meadowbrook parent company River Bend Management, previously told C-VILLE that Kmart’s claims were “unfounded,” and did not return a request for comment by press time. River Bend Management is the real estate company of developer and Dave Matthews Band manager Coran Capshaw.

Ultimately, Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Edward Hogshire denied the injunction to stop construction. Kmart attorney Miles Dumville says a damages lawsuit against Meadowbrook is still pending. “Currently there is no trial date, and the parties are trying to work things out by agreed resolution, but that hasn’t happened yet,” he tells C-VILLE.

Brown says Meadowbrook Creek offered to purchase the portion of the land within Kmart’s lease, but was unsuccessful. According to Brown, while the portion was appraised at $19,991, Meadowbrook made an initial $20,000 offer. When Kmart didn’t respond, Meadowbrook offered $25,000. Due to litigation between the two businesses, the City of Charlottesville stepped in and made the same offer, a legal requirement for condemnation proceedings.

Brown says Kmart acknowledged receipt of the offer on April 26, but has yet to respond. The city will file a petition for condemnation in the next 10 days. To pay for condemnation proceedings, the city is planning to use some of the $2 million it agreed to give Meadowbrook Creek