County claims family’s land

Published 10:21 pm Friday, July 29, 2016

An Isle of Wight family has been forced to give up part of the land it has farmed for generations for a jury-awarded price of less than $100,000.

The Edwardses of Smithfield declined an initial offer of $3,100 for 1.5 acres of land along Nike Park Road, which the county wants to build a bike path. A subsequent offer went up to $16,918 before the court hearing.

But that wasn’t good enough for the Edwardses.

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“Losing the land was like losing a family member,” said Dr. Garrett Edwards.

The land is part of several plots of land that the county has claimed as eminent domain.

Despite the land being on private property, the county is allowed to do so by state law because it is building the trail for public use. The project is estimated at $5.5 million, which will be funded primarily by grants.

The plot of land would be taken away from the family’s 60-acre farm, which they have owned for more than 80 years. The farm is still used to grow timber and hay.

On July 19, after a two-day trial, the jury finalized set a price of $99,850 for the land — more than 30 times the county’s original offer.

But the family still is not satisfied.

“No amount of money would have made us happy walking out of there,” Edwards said.

However, Edwards did appreciate the jury recognized the “blood, sweat and tears” the family had put into the land over the years.

“The county learned that they couldn’t take the land for cheap, and the jury vindicated them,” said Joseph T. Waldo, the family’s attorney.

The family still has two smaller plots of land that are scheduled for court hearings in September.

Over the last decade, the county has received more than $4 million in state and federal funds to pursue the project.

However, with imminent court hearings with the Edwards family and other owners of land needed for the project, the county’s out-of-pocket expenses are expected to pile up.

The Edwards case alone totaled to more than $100,000, according to Waldo.

The Edwardses are disappointed about the settlement and feel the public use will compromise the privacy of the family’s future generations.

“It was never about the money,” Waldo said. “The family just wanted to be treated fairly.”