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Plans for property leads owners to sue

The Roanoke Times
June 20, 2007
By Laurence Hammack

A vacant building that sits in the path of a growing medical business park in South Roanoke has suffered under the threat of condemnation, its owners claim in a lawsuit.

William Stegall, who owns the commercial property in the 1200 block of Williamson Road along with his wife, Maeona, says the Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority adopted plans in 2001 to condemn the parcel to make room for the business park.

But the authority never followed through on the plan, the suit alleges, leaving Stegall unable to rent or sell his property because of its diminished value and uncertain future.

"He's been under that cloud for six-and-a-half years" said Joseph Waldo, a Norfolk attorney who filed the lawsuit in Roanoke Circuit Court.

Greg Feldmann, chairman of the housing authority's board of commissioners, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

A tire store once occupied the Stegalls' building, which sits near the intersection of Williamson Road and Jefferson Street.

Once that business left, Stegall found himself in the "untenable position of attempting to attract and maintain tenants for a property that is widely known by the community to be affected by a condemnation to take place at some unknown future date," the lawsuit states.

The housing authority offered in 2001 to purchase the property for $750,000 but later withdrew the offer, according to the lawsuit. Stegall considered the offer too low and never responded, Waldo said.

Stegall has become critically ill and needs to liquidate his properties, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit asks a judge to find that the property was taken without just compensation. The Stegalls argue that the town's actions have amounted to seizure, because the threat of foreclosure has frozen the property on the market. If a judge agrees, a jury would be empaneled to determine damages in the case.

Since plans for the Riverside Centre for Research and Technology were announced in 2000, the housing authority has acquired about a dozen parcels for the project in the Reserve Avenue area. There have been no condemnations.

Most of the properties slated for development so far are closer to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital than the Stegall parcel, which sits at the northern edge of the proposed project.