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Dept. of Transp. v. Prairie Travler

OPINION FILED SEPTEMBER 30, 1977.

THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,

v.

PRAIRIE TRAVLER, INC., ET AL., RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of McLean County; the Hon. KEITH E. CAMPBELL, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE REARDON DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied October 31, 1977.

Petitioner, the Department of Transportation of the State of Illinois, appeals a $90,900 jury verdict in an eminent domain action to acquire land for highway purposes.

The Prairie Travler Motel is located at the southwest corner of the intersection of IAA Drive and Vernon Avenue in Bloomington, Illinois. Vernon Avenue runs westward from U.S. 66 and IAA Drive is a frontage road running southward from Vernon Avenue parallel to U.S. 66. The motel property consists of 12.27 acres improved with several buildings housing 53 motel units, a coffee shop and a swimming pool.

Petitioner sought 1.704 acres for relocation of IAA Drive near its intersection with Vernon Avenue. The land sought would sever the motel property into two parcels leaving 9.447 acres plus all buildings in one parcel and 1.119 unimproved acres in another parcel located between the old and new frontage roads.

At trial on November 22, 1976, petitioner and respondents each presented two appraisal witnesses. The valuation opinions of those witnesses were as follows:

Petitioner's Part Witnesses Whole Taken Easement

Walter Stoutamoyer $ 577,500 $ 16,103 $ 1,350 Francis Gutschenritter 555,000 25,600 400

Respondents' Witnesses

Paul Ball $1,090,142 $ 92,565 No testimony Campbell Evans 1,200,000 167,137 $13,140

Both of petitioner's witnesses testified that the subject property was being used inefficiently and that its highest and best use required additional development. Gutschenritter stated that land values have substantially increased during the past few years in Bloomington, requiring an adjustment in the appraisals given for comparable sales.

Petitioner called Alberta Brennan, the president and director of Brennan, Inc., pursuant to section 60 of the Civil Practice Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 110, par. 60). At the time of trial, Mrs. Brennan owned all but one share of the corporation's common stock. She testified that the sole asset of Brennan, Inc., was the Prairie Travler Motel and that she and her late husband, Michael J. Brennan, had operated the motel since acquiring it in 1968. Mrs. Brennan was asked if she had an opinion as to the value of the motel property on January 29, 1975, but her counsel successfully objected to that question for the reason that no foundation had been laid for her opinion testimony. Thereafter, she stated that she had been active in the motel business prior to 1968, that she participated in the 1968 purchase of the Prairie Travler Motel, that she operated the motel after 1968, that she kept abreast of the values of motel-type properties and that she had a fair working knowledge of the value of the Prairie Travler Motel. Without objection, she was again asked her opinion of the subject property's value on the date the instant petition was filed, January 29, 1975. Mrs. Brennan replied that the motel's value was in excess of $1,000,000 and that its value had increased since the filing of the petition.

Mrs. Brennan was then shown a certified copy of the Illinois inheritance tax return for the estate of her husband who had died on August 7, 1975, approximately 6 months after the petition to condemn was filed. Mrs. Brennan admitted that she had signed the return as the executor of her husband's will and she identified her signature which had been acknowledged before a notary public. The return contained an appraisal of the Prairie Travler Motel's value at $525,000. The court, however, refused to admit the inheritance tax return into evidence, although petitioner included it in an offer of proof.

Petitioner's witness Gutschenritter was not permitted to testify to a sale of the Prairie Travler Motel which occurred in 1968. The witness testified that there had only been two sales of motels in the Bloomington-Normal area in recent years, one being the 1970 sale of the Coachman Motel which he used as a comparable sale and the other being the 1968 sale of the subject ...


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