Torromeo Industries v. New HampshireAnnotate this Case
The State appealed a superior court order relating to the reassessment of eminent domain damages. Torromeo Industries owned several acres of land in Plaistow, New Hampshire on which there was a 4,000 square foot light industrial building and a 1,500 square foot single-family residence. The property is located in the town’s “Industrial I” zone. Before the taking at issue, Torromeo’s lot consisted of 11.88 acres with approximately 149 feet of frontage. Although the property’s 149 feet of frontage did not comply with the zoning ordinance, according to the State’s appraiser and not disputed by Torromeo’s appraiser, it “was approved by the Planning Board in 1989 and is considered to be a legally permitted pre-existing use.” In 2015, the State took approximately 1.9 acres of Torromeo’s land by eminent domain to construct a two-lane, paved service road. To complete the project, the State also took approximately 30,000 square feet for permanent and temporary easements. As a result of the taking, Torromeo’s property became three independent parcels: (1) a .36-acre lot on which the residence sat; (2) an approximately 10-acre site on which the light industrial building sits and of which approximately 6.55-to-8 acres are considered to be surplus land; and (3) a .28-acre “gore” or uneconomic remnant. The State offered Torromeo $500 as just compensation for the taking. Torromeo declined the offer and sought a determination of condemnation damages from the New Hampshire Board of Tax and Land Appeals (BTLA). Following the hearing and a view of the property, the trial court accepted the State’s appraisal except as it related to the residential portion of the property. The court, therefore, awarded Torromeo $70,800 as just compensation for the taking, based upon the State’s expert’s opinion that the taking caused $70,000 in damages to the surplus land, and upon the $800 value the court gave to a temporary construction easement. The New Hampshire Supreme Court determined that although as the trier of fact, the trial court was entitled to accept or reject such portions of the evidence as it found proper, including that of expert witnesses, the court was not entitled to, in effect, introduce its own evidence into the proceeding. The Supreme Court found the trial court's decision was not supported by the record, reversed and remanded for further proceedings.