Albany Country Club v. State

Decision Date21 November 1962
Docket NumberNo. 39433,39433
PartiesALBANY COUNTRY CLUB, Claimant, v. The STATE of New York, Defendant. Claim
CourtNew York Court of Claims

DeGraff, Foy, Conway & Holt-Harris, by John T. DeGraff, Albany, and John E. Holt-Harris, Jr., and John T. DeGraff, Jr., Albany, of counsel, for claimant.

Louis J. Lefkowitz, Atty. Gen., by Douglas S. Rider and Charles E . Webb, Asst. Attys. Gen., of counsel, for State.

PAUL C. REUSS, Judge.

The claimant herein is a non-profit membership corporation organized under the laws of the State of New York. On January 3, 1961 and for many years prior thereto it operated a country club located on a tract of land comprising approximately 301 acres, situated partly in the City of Albany and partly in the Town of Guilderland, New York. On the aforesaid date the State of New York appropriated in fee for educational purposes pursuant to the Education Law, §§ 307 and 355, two parcels of the claimant's land situated partly in the Town of Guilderland, County of Albany and partly in the City of Albany, County of Albany, New York comprising 220.4 acres by filing a copy of Map No. 14, Parcels 1 and 2 with a description of the property appropriated, in the office of the County Clerk of Albany County. On the same date the State of New York pursuant to Chapter 572, Laws of 1947, appropriated in fee for the purposes of a state building site an additional portion of the claimant's land, situated in the City and County of Albany comprising 80.6 acres by filing Map No. 211, Parcel No. 300 with a description of the property so appropriated, in the office of the County Clerk of Albany County. On the trial it was established that 8.5 acres of the land appropriated pursuant to Map No. 14, Parcels 1 and 2 comprised a paper street, the title to which was not in the claimant.

The both parties have agreed that the entire appropriation comprised 292.5 acres of the claimant's land. The several takings will be considered as one. A single award shall be made herein which will be apportioned upon stipulation of counsel on our approval.

The Court adopts the descriptions of the appropriated property shown and set forth on the aforesaid maps and reference is made thereto for such descriptions without further repetition thereof.

The claim herein was filed in the office of the Clerk of the Court of Claims and served upon the Attorney General on July 26, 1961, and has not been assigned.

The Court has viewed the subject premises.

On the date of the appropriation the claimant's property fronted on Western Avenue in the City of Albany for 349.87 feet and in the Town of Guilderland for 493.97 feet, on Fuller Road 300.30 feet in the City of Albany, and 597.8 feet in the Town of Guilderland, and 2,354.8 feet on Washington Avenue in the City of Albany. Some 186.5 acres were located within the City of Albany and 106 acres were located in the Town of Guilderland. The Western Avenue frontage located in the City of Albany was zoned for business for a depth slightly over 100 feet. The portion of the club land located within the City of Albany was zoned either A or B, Residential, and all of the property situated within the Town of Guilderland was zoned Residential R-12 which restricts the use to one family dwellings.

The premises were improved by an 18 hole golf course and a group of buildings and other structures devoted to the activities of the club. The main building was the club house, a large two-story structure part of which was built sometime in the Nieteenth Century; however, this building had been substantially improved and was in very good physical condition, although the general layout had some features of obsolescence. The other major structure was an Olympic size swimming pool constructed in 1959. In addition thereto there was a golf shop, a building which served as the golf professional's house, the superintendent's house, a barn, a bath house, four clay tennis courts, a parking lot and various other structures used in the club's activities. Entrance to the premises was by means of a two-lane concrete road, leading from Western Avenue. The structures were generally in good condition although one or two of them were quite old, and in need of some repair, however, all were well adapted to the purposes of the club. The golf course was equipped with an excellent irrigation system, service roads, rain shelters and other necessary structures and improvements. A lake located on the premises supplied necessary water for the golf course and the pool. The lake site was improved by a dam and pumping station with equipment and controls. The golf course was also enhanced by the existence of a large number of trees which not only provided an aesthetic setting but also had practical value as hazards which added to the challenge afforded by the course, served as screens and wind breaks, and helped to reduce erosion. There is no doubt that the premises were ideally adapted to the use to which they were put at the time of the appropriation.

The golf course itself and its adjacent areas comprised approximately 170 acres including the club house complex. The remaining lands were not used by the club; however, shortly before the appropriation the claimant initiated steps to determine the best use for the surplus land around the perimeter of its property, but had actually done little else to utilize such property.

The State's experts valued the claimant's property as slightly more than two million dollars while the claimant's experts placed a value on the premises in excess of five million dollars.

Upon the trial the appraisers split up the property and valued the several segments of the tract according to the best available use for each such segment. We will also use the same approach herein.

We find that 300 feet to a depth of approximately 150 feet of the claimant's Western Avenue Frontage in Albany was available for commercial development, and that the fair market value of this frontage was $300.00 per front foot for a total of $90,000.00.

That 275 feet of the Western Avenue frontage to a depth of approximately 150 feet in the Town of Guilderland was available for commercial development, and the fair market value was $275.00 per front foot for a total of $75,625.00.

There was not too much diversity between the experts with respect to the front foot value of the Western Avenue frontage. They relied primarily on sales adjacent to the claimant's Western Avenue frontage. One occurring December 13, 1961 involved a corner property, which was quite deep. The selling price of such parcel indicated a value of $378 per front foot. We regard this tract as somewhat superior to the claimant's Western Avenue property, particularly because of the corner influence. The other three sales took place on February 26, 1957, May 15, 1958, and August 30, 1960, respectively. The selling price of each indicated a front foot value of $250.00. These sales involved property which we regard as somewhat inferior to that of the claimant, because of size or restrictions. However, we have considered such sales in arriving at our determination, giving weight to them based upon their similarity to the subject property, and on the proximity of their occurrence to the date of the subject appropriation.

The frontage in the Town of Guilderland was, at the time of the appropriation, zoned residential. All parties agree that there is no question but that the probabilities for a zoning change to commercial were excellent at the time of the appropriation, and we therefore have added a considerable increment to the value of the residential frontage, based upon the probability of the rezoning. But, no matter how probable a change may seem, an element of uncertainty remains and it has its impact upon the selling price. Masten v. State, 11 A.D.2d 370, 206 N.Y.S.2d 672, affd. 9 N.Y.2d 796, 215 N.Y.S.2d 508, 175 N.E.2d 166, and, therefore, we have placed a somewhat lower valuation upon the frontage in the Town of Guilderland.

We find that the value of the entire Western Avenue frontage at the time of the appropriation was $165,625.00.

We find that at the time of the appropriation the claimant had 2294 feet of frontage on Washington Avenue to a depth of 490 feet at its east end and to a depth of approximately 290 feet on the west end, with an average depth of approximately 400 feet, available for development for commercial uses providing the zoning thereof could be changed from residential to commercial. In addition to the rezoning, in order to utilize this frontage, a relocation of several holes of the golf course would be necessary.

We accept the claimant's plan for relocating three holes for we find such plan was the more practical one, and provided for greater depth for the Washington Avenue frontage, and utilization of surplus acreage in such area. We also accept the claimant's estimate of cost of doing the work involved in the amount of $53,952.50 since it covers the plan we adopt and in addition thereto was more definite and specific than the State's estimate of relocating two holes. The amount of such estimate, of course, must be deducted from the value we place upon this particular tract of land. At the time of the appropriation Washington Avenue was one of the principal means of access from the City of Albany to the western entrances of the Thruway and the Northway. It is unquestioned that by reason of its location the Washington Avenue frontage constituted a very valuable piece of property for commercial development, providing it could be rezoned to allow such use.

The claimant's experts in their appraisals of the Washington Avenue frontage relied primarily on a lease of the Thruway Motel site located on the north side of Washington Avenue adjacent to the subject property. This lease indicated a front foot value for commercial land in excess of $500 a front foot. However, while we have given considerable...

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