State ex rel. Missouri Highway and Transp. Com'n v. Gannon, 66595

CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)
Writing for the CourtCRANE
Citation898 S.W.2d 141
PartiesSTATE of Missouri, ex rel. MISSOURI HIGHWAY AND TRANSPORTATION COMMISSION, Plaintiff/Appellant, v. Clifford W. GANNON, et al., Defendants, Exceptions of Arnold Hanneke and Betty Hanneke, Defendants/Respondents.
Docket NumberNo. 66595,66595
Decision Date23 May 1995

Paul R. Sterrett, Missouri Highway & Transp. Com'n, Chesterfield, for appellant.

Jerome Wallach, Wallach Law Firm, St. Louis, for respondents.

CRANE, Presiding Judge.

The Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission (Commission) appeals a jury award in favor of owners in a highway condemnation case, asserting errors in the admission and exclusion of evidence. We affirm.

Arnold Hanneke and Betty Hanneke (owners) owned two parcels of land (Parcels 50 and 51) between Highway 141 and Route 30. On February 24, 1992 the Commission filed a condemnation petition for all of Parcel 50 and substantially all of Parcel 51. For valuation purposes, the parties treated this as a total taking. The court appointed commissioners who awarded owners $181,620 for Parcel 50 and $151,159 for Parcel 51. The Commission paid these amounts into court on July 10, 1993. Both parties filed exceptions to the Commissioner's award. After a jury trial on those exceptions, the jury awarded owners $212,000 in damages for Parcel 50 and $76,000 in damages for Parcel 51. The Commission appeals, asserting errors in the admission and exclusion of evidence.


For its first point the Commission contends that the trial court abused its discretion in sustaining objections to and striking the entire testimony of its expert witness, Glenn Powers. The Commission asserts that Powers was an expert on rezoning and therefore his opinion on the likelihood of rezoning the subject property was relevant and central to its case. 1

At trial owners, who were in the hardware business, testified that they had purchased the parcels in 1986 with the intent to build a hardware store on the site. Both parcels were zoned flood plain residential. Owners had contacted St. Louis County concerning rezoning to permit construction of a hardware store, but they had not filed a petition to rezone. Owners called three expert witnesses who testified to their opinions that the property was likely to be rezoned commercial.

The Commission called Glenn Powers as one of its expert witnesses. 2 Glenn Powers was a land use manager with the St. Louis County Department of Planning. He was in charge of the current planning division which included the zoning section. Prior to trial owners filed two motions in limine to preclude any evidence relating to Powers' opinion on the likelihood of rezoning owners' property. The trial court granted owners' motions and ordered that Powers could not testify as to the likelihood of success in rezoning the subject property to commercial from residential. The court said that because Powers was a member of the government organization making rezoning decisions, he should not give an opinion on something which has yet to come before that decisional body. The trial court offered the Commission a continuance to obtain another expert to testify to the likelihood of rezoning, but the Commission declined.

At trial Powers testified to the processing of a zoning application. After his office accepts an application, it is scheduled for a public hearing. After the public hearing, he and other planning staff formulate a recommendation which is reported to the Planning Commission. The Planning Commission then votes on the recommendation. If approved the recommendation is submitted to the County Council.

The Commission asked Powers what characteristics of the subject property would determine the likelihood of it being recommended for rezoning. Upon voir dire by owners' attorney, Powers admitted that in order to make a recommendation on behalf of the Planning Commission as to the rezoning of a particular property, he would have to do an investigation which he had not done for this property. The trial court sustained owners' objection. The Commission repeated this question two more times, each time the trial court sustained owners' objection. The Commission then asked Powers his own opinion based on his knowledge of the area and his experience as "land use manager of St. Louis County Planning and Zoning District" as to the likelihood of the subject property being rezoned to commercial. The trial court sustained owners' objection, called a sidebar, and excused the jury. After a discussion with the attorneys, the court excused the witness and instructed the jury to disregard all of Powers' testimony.

In the colloquy between court and counsel, the Commission's attorney said that, if allowed to testify, Powers would testify that the property "is not likely to be rezoned. This jury is certainly entitled to hear that coming from the horse's mouth...." He went on to say:

I believe that the truth of the matter is and of course we are here to determine truth, is that the County Planning Department staff would not look favorably upon a zoning change on the Hanneke tracts and I think the jury like any other purchaser or seller of the property would naturally talk to them and get their opinion prior to making that purchase or making that decision.

I think the case law says that those are in fact the very people you should have on and so for me to obtain other witnesses who would be less effective deprives me of my right to a fair trial.

The admission or exclusion of evidence in an eminent domain proceeding is soundly vested within the discretion of the trial judge. St. Louis County v. Boatmen's Trust Co., 857 S.W.2d 453, 457 (Mo.App.1993). An error will result in reversal only if there is substantial or glaring injustice. Id.; State ex rel. Missouri Hwy. & Transp. Com'n v. Davis, 849 S.W.2d 704, 705 (Mo.App.1993).

The Commission argues that as an official within the St. Louis County Department of Planning, Powers' testimony regarding the likelihood of rezoning the property to commercial use is relevant and material to the issue of value. Evidence of a reasonable probability of rezoning is relevant and material to the valuation of a landowner's property in a condemnation action. State ex rel. Missouri Hwy. & Transp. Com'n v. Jacob, 887 S.W.2d 661, 663 (Mo.App.1994); Union Elec. Co. v. Saale, 377 S.W.2d 427, 429 (Mo.1964).

[W]hen determining just compensation for condemned property, it is proper to take into account rezoning which was reasonably probable just before or after the taking and which affected the fair market value of the property at either of those times. The property "must be evaluated under the restrictions of the existing zoning and consideration given to the impact upon market value of the likelihood of a change in zoning."

State ex rel. Missouri Hwy. & Transp. Com'n v. Delmar Gardens of Chesterfield, Inc., 872 S.W.2d 178, 183 (Mo.App.1994) (quoting State ex rel. Missouri Hwy. & Transp. Com'n v. Modern Tractor & Supply Co., 839 S.W.2d 642, 650 (Mo.App.1992)) (emphasis in original eliminated and citations omitted).

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9 cases
  • St. Louis Cnty. v. River Bend Estates Homeowners' Ass'n, SC 92470.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • 10 Septiembre 2013
    ...organization making rezoning decisions ... should not give an opinion on something which has yet to come before that decisional body.” 898 S.W.2d 141, 142 (Mo.App.1995). When addressing this motion in limine, the trial court stated that it agreed that these Chesterfield employees could not ......
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    ...a part of the record on appeal, the appellate court cannot determine the appropriateness of its admission or exclusion. State v. Gannon, 898 S.W.2d 141, 144 (Mo.App.1995). Mr. Fetters also testified to several matters in RHC's offer of proof which involve issues broader than those included ......
  • Clay v. Missouri Highway and Transp. Com'n, WD
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    • 30 Junio 1997
    ...record precludes review of the propriety of the trial court's ruling. State ex rel. Missouri Highway & Transp. Comm'n v. Gannon, 898 S.W.2d 141, 144 (Mo.App.1995). But were we to reach the merits of the Clays' argument, we would find that its admission was harmless because the report was me......
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