Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth. v. 6,627 Square Feet of Land, Civil Action 21-1753 (BAH)

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
Writing for the CourtBERYL A. HOWELL, CHIEF JUDGE
PartiesWASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY, Plaintiff, v. 6,627 SQUARE FEET OF LAND, MORE OR LESS, SITUATE IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA KNOWN AS 2506 28TH STREET NE, et al., and 7,360 SQUARE FEET OF LAND, MORE OR LESS, SITUATE IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA KNOWN AS 2500 28TH STREET NE AND 2510 BLADENSBURG ROAD NE, et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberCivil Action 21-1753 (BAH),21-1757 (BAH)
Decision Date05 July 2022

WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY, Plaintiff,
v.

6,627 SQUARE FEET OF LAND, MORE OR LESS, SITUATE IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA KNOWN AS 2506 28TH STREET NE, et al., and 7,360 SQUARE FEET OF LAND, MORE OR LESS, SITUATE IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA KNOWN AS 2500 28TH STREET NE AND 2510 BLADENSBURG ROAD NE, et al., Defendants.

Civil Action Nos. 21-1753 (BAH), 21-1757 (BAH)

United States District Court, District of Columbia

July 5, 2022


MEMORANDUM OPINION

BERYL A. HOWELL, CHIEF JUDGE

Plaintiff, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (“WMATA”), seeks to take possession of several tracts of land bordering the Bladensburg Bus Garage in Northeast, Washington, D.C., in order to expand the terminal to hold additional buses as part of an ongoing capital improvement project. In furtherance of that goal, in June 2021, plaintiff filed civil actions “under the power of eminent domain through a Declaration of Taking” to gain title to these tracts of land, so that “just compensation to the owners and parties in interest” could be determined and awarded. See Compl. ¶ 1, WMATA 1753 ECF No. 1, WMATA 1757 ECF No. 1.[1] Two of

1

these tracts of lands, and the corresponding lawsuits filed on the same day as related, see Not. Related Case, WMATA 1753 ECF No. 5; Not. Related Case, WMATA 1757 ECF No. 5, are addressed in this Memorandum Opinion.[2] The first is a roughly 6,627 square foot property located at 2506 28th Street NE, Washington, DC, in which defendants Northeast Iron Works Land Partnership and Northeast Iron Works, Inc. have claimed an interest. See Answer at 1, WMATA 1753 ECF No. 15. The second is a roughly 7,360 square foot property located at 2500 28th Street NE, Washington, DC, in which defendants 1210 Bladensburg Road LLC and Tasty Kabob and Gyro, Inc., have claimed an interest. See Answer, WMATA 1757 ECF No. 15.

Defendants in both these cases object to the taking of their property. See generally id.; WMATA 1753 Answer. Plaintiff has now moved for judgment on the pleadings, seeking that the Court adjudge defendants' properties as taken lawfully, in accordance with a valid public purpose. See Pl.'s Mot. for J. on the Pleadings as to the Authority for and Public Purpose of the Taking and to Strike Insufficient Defenses and Objections (“Pl.'s Mot.”), WMATA 1753 ECF No. 17, WMATA 1757 ECF No. 19. Plaintiff also moves to strike the other defenses and objections asserted by defendants as legally invalid. See id. For the reasons set forth below, plaintiff's motion is granted as to both cases.[3]

2

I. BACKGROUND

In 2019, plaintiff announced plans to overhaul the Bladensburg Bus Garage, first built in 1962, in order to “modernize the facility” that currently houses 260 buses and support vehicles, and “dramatically improv[e] essential bus operations and maintenance” by creating additional bus spaces. Bladensburg Bus Garage Reconstruction Project, WMATA (last visited July 5, 2022), https://www.wmata.com/mitiatives/plans/Bladensburg/mdex.cfm. The proposal also allocated “space for electric bus infrastructure in the future . . . consistent with Metro's zeroemission bus plan.” Id.

In connection with this project, on June 30, 2021, plaintiff filed suit in this Court, seeking to exercise its “power of eminent domain” to condemn (1) a tract of land 6,627 square feet in size, located at 2506 28th Street NE, see WMATA 1753 Compl. at 1; and (2) another property 7,360 square feet in size, located at 2500 28th Street NE, see WMATA 1757 Compl. at 1.[4] In the schedules filed with the Complaint in each case, plaintiff explained that it was authorized to acquire the property pursuant to (1) section 82 of the WMATA Compact, Pub. L. No. 89-774, 80 Stat. 1324, 1350-51, as amended by the National Capital Area Transit Act of 1972, Pub. L. No. 92-517, 86 Stat. 999 (codified at D.C. Code § 9-1107.01); and (2) the D.C. eminent domain procedures, D.C. Code § 16-1351 et seq. Compl., Sched. A, Authority for the Taking at 1, WMATA 1753 ECF No. 1-2, WMATA 1757 ECF No. 1-2. The “public purpose” for acquiring the property was “the construction, operation, use, and maintenance of a replacement bus garage facility and related facilities,” id., Sched. B, Public Purpose at 1, WMATA 1753 ECF No. 1-3, WMATA 1757 ECF No. 1-3, pursuant to the WMATA “Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Capital Improvement Project 0311 - Bladensburg Bus Garage Replacement,” see Sched. A at 1.

3

Plaintiff also provided more detailed descriptions of the tracts of land, see id., Sched. C, Description of the Property, WMATA 1753 ECF No. 1-4, WMATA 1757 ECF No. 1-4, and id., Sched. D, Map, WMATA 1753 ECF No. 1-5, WMATA 1757 ECF No. 1-5, and clarified that the estate to be taken in the properties was “fee simple absolute, including all improvements and appurtenances, but subject to any existing public utility easements,” or interests held by the District of Columbia, id., Sched. E, Estate to be Acquired at 1, WMATA 1753 ECF No. 1-6, WMATA 1757 ECF No. 1-6.[5]

In each case, plaintiff also estimated the just compensation for the taking and listed the parties known to have an interest in the property. In WMATA 1753, just compensation was estimated to be $880,000, id., Sched. F, Estimate of Just Compensation, WMATA 1753 ECF No. 1-7, and the parties known to have an interest in the property were (1) defendant Northeast Iron Works Land Partnership, which was listed on the deed; (2) defendant Northeast Iron Works Inc., according to an unrecorded lease agreement; and (3) the DC Office of Tax and Revenue, id., Sched. G, Interested Parties at 1, WMATA 1753 ECF No. 1-8.[6] In WMATA 1757, just compensation was estimated at $1,060,000, id., Sched. F, Estimate of Just Compensation, WMATA 1757 ECF No. 1-7, and the parties known to have an interest in the property were (1) defendant 2510 Bladensburg Road LLC, which was listed on the deed; (2) defendant Tasty Kabob and Gyro, Inc., according to an unrecorded lease agreement; (3) two “[t]rustees for the benefit of United Bank,” according to a “Deed of Trust dated September 6, 2017”; (4) United

4

Bank, according to a “Collateral Assignment of Leases and Rents dated September 6, 2017”; and (5) the DC Office of Tax and Revenue, id., Sched. G, Interested Parties at 1-2, WMATA 1757 ECF No. 1-8.[7]

Along with the Complaint, plaintiff filed a Notice of Condemnation (“Not. Condemn.”), WMATA 1753 ECF No. 1-9, WMATA 1757 ECF No. 1-9, addressed to those entities identified as interested parties, and instructing that, if those interested parties had “any objection or defense to the taking of the property in which [they] have or claim some interest,” to file an Answer to the Complaint within 21 days “stating the nature and extent of the interest claimed and stating all [their] objections and defenses to the taking of the property.” Not. Condemn. at 1-2. The Notice explained that “failure to serve an Answer [would] constitute consent to the taking and . . . a waiver of all defenses and objections to the taking.” Id. at 2.

That same day, plaintiff filed, in both cases, a Declaration of Taking from Nina M. Albert, Vice President of Real Estate and Parking for WMATA, affirming that the authority and public purpose for the takings and the description of the properties were as set forth in the schedules filed with the Complaint, and declaring that WMATA was depositing the estimated just compensation “in the registry of the Court for the use and benefit of the persons entitled thereto.” Decl. of Taking (“Albert Decl.”) at 1-2, WMATA 1753 ECF No. 2, WMATA 1757 ECF No. 2. To facilitate that deposit, and pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 67(a) and

5

D.D.C. Local Civil Rule 67.1, plaintiff moved for an order to deposit the estimated just compensation in the Court's registry, see Ex Parte Appl. for Order to Deposit Estimated Just Compensation, WMATA 1753 ECF No. 3, WMATA 1757 ECF No. 3, which motion was granted on July 2, 2021, see Order Directing Clerk to Deposit Funds into Court Registry, WMATA 1753 ECF No. 7, WMATA 1757 ECF No. 7; see also WMATA 1753 Deposit of Sequestered Funds (July 9, 2021), WMATA 1757 Deposit of Sequestered Funds (July 9, 2021). On July 27, 2021, defendant 2510 Bladensburg Road LLC filed a motion to release these funds, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 71.1(j)(2). See Def.'s Consent Mot. to Release Funds On Deposit, WMATA 1757 ECF No. 10. The next day, defendant Northeast Iron Works Land Partnership filed a similar motion to release the deposited funds in the companion case. See Def.'s Consent Mot. to Release Funds On Deposit, WMATA 1753 ECF No. 10. Without objection from plaintiff, the Court granted defendants' motions on July 28, 2021. See Order, WMATA 1753 ECF No. 11, WMATA 1757 ECF No. 11.

Then, on September 3, 2021, defendants filed Answers in each case that are, for all relevant purposes, identical. See Answer. With respect to (1) plaintiff's “authority for the acquisition,” Compl. ¶ 3; (2) the “public purpose for which the property is taken,” id. ¶ 4; (3) the “legal description of the property,” beyond its street address, id. ¶ 5; and (4) the accuracy of the map provided by plaintiff, id. ¶ 6, defendants stated they were “[w]ithout sufficient information to form a belief about the truth of the allegations” and “demand[ed] strict proof thereof,” Answer ¶ 3; see also id. ¶¶ 4-6 (making same statement). Defendants denied that the estimated compensation “constitutes the just compensation that the Defendants are entitled to receive,” and that “such deficient compensation tendered in this matter entitles Defendants to recovery of its [sic] attorney fees and costs under the Equal Access to Justice Act” (“EAJA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2412,

6

and to “additional damages . . . under the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970” (“URA”), 42 U.S.C. § 4601, et seq. Id. ¶ 8.

In light of defendants' Answers, on September 24, 2021, plaintiff moved for...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT