The Missouri Supreme Court has ruled that an award of heritage value damages in a condemnation case is valid under the state constitution.
The Court first examined Article I of the Missouri Constitution, which provides “that private property shall not be taken or damaged for public use without just compensation.”
In 2006, the Missouri General Assembly enacted a statutory definition of just compensation codifying the judicial determination that “just compensation” means “fair market value” and providing for additional compensation for the taking of homesteads and properties held within the same family for 50 or more years.
The 2006 statute defined “heritage value” as 50 percent of the fair market value of a property that has been owned within the same family for 50 or more years.
Fast-forward to 2009 when St. Louis County determined that it was necessary to condemn 15 acres of real property located at 1653 Creve Coeur Mill Road in Chesterfield for the Page/Olive connector of the Highway 141 extension project. The 15-acre tract was deeded to the original owner in 1904.
Subsequently, a trial court appointed three commissioners who held a hearing and awarded the current owners $320,000 as damages for the acquisition of the property. The owners filed exceptions to the commissioners’ award and requested a jury trial.
After hearing the evidence, the jury assessed damages for the owners in the amount of $1.3 million. The trial court added $650,000 for heritage value to the jury’s verdict.
Ultimately, the Missouri Supreme Court held that the constitutionally required “just compensation” is a minimum measure that must be paid, not a maximum one. It concluded that the legislature has the power to provide for more than the minimum “just compensation.” Therefore, there was no violation of the Missouri Constitution’s provision requiring “just compensation” for land taken for public use by the requirement of additional compensation for heritage value.