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State to have say in land dispute
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It appears state lawmakers will be weighing in on West Warren-Viola Utility District’s ongoing legal attempts to use eminent domain to acquire land not in its district.
House Bill 0938/ Senate Bill 1131 aims to prevent a public or private utility from using eminent domain to obtain land not in its district. The bill is sponsored by state Sen. Janice Bowling and state Rep. Judd Matheny. It was introduced Feb. 12.
Over the past three years, the utility has been embroiled in a bitter land dispute with the Jarrell family of Coffee County. The source of contention is a 5.75-acre portion of land near Manchester atop Flat Mountain.
While the utility district determined it would be the ideal location to improve water supply to Morrison and to encourage future expansion at Mt. View Industrial Park, the family does not want to sell land that has been in the family for six generations.
The initial case was heard in Coffee County Circuit Court on May 16, 2013. The judge ruled in favor of the Jarrells since the property’s water was provided by Hillsville Utility District since 2001 and had never been furnished by West Warren-Viola.
In August 2013, the utility again took the Jarrells to court, seeking to have the previous decision overturned. The court again found in favor of the family.
Yet again, on June 2014, the utility sought a reversal of the court’s decision. Again, the judge upheld the original judgment.
In September of last year, the court ordered West Warren-Viola Utility District to pay the family’s attorney fees and expenses of approximately $100,000.