Family suing Henrico school board over price of land for school - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Family suing Henrico school board over price of land for school

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) -

A family is suing the Henrico County School Board over land taken to build a new high school.

The property is on Old Williamsburg Road in Sandston. The family has owned about 100 acres for more than 70 years, but now half belongs to the county.

The family is speaking only to NBC12 about what they've been going through.

Orange survey tape marks off the chunk of land the county took. The family that once owned the property says they feel like county leaders are taking advantage of them.

The land was once owned by Richmonder Phil Bergheimer. Family members say this was where he got away from the city.

"I was born in Richmond, and we would come down here on the weekends," said Kristen Barton, Bergheimer's great-niece. Once he passed away, her family took care of the land, calling it the Pucher Property.

"I have great memories of the mint in the garden that we would put in our iced tea," she said.  "So it was a wonderful childhood memory."

But now, 39 acres belong to the county, taken to build a new high school in eastern Henrico.

County leaders say the reason why they wanted the Pucher's property is because of Elko Middle School. Once this school went up, county leaders saw there was a need for a high school nearby.

The family is suing the school board - not over the land, but the price. According to court documents, county assessments by two different firms gave two different figures, one about $636,000, another almost double that amount at $1.2 million. The family says the land in question is worth the higher amount. They say the lower one, which is the one the county offered, only takes into account the land itself, and not future development prospects.

"We've been pretty much schooled on that the government can come in and take your land and I never knew that before," says Barton. "If it's going to be used for something to better the public, a school, that's wonderful! Just give us just compensation."

The family says county lawyers are pressuring the court to throw the larger offer out. In court documents, county leaders call the higher appraisal "confusing and prejudicial [and] would violate Virginia hearsay rules."

Barton promises her family will keep fighting.

"We're just not going to take that standing down," she said.

The county attorney says this is one of the biggest condemnation lawsuits Henrico has faced and would not go on camera to talk about the case, but says a trial could happen in the fall.  The family and the county could still have the opportunity to settle before then.

Copyright 2013 WWBT NBC12.  All rights reserved.

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