Saturday, May 10, 2003

Land wanted by airport to cost $9.5M

Jury settles on record price for Conner family's 80 acres

By Brenna R. Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer

BURLINGTON - A Boone County jury Friday awarded the Conner family of Hebron $9.5 million for 80 acres being taken by the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport for its new north/south runway.

"It's my understanding that it is the largest award (ever) for industrial property in Boone County," said Phil Taliaferro, a Covington lawyer who represented the family.

The award gives the family $119,000 an acre for what is now farmland, which has been in their family for more than 200 years.

"They felt through the whole thing, that it was not just about them but it was for all the citizens of Boone County who face the threat of condemnation," Taliaferro said.

Last year, after the airport board said it would move to take the land by eminent domain, the family agreed to sell the land to the airport in return for having a Boone County jury decide its value.

The jury took 21/2 hours Friday to come back with the $9.5 million amount. Arguments in the case began May 5 in front of Circuit Judge Jay Bamberger.

"We'll review it Monday and then determine what we will do, either appeal it or accept it," said airport spokesman Ted Bushelman.

The airport had previously offered the family $2.56 million. The Conners had wanted $4 million, based on the value of industrial land, Taliaferro said. The Marie Conner Family trust that brought the suit was made up of six Conner family members.

"It's all right I guess," Dennis Conner said of the award. "We're still angry with the airport that they put us through this."

Three of the siblings still live on a portion of land not taken by the airport.

They will be able to keep their homes because they are not in the path of the $230 million runaway expansion project.

Taliaferro praised the family for holding out for what they thought the land was worth.

"It was a true David and Goliath story," Taliaferro said. "The Conners wouldn't back down; they weren't intimidated."

The Conner tract and 13 other landowners' holdings were in the way of the airport's new 8,000-foot north-south runway on the western side of the airport, as well as a 2,000-foot extension of the western end of the existing 10,000-foot east-west runway.

The $230 million project is to be completed by 2005.

The 13 other landowners will also have the value of their land determined by Boone County juries.

Florence lawyer Steve Dallas will argue a case in October. The dates for the other cases have not been set.


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