Jurors: MWRA must pay $10M for Fore River land

Julie Jette

Jurors decided the MWRA should pay $10 million for about 15 acres the agency took at the mouth of the Fore River in North Weymouth, more than triple what the agency’s experts argued it was worth.

The ruling, which came after a five-week trial and 10 days of deliberations, fell well short of the $23.1 million sought by the owners of the land, seized by eminent domain in 2002.

The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority had already paid $3.1 million for the parcel, which is where the Fore River Station power plant now stands. The land is being used for a pumping station and other uses related to a $221 million sewer project completed three years ago.

Public agencies and local, state and federal governments can take land for public projects through the eminent domain process. But agencies are required to pay fair market value for the land.

The MWRA claimed the land had strictly industrial uses, while the landowners said the parcel taken by the MWRA could have been used to build housing. Those contrasting viewpoints produced two very different fair market values: MWRA experts said the land was worth no more than $3.2 million, while the plant’s owners contended the land was worth about $20 million more because of its residential-development potential.

MWRA spokeswoman Ria Convrey said the agency would wait for a judge’s ruling on interest before determining whether to appeal.

“We’ll confer with counsel and our board, and we’ll see what our next steps are,” Convrey said.

Beyond the trial’s length, the dispute was also unusual for the wide disparities in appraisals, lawyers said, although such disparities are more common on undeveloped land.

The Fore River Station has changed hands several times since the dispute began. It is now owned by New York-based U.S. Power Generating. When the eminent- domain taking occurred in 2002, a company called Sithe Energies was building the plant.

Julie Jette may be reached at jjette@ledger.com.