Norfolk church goes to court in eminent domain case with VDOT

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NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A Norfolk church owed $6.5 million by VDOT hasn’t been paid by the agency in 69 days.  

The church is so upset that its going to court, filing a motion to ask a judge to enforce the settlement agreement.

10 On Your Side first reported First Baptist Norfolk’s dispute with VDOT back in November. The I-64 off ramp onto I-264 is nose to nose with the church sanctuary.  

“The distance between where the bridge will stop and the corner of our worship center is 54 feet,” said Pastor Eric Thomas as he pointed out the closeness back in November. 

After a lot of back and forth, it was agreed upon that VDOT would give the church $11.8 million taking property through eminent domain, but the church is still waiting over two months for about half the money.

Claude Parent is the church’s minister of administration: “It does hurt the church and it’s really not fair.  VDOT keeps going on with their construction, and First Baptist Norfolk has been doing what it can to follow the guidelines.  The bottom line: we just had to be paid what is due us,” Parent said.

Th church’s attorney, Steve Clarke filed a motion for settlement.

“I think VDOT is not moving expeditiously.  I don’t know if they are dragging their feet, I really don’t know what’s animating it.”

VDOT argued the church trustees were not properly organized to sign the agreements, and that VDOT through inherent bureaucracy moves slowly, but the church insists the church only got the necessary papers from VDOT on Friday.

“I met with the trustees this morning, and they signed the documents. We brought them to court today, and we expedited it as soon as possible.  As soon as the documents were ready, they were signed,” Parent said.

Circuit Court Judge Jerrauld Jones, who was a member of the General Assembly for many years, seemed to understand that VDOT maybe the victim of a bureaucracy, and urged Thomas Busch, VDOT’s eminent domain coordinator, to get VDOT moving along towards paying the settlement.

10 On Your Side asked Busch whether he would be able to do what the judge is hoping he can do to get the money to the church.

“We have experience with them, with the firm. They understand we are indeed going to do the absolute utmost to complete this.”

He also conveyed the same sentiment to Judge Jones in court.

VDOT’s attorney, Ross Greene, had no comment leaving court, and we were told VDOT was opposed to our putting a camera in the courtroom for the proceedings. The court also advised us they needed more time with the request, which came Tuesday morning to grant the camera access.  

In the end, Jones will keep the order to pay on his desk for at least 10 days, thinking VDOT will pay within that time. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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