Longform

YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK

Page 3 of 3

Basically, what Gabrielli was doing was playing an old game in condemnation cases. He acquired an optimistic evaluation of his property-about ten times more than he paid for it six years earlier-to try to make a little on the deal. Or a lot on the deal. The state on the other hand, while obligated to pay just compensation, almost always initially offers an amount significantly lower than what it eventually pays for the land. The discrepancy between Gabrielli's appraisal of the land and the state's appraisal is not unusualÏthere have been local condemnation cases where juries have awarded landowners 15 or even 20 times more than the state's final offer.

Usually these initial offers are merely the starting point for negotiations, and in a letter dated June 8, 1989, the state did revise its offer for the Gabrielli property. ADOT offered Gabrielli $411,500 for the entire parcel. On the same day as the offer, a letter from ADOT acquisition services manager Brian Rockwell was hand-delivered to Gabrielli that indicated the state was prepared to begin eminent-domain proceedings to acquire the property. On June 22, Gabrielli sent another letter to ADOT, offering to sell the property for $1,175,655. The state never responded to that letter, and a condemnation hearing is scheduled to begin this July.

The state of Arizona acquired Gabrielli's land through a venerated legal precept known as eminent domain. This process allows government to acquire private land to make public improvements. Though the law requires that the state pay the disenfranchised landowner just compensation" in exchange for the property, disputes often arise from the process.

There is a legitimate question about how much the Gabrielli property was worth before the Hohokam Expressway was built. It seemed especially well-suited for a recycling business, and probably ill-suited for almost any other use. Situated near Tempe and only a few miles east of Phoenix's central business district, it was conveniently located. The farther you have to haul your garbage, the more it costs, and Gabrielli was close to a lot of garbage. There was a railroad spur on the property that made it easy to load processed waste products onto cars and ship them out. He had plenty of land on which to stack the raw material, and no neighbors to complain about the eyesore. And though the buildings that stood on the land were dilapidated and probably worthless to almost anybody else, they were adequate for Gabrielli's purposesÏthey kept the rain off his equipment and paper.

Even before the Hohokam was built, the area was beginning to shift away from the heavy industrial use for which it was zoned to lighter, brighter and presumably more profitable uses. The meat-packing plants and feedlots that once surrounded the former Gabrielli property began to disappear about a decade ago, until now only the Stockyards Restaurant and Tovrea Castle remain as reminders of the cattle trade. Now to the east, across 48th Street, cars jerk through the parking lot of a PACE store, a new consumer clubhouse. It's not hard to imagine a small office building or warehouse on the site.

part 2 of 4

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Philip Martin