Shopping center developer at odds with pipeline developer

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Nicholas County developer and convenience store company is among those objecting to the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s eminent domain claims.

Paco Land says development of the pipeline route is going to mess up its own development plans.

The developers of Mountain Valley Pipeline filed a federal lawsuit in late October to gain eminent domain access to properties in nine West Virginia counties.

The West Virginia lawsuit lists more than 100 pieces of property where the pipeline developers say they need access for easements. The legal action applies to properties along the pipeline’s path in Greenbrier, Monroe, Nicholas, Summers, Braxton, Harrison, Lewis, Webster and Wetzel counties.

Some of the landowners have been fighting back, challenging the pipeline’s authority based on issues such as the status of its Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Certificate and whether it will truly provide just compensation.

One of the property owners, Paco Land, filed its objections this past Monday in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of West Virginia. It says Mountain Valley Pipeline offered $150,000 for its property.

“Paco Land regarded the offer as entirely inadequate compensation for the value of the property at issue,” lawyers for the company wrote.

“Plaintiff made no good faith effort to discuss, evaluate, calculate or offer Paco Land a reasonable amount of compensation for the taking.”

MORE: Read Paco Land’s answer to Mountain Valley Pipeline’s complaint.

Paco Land is a family-owned, small business development company that operates five convenience stores in Nicholas County, including a large truck stop. They go by the name U-Save Food Stores.

It has also developed two propane distribution facilities serving nine counties in southern West Virginia. The company has operated for 20 years.

“Land owned by Paco Land  is owned solely for the purpose of development into vibrant businesses, benefiting the local, rural communities in which they are located,” the company’s lawyers wrote.

In 2000, the company bought 151 acres to develop a shopping center in Craigsville.

“Paco Land only purchased the property after careful evaluation of the property’s location, amenities, surrounding population and after a thorough calculation of the benefits to both Paco Land and the community from the development of a shopping center in that location,” the company’s lawyers wrote.

Paco Land says it has negotiated with national hardware, grocery, retail and fast-food chains about locating on the property once it is prepared.

If the Mountain Valley Pipeline gains a permanent right-of-way through the property, Paco Land notes it will be unable to undertake its own development there or operate heavy machinery along the right-of-way.

“Accordingly, the placement of the pipeline and permanent easement through the center of the property, denies Paco Land use and enjoyment of the entire 128.66 acre parcel, as well as the additional 22.36 acres purchased as part of the same transaction.

“Earth cannot be moved from the back of the property to the front for the purposes of leveling the land if heavy machinery cannot operate across the property. Stores, restaurants, parking lots, utility lines, roadways and sidewalks — all necessary to the intended shopping center — cannot be constructed if the pipeline is placed as planned by plaintiff.”

With the pipeline through the center of the property, it could not be subdivided either, Paco Land contends.

Furthermore, the business could not even continue with the cattle lease that currently provides revenue for the property.

“These easement sought by the plaintiff in the complaint is essentially a taking of the entire 151.02 acres purchased by Paco Land for the development of the shopping center,” the lawyers wrote.

For its legal argument, the company cites pending federal lawsuits that challenge whether the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has demonstrated the project is in the public interest.

The company also says Mountain Valley Pipeline has not yet demonstrated it has the ability to justly compensate for the property it intends to use.

Paco Land wants its case against MVP to proceed separately from other defendants in the federal eminent domain disputes. The company wants a jury trial.

The Mountain Valley Pipeline, along with the similar but separate Atlantic Coast Pipeline, gained approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in mid-October. One of the commissioners dissented, calling the public interest of the projects into question.

The $3.5 billion Mountain Valley Pipeline would extend 42-inch diameter natural gas pipeline over 303 miles  to transport West Virginia natural gas into southern Virginia.

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