Judge rules Flight 93 site near Shanksville worth $1.53 million

By Brian Bowling Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

A three-person commission came up with the correct value for the United Flight 93 crash memorial site, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Donetta Ambrose rejected arguments by the previous property owner, Michael Svonavec, and the current owner, the federal government, that the commissioners erred in their analysis of the site’s value.

The government took the site through eminent domain in 2009, paying Svonavec $610,000 for the 275 acres near Shanksville where the hijacked commercial airliner crashed on September 11, 2001, while passengers and crew members struggled with terrorists intent on striking a target in Washington.

A court-appointed commission in December put the value of the property at $1,535,000.

Svonavec asked Ambrose to call the commission back, have it change several parts of its analysis and come up with a value of at least $5.7 million. The government asked the judge to change the commission’s findings and lower the value to the amount it had already paid.

Ambrose said the commission’s 72-page report rightly determined that the event gave the property “a national significance and intrinsic value” that couldn’t be easily compared to other properties.

“Faced with this unique valuation scenario, the commission fairly and admirably analyzed and weighed the record evidence and correctly applied the relevant law to determine just compensation in this case,” the judge ruled.

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