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State Roads Commission of v. Halle

Decided: February 28, 1962.

STATE ROADS COMMISSION OF MARYLAND
v.
HALLE ET UX.



Appeal from the Circuit Court for Baltimore County; Menchine, J.

Brune, C. J., and Henderson, Hammond, Prescott and Horney, JJ. Prescott, J., delivered the opinion of the Court.

Prescott

This appeal from a judgment entered upon a jury's inquisition in a condemnation proceeding in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County involves four rulings of the trial judge on questions of evidence. As presented by the appellant in its brief, they follow:

"1. Did the Trial Court err in permitting the witness, Lester Matz, to testify to the estimated development costs for the property the subject of these proceedings?

A. Did the Trial Court err in refusing to strike the testimony of the witness, Lester Matz, concerning sewer deficits?

B. Did the Trial Court err in permitting the real estate valuation witnesses of the Appellees to deduct from their "after value" the sewer deficits testified to by the witness Lester Matz?

II. Did the Trial Court err in permitting the witness, Lester Matz, to testify concerning actual development costs on the property used as comparable sales?"

The method of setting up the questions and the manner of arguing them in appellant's brief has made it very difficult (as well as time consuming) to deal with them with any reasonable degree of preciseness. It will be noted that under question I, with the subdivisions A and B, as they are presented above, ordinarily A and B would involve two subordinate questions relating to the main question I, but a reading of the record extract and appellant's argument discloses they involve three different rulings upon questions of evidence. In its statement of facts and in its argument, when referring to facts and/or objections to evidence, sometimes the location thereof in the record extract is given and at other times not, with little, if any, attempt being made to pin point in the record extract where and in what mode objections were properly reserved for decision on appeal. With a record extract

of more than 300 pages, this places an undue burden upon the Court (and also violates Maryland Rule 831 c 3) by necessitating, if the questions are to be answered, an attempt to piece together, from the whole record extract, what the questions are, and whether they have been sufficiently reserved for decision. In addition, the appellant, in the argument in its brief, sets forth, under one heading, questions 1, (A), and (B), which as we have said, present three questions; and then proceeds with its argument in such a manner as to render the task of relating the specific arguments made to any one or more of the questions, and, if so, which one or ones, arduous, if not at times impossible. We shall, therefore, subdivide the questions into I, I A, I B, and II and answer them.

I

The case involves a taking by the appellant of part of a parcel of ground in fee and consequential damages to the remainder. In the proceeding below, the experts on both sides were in accord that the highest and best use that could be made of the property was its sale to a developer or builder for residential subdivision purposes; hence the basic question involved in the trial was the fair market value of the property for such purposes. During their testimony, appellant's real estate experts stated that "development costs" and costs of providing utilities were details that any developer who might buy the subject property would be concerned with; that these costs have a direct bearing on prices paid for potential subdivision land; and that "practically any developer looking at raw land can estimate very accurately those items," indeed "it is uncanny how accurate they are."

The appellees produced a registered professional civil engineer of wide experience, one Lester Matz, who testified he had been the designing engineer in about 300 subdivisions in Baltimore County and many more elsewhere; that he is constantly consulted by developers to estimate development costs in advance of the actual acquisition of land by them; and that each property has its own specific physical characteristics, and ...


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