Roanoke wants a lawsuit filed against it by Walker Machine & Foundry last month dismissed based on a string of legal, technical and procedural issues, according to a response filed Monday.

Walker sued the city a month ago after years of back and forth over the city’s desire to acquire a narrow strip of the foundry’s land along the Roanoke River in the Norwich neighborhood to complete the Roanoke River Greenway. The foundry is the only landowner standing in the way of completing the 10-mile path.

The foundry filed an inverse condemnation claim, saying the city’s threat to use eminent domain to take the land it needs amounted to effectively taking it, thereby devaluing the company’s property and driving business away. The company claims it has lost business every year since talk of eminent domain began, up to a third of gross revenues in one year.

City leaders publicly discussed using eminent domain to take a narrow strip of land from the foundry for the greenway as far back as August 2015, and city council authorized use of condemnation in August 2017. The council rescinded that authorization in April.

The company has refused to sell because it argues presence of the linear park so near its operation would imperil its air quality permit issued by the Virginia Department Environmental Quality. That would effectively shut down the nearly century-old business.

In its lawsuit, Walker claims it is due compensation for its losses as well as relocation costs due to people who are displaced by condemnation of their land.

The city’s response disputes each of six counts in the Walker complaint, after first asserting the company doesn’t establish a clear date on which the alleged taking of their land began. Any date beyond June 18, 2016, would be outside the statute of limitations for the company’s claim.

The city contends Walker fails to make a viable claim of inverse condemnation, because it doesn’t show the city’s actions limited the company’s ability to exercise its property rights. Citing case law, the city said injuries to a business, such as lost profits, aren’t eligible in such a claim.

On Walker’s request for the court to declare the company a “displaced person,” and therefore eligible for relocation benefits, the city argues Walker cannot sue for declaratory judgment on that item. Under both federal and state relocation assistance programs, the city’s response said, Walker is not entitled to sue.

Walker can make an administrative claim its rights were violated, the city said, but Walker has failed to even pursue, let alone exhaust, that opportunity.

On its claim for lost profits, the city argues, Walker likewise cannot sue because Virginia law doesn’t expressly allow it, and Walker failed to provide required three years federal income tax forms to document its losses.

The city asserts that Walker isn’t entitled to other claims it made in its suit because other claims are waived once you file an inverse condemnation suit.

But the response went on to argue the remaining claims are invalid on their own.

For example, Walker claims its right to due process in gaining relocation benefits was violated. The city responded that Walker never sought any due process on that matter.

Walker also claims in the lawsuit that its constitutional right to equal protection under the law was violated.

The city’s response notes that Walker claims the company was treated differently from other landowners affected by the greenway’s construction because the city did not acquire, condemn or relocate the foundry.

“Thus, Walker Foundry inexplicably appears to argue that the city should condemn Walker Foundry’s property even though it has consistently resisted the city’s efforts to voluntarily purchase the property and even though other landowners have voluntarily conveyed property rights to the city for construction of the greenway,” the city said in its response.

Finally, the city asks the court to dismiss the entire suit because Walker did not cite a specific amount of damages it seeks. Rather, the foundry asks the court to appoint a panel of commissioners to determine the amount. But the city asserts court rules require an amount be specified.

No hearing date has been set in the case.

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Matt Chittum covers Roanoke City. A Roanoke native, he’s been at the Roanoke Times for more than two decades, having overcome an inauspicious start with a part-time clerical job.

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