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Webster v. United States

United States Court of Federal Claims

November 30, 2009, Filed

No. 09-81 L

Opinion

 [*109]  HEWITT, Chief Judge

Before the court are plaintiffs' Complaint (Compl.), together with various attachments to plaintiffs' Complaint (plaintiffs' Appendix  [*110]  or Pls.' App.); 1 Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint for Lack of Jurisdiction over the Subject Matter and Memorandum in Support Thereof (defendant's Motion or Def.'s Mot.); and Plaintiffs' Response to Defendant's Opposition to ADR / Motion to Dismiss (plaintiffs' Response or Pls.' Resp.).

I. Background

Plaintiffs, William C. Webster and John C. Webster, allege that the United States government owes them just compensation for the taking of their property for public use. Compl. 1. Plaintiffs own 126.76 acres of semi-forested mountainside located within the boundaries of North Cascades National Park in Washington state. 2 Id. The property, known as Thunder Creek Mines (TCM), consists of six partially developed mining claims plus a five-acre mill site. Id. Thunder Creek Silver-Lead Mines was incorporated as a public mining operation in the late 1800s and was issued a patent in March 1921. Id. The TCM site was developed with twelve hundred linear feet of tunnel with rails, wiring and ventilation, four buildings, and a tramway. Id.

On October 2, 1968, North Cascades National Park was created. 3 Id. The property at issue was then owned by Thunder Creek Silver-Lead Mines, "a voluntarily dissolved corporation with 750 shareholders in 44 states." Id. Plaintiffs inherited their family's interest, along with all of the corporate records, in January 1980. Id. Plaintiffs state that a proceeding to quiet title was held in July of 1983 in which the Websters purchased the remaining interests in TCM for $ 67,000 and became fee owners of the property. Compl. 1, 2 P 7; see also Pls.' App. 8.2 (letter from National Park Service (NPS) Deputy Field Director William C. Walters stating that NPS files indicate that the Websters perfected their title to the TCM property at a public auction held on June 17, 1983 with a final successful bid of $ 67,000).

Plaintiffs have been involved in negotiations with the NPS regarding the sale of the TCM property for some thirty years. It appears that the Websters desire to sell the TCM property and the NPS wishes to purchase it, but that the parties have not been able to agree on its value. See Pls.' App. 15.3 (letter from NPS Regional Director Jonathan B. Jarvis describing the frustrated negotiation process and both parties' desire to achieve the sale of the TCM property and the protection of North Cascades National Park resources). Plaintiffs' complaint against the government arises, in large part, with respect to the valuation of the mining and recreational potential of the property. The NPS has conducted three separate appraisals--in 1978, 1989 and 2002--each resulting in a land-only valuation and offer to purchase. See Compl. 2 P 4, 3 PP 13-14, 4 P 20. The Websters, in turn, have commissioned mining and recreational income valuations which, they claim, support a higher sale price. See Compl. 3 PP 10-12, 4 PP 20-21.

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90 Fed. Cl. 107 *; 2009 U.S. Claims LEXIS 394 **

WILLIAM C. WEBSTER, ET AL., Plaintiffs, v. THE UNITED STATES, Defendant.

Subsequent History: Reconsideration denied by, Motion denied by Webster v. United States, 2010 U.S. Claims LEXIS 219 (Fed. Cl., Apr. 23, 2010)

CORE TERMS

plaintiffs', national park, regulations, appraisal, transfers, statute of limitations, recreational, valuation, mining, property interest, geologist, inherited, purposes, just compensation, Fifth Amendment, acquisition, six-year, trail, regulatory taking, negotiation, helicopter, accrued, flights, voluntary assignment, Anti-Assignment Act, concealed, mineral, funds, plans, federal regulation

Governments, Federal Government, Claims By & Against, Courts, Courts of Claims, Civil Procedure, Jurisdiction, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, General Overview, Evidence, Burdens of Proof, Allocation, Preponderance of Evidence, Constitutional Law, Bill of Rights, Fundamental Rights, Eminent Domain & Takings, Real Property Law, Elements, Involuntary Acquisition & Diminution of Value, Takings, Legislation, Statute of Limitations, Governmental Entities, Tolling, Dismissal, Involuntary Dismissals, Responses, Defenses, Demurrers & Objections, Motions to Dismiss, Pleadings, Complaints, Parties, Pro Se Litigants, Pleading Standards, Public Contracts Law, Contract Performance, Assignment & Novation, Bankruptcy Law, Claims, Estate, Gift & Trust Law, Wills, Public Lands, National Parks, Energy & Utilities Law, Mining Industry, Mining Claims, Venue, Federal Venue Transfers, Jurisdictional Transfers, Judicial Officers, Judges, Discretionary Powers