Woman accepts payment for damage

Ridgefield landowner says that $30,000 is not enough to make her whole

By Eric Florip, Columbian transportation & environment reporter

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A Ridgefield landowner says she has accepted — reluctantly — a $30,000 settlement from the state, ending a property damage dispute that dates back to 2009.

Caroll Stuart-Luna made her decision late Friday, the last day the offer remained on the table.

“It was take-it-or-leave-it,” said Stuart-Luna, 77.

The dispute stems from a Washington State Department of Transportation project to expand and improve the Interstate 5 interchange at Highway 501, about three-quarters of a mile to the north in Ridgefield. Shortly after the work began in fall 2009, a well house on Stuart-Luna’s property was destroyed as crews cleared the area around the freeway.

A survey conducted before the project began showed the well entirely on public land, straddling city of Ridgefield property and state right-of-way. But after the question was raised, a second survey determined the well sat on Stuart-Luna’s property, as well.

The state offered $30,000 as compensation, which officials said was a high-end estimate for the structure. Stuart-Luna had contended damage extended beyond the well, and said she spent more than that amount simply making her case to the state.

Ultimately, she decided that that was an argument she couldn’t win, Stuart-Luna said Friday.

The property is 1.29 acres wedged between South Timm Road and I-5 in Ridgefield. It is unoccupied and largely undeveloped, with only an old, uninhabitable storage building on site. The property’s value was assessed at $82,722 in 2010, according to county records.

Stuart-Luna, 77, lives in Hawaii but has ties to Southwest Washington. She bought the Ridgefield property in the late 1980s as an investment, and said she’s not sure what she’ll do with it.

The construction project continues this summer, with crews revamping two intersections of Highway 501 in the area.

Eric Florip: 360-735-4541 or eric.florip@columbian.com.