The ACHD vs. Smoky Davis Case

Photo of former Smokey Davis building
Artist rendering of a new Smokey Davis building
The top image shows the former Smoky Davis building. The bottom image shows the Davises’ plan for an upgraded building.

In everything ACHD does, one of the main goals is to always be good stewards of Ada County taxpayer dollars. It is for this reason that ACHD recently spent over $270,000 protecting taxpayers from paying for right of way compensation that far exceeds fair and just compensation.

ACHD and the owners of Smoky Davis, Gary and Dee Davis, are involved in a legal dispute over the amount of just compensation owed for ACHD’s acquisition of a portion of their property in connection with the widening of State Street. The lawsuit has been the subject of numerous news stories and an even larger number of social media posts. ACHD does not usually comment on pending cases, but with the amount of press this case has received, we feel it is important for us to respond.

This lawsuit is a disagreement over the amount of money the Davises are owed. The Davises are asking ACHD to pay them more than $2.6 million for (1) the taking of about 5,000 square feet of their property; (2) the taking of two buildings; and (3) the reconstruction of a new and improved building. ACHD disagrees with this claim.

ACHD’s and the Davises’ independent appraisers concluded that the property taken (which consists of about 5,000 square feet and two buildings dating back to the 1950s) is worth between $250,000 and $455,000, respectively—much less than $2+ million. ACHD, in an effort to resolve this dispute, offered the Davises the full amount of their appraised value for the property ($455,000) and compensation for them to relocate and re-establish the Smoky Davis business.

The Davises rejected the offers. The Davises are asking ACHD to provide them with an additional $2.2 million dollar improvement over what they had before.
While ACHD is willing to agree to the Davises’ appraised value, it does not agree that it should also pay them $2.2 million for a bigger and better building at tax payer expense. This is particularly so, where the Davises’ business incurred losses year after year and failed to generate any profit for three of the last four years it was in business. Additionally, ACHD made more than a dozen attempts to offer the Davises every cent available to them under Idaho’s business relocation assistance laws. But again, the Davises rejected the offers.

ACHD has a constitutional obligation to pay just compensation when a landowner’s property is taken through eminent domain. But we also have an obligation to protect the interests of the citizens of Ada County and the public’s coffers. We do not believe that the Davises are entitled to a windfall that would give them more than what they had. It would be irresponsible for ACHD to simply pay the Davises $2.2 million without fighting it in court when it does not believe this claim is supported by the facts or the law.

ACHD makes every effort to treat all landowners fairly and to pay them what is just and fair. In fact, over the last 15 years, ACHD has negotiated settlements in more than 350 cases, with less than 1 percent of those cases ever going to trial. ACHD is always willing to engage in reasonable negotiations to resolve a case, but it will vigorously defend against unreasonable claims. ACHD is committed paying the Davises what they are entitled to under Idaho law, but it will not concede to unwarranted claims. We do not believe the taxpayers of Ada County should be required to foot the bill for a claim of damages that is five times the appraised value of the Davises property.