PITTSBURGH (AP) – A commission assigned to assess the value of the site of the Flight 93 memorial correctly calculated it at about $1.5 million, a federal judge in western Pennsylvania has ruled.
The ruling Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Donetta Ambrose comes in a dispute over the property’s value between its previous owner, Michael Svonavec, who had wanted to turn it into a museum, and its current owner, the federal government.
Ambrose rejected arguments from both, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.
Svonavec had argued in a lawsuit it was worth about $23 million. He asked Ambrose to recall the commission, change several parts of the analysis and calculate a value of at least $5.7 million.
The U.S. Department of the Interior condemned the 275-acre site in Shanksville, about 75 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, in 2009 and paid $611,000 for it, and officials had asked the judge to lower the value to that amount.
In December, a three-person eminent domain commission appointed by the judge in a dispute released its valuation for the site.
Ambrose said the commission’s 72-page report was correct in saying that the plane crash gave the property “a national significance and intrinsic value” not easily compared to other properties.
“Faced with this unique valuation scenario, the commission fairly and admirably analyzed and weighed the record evidence and correctly applied the relevant law to determine just compensation in this case,” the judge said.
The National Park Service said about 320,000 visitors went to the site in 2012, the first full calendar year after a permanent memorial was dedicated on the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
Flight 93 was traveling from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco when it crashed after passengers fought back against hijackers during the Sept. 11 attacks.