An arbitration hearing over the expropriation of a farm in the path of a new highway in Cornwall kicked off in a Charlottetown courtroom today, with government lawyers presenting the province's case. 

The province filed papers March 31 to expropriate the 30-hectare Hughes-Jones Centre for People and Animals, an equestrian centre owned by the family of Ellen Jones. It is one of the parcels of private land the province purchased so construction of phase 2 of the Cornwall bypass can begin this summer.

The owners aren't fighting the expropriation, but rather the price they've been given — just under $537,000 — saying it's not enough to relocate Jones's business. The property includes a 3-storey custom-built home and attached arena.

Now it's up to P.E.I. Supreme Court Chief Justice Jacqueline Matheson, as arbitrator, to decide if the price offered is fair.  

Monday, the province called several witnesses including Department of Transportation Chief Engineer Stephen Yeo, real estate appraiser Herman McQuaid of McQuaid and Associates, and manager of provincial lands Carol Craswell.

Craswell testified the province had McQuaid appraise the property last December — he valued the farm at $488,000, after touring the property with Jones and checking the value of comparable properties. On top of that, the province offered a 10 per cent incentive fee to help cover moving expenses, for a total of $536,800. That's the amount for which the farm was expropriated.

The government has agreed to allow Jones to remain on the property until next spring, Craswell said, noting this is the first expropriation on file to reach arbitration.

Ellen Jones is expected to testify tomorrow, and the hearing is expected to wrap up Wednesday.

With files from Katerina Georgieva