Suisun Restores Eminent Domain Power

Note: Two articles appeared on this topic, the first prior to the City Council meeting and the second reporting on what transpired. They are as follows.

Council likely to vote on eminent domain
By Matthew Bunk

The city is threatening to demolish a 98-year-old building on Main Street if the owners don't repair it.

It's also moving forward to restore the power of eminent domain, which would give the city authority to repossess blighted properties.

Both situations stir controversy about whether local governments should have legal authority to take ownership or control of private properties. The matters will be discussed separately at tonight's City Council meeting, starting at 7 p.m.

The City Council recently told the owners of a vacant building at 613 Main Street to come up with a plan to have the building repaired to comply with codes or face having it knocked down. The one-story brick building was marked Monday by a sign that says "Do Not Enter."

Three of the four walls have deteriorated and the floor structure needs to be rebuilt, the city said after inspecting the storefront building in March. It also said the mechanical systems needed repair and were not up to code.

An attorney for building owner Mardell Miller stated both sides were very near an agreement to rehabilitate the building and that Miller was in the process getting people to fix it when the city discontinued talks.

City Attorney Dan Hurst said the owners repeatedly missed deadlines the city set for coming up with a signed plan to deal with the building's problems.

The city also plans to vote tonight on a resolution that would restore power to condemn and take ownership of blighted properties. The eminent domain issue has come up at recent meetings and the city is expected to vote on the issue tonight.

However, that's not what the city is trying to do at 613 Main, City Manager Steve Baker said.

"We would be getting rid of the structure - demolition," he said. "Acquiring the property would be a whole different process and that hasn't been discussed."

Suisun restores eminent domain power
By Matthew Bunk

The city now has the option of purchasing, on a judge's terms, any business property the courts decide could be put to better use.

A City Council decision Tuesday night to restore the power of eminent domain means the city can take ownership of businesses in the redevelopment district - which includes the entire city - and a few apartment complexes as well, if they prove to be a public nuisance.

Councilwoman Jane Day said the city should expand the authority to include all apartment buildings in Suisun City. As it is, only three apartment complexes are vulnerable.

Day called eminent domain "a tool we definitely need on board so that if there are problems we can correct those problems."

The city argues that it's had difficulty getting business owners to fix up blighted properties and needed some method of enforcement. Councilmembers have said they don't want to take over anyone's property unless left with no other choice.

But some citizens, wary of giving up too much authority to government, told the council they thought the eminent domain matter should go to a public vote. The council instead voted unanimously to restore the power, which lasts for 12 years.

"We have a public investment and it's being squandered," Suisun City Mayor Jim Spering said. "Business owners are concerned that their equity is getting sucked out of their property."