Redevelopment Authority Said to Have Overstepped Its Authority

Allentown's Redevelopment Authority overstepped its authority when it condemned the decaying Colonial Theater on the city's main street in 2003, an attorney for the former theater owner argued Tuesday.

Richard DiMarco told a three-judge panel of Commonwealth Court that the authority had no right to take title to the building without a specific plan for its re-use, and had acted in bad faith.

"Is it appropriate for a government entity to exercise the awesome power of eminent domain when it has no intention of acquiring the property, as an enforcement tool against its owner?" DiMarco, attorney for Mark Mendelson, asked the panel.

Collins Brown, attorney for the redevelopment authority, said the property has been in decay since 1988.

"It still remains decayed and vacant," Brown said. "It lacks heating, air conditioning and plumbing. It is infested with cockroaches and rodents."

Commonwealth Court President Judge James Gardner Collins said there would be a quick decision on Mendelson's appeal.

Authority Executive Director Mike Rosenfeld has said the authority hopes to knock down the building to redevelop the Hamilton Street site, next door to the historic Old Lehigh County Courthouse.

Wilkes-Barre Times Leader: www.timesleader.com