Phoenix, ASU plan eminent domain use — East Valley (Phoenix AZ) Tribune, 11/21/04

By Jason Emerson

The Arizona Board of Regents and Arizona State University are backing a plan that will let Phoenix obtain private property for a downtown campus by using eminent domain.

The regents on Friday unanimously approved an agreement with Phoenix that anticipates the use of eminent domain to get property from land owners who are unwilling to sell because of disputes over real estate values.

The agreement also calls for Phoenix to buy and condemn property in the city’s name, take care of paperwork and other obligations related to condemnation cases and land purchases, and provide lawyers for cases.

The deal states that ASU would seek action by the regents, if necessary, to help Phoenix.

Phoenix is assembling land for a 15,000-student ASU campus that would occupy several blocks near the Phoenix Civic Center. The site is generally bounded by Van Buren and Fillmore streets, First Avenue and Third Street. The project is a joint venture between the city and ASU.

ASU officials said they expect difficulties as they build the campus because some land owners are holding out for inflated prices. Eminent domain would ensure land is sold at fair market rates, according to the agreement.

Governments use eminent domain to take private property for a public use. Land owners must get fair value, which is generally defined as the highest price someone would pay to a willing seller. Litigation can result if the parties disagree on the value.

Richard Stanley, ASU’s senior vice president and university planner, declined to give specifics on anticipated condemnation cases.

Tim Keller, a lawyer with public interest law firm Institute for Justice, declined comment on the specific case but said eminent domain abuse comes in many forms, including the government using condemnation to obtain land at below market prices, he said.

The Fifth Amendment guarantees that property owners are justly compensated, Keller said.

Phoenix’s media relations office didn’t return a message last week seeking comment.

East Valley Tribune: www.eastvalleytribune.com/index.php