Board delays eminent domain: (Univ of North Carolina) Daily Tar Heel, 3/1/05

By Sam Shepard

The ongoing struggle to acquire a local satellite campus for Durham Technical Community College was continued Monday when the Hillsborough Town Board decided to delay the use of a tactic that could get it the land.

The Trump Group, the Florida-based developer hired by the town to acquire the property, and the landowners, the heirs to Marvin Glenn and Doris Huckabee, still had not reached an agreement on the sale of the land Monday.

The Town Board was scheduled to discuss the possibility of using eminent domain - the process by which a town can acquire private property for public use - Monday if no agreement had been reached between the parties.

But the board decided to table the issue until at least Thursday.

"They seem to be real close on negotiating a deal," said Mayor Joe Phelps.

The town decided to delay a decision on whether to use eminent domain - which first requires a 30-day notice - to see if the two sides can reach an agreement.

When the parties failed to reach an agreement earlier this year, the Trump Group requested at the town's Jan. 10 meeting that it use eminent domain.

But after a meeting Feb. 17, the town decided to wait until Monday to discuss such action.

The land in question is a parcel of land the college needs to provide access from N.C. 86 to the proposed satellite campus.

The college set an April 15 deadline for the land's purchase.

"This plan has been going on for years," Phelps said. "We do feel like it's a good proposal for Hillsborough."

Now, if the parties have not completed the contract by Thursday, the town will take the first steps toward using eminent domain.

But both sides seemed confident Monday that the contract will be signed in the next day or two.

"I've signed for my side," said Peter Henn, executive director for the Trump Group, adding that the only step left in the process is for the landowners to sign.

Henn informed the board that the only issue that still needs to be worked out is a minor disagreement over phrasing.

He declined to provide specific details, but he told the board that the landowners' lawyer, Ry Winston of Collett & Associates in Charlotte, was working on his clients' side of the contract Monday night.

But in order for the deal to come through, 14 landowners must sign the contract - a number Henn said could create minor problems.

Barbara Baker, dean of student services at Durham Tech, said the college chose the parcel of land in Hillsborough out of 17 possible locations.

"I think it's a great location for the college," she said.

"I am just assuming it's going to get worked out."

Durham Tech hopes that the new campus will offer new opportunities for students, including support services and computer lab space, Baker said.

Baker said that in the next six weeks, the county and the college board of trustees will look to move forward with their plans.

"We're in the process of selecting an architect," she said.

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