Eminent domain urged to acquire properties for Heart of Boynton: (South Florida) Sun-Sentinel, 3/18/05

By Ushma Patel

Almost half of the properties involved in the Heart of Boynton's first redevelopment phase may be taken by eminent domain.

After about six months of negotiation, the Community Redevelopment Agency voted Thursday to ask the city to move forward with eminent domain proceedings against 15 of the 31 properties involved in the first phase at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Seacrest Boulevard. The CRA does not have authority to take properties by eminent domain.

Roberts Restaurant, the EZ Market and Triumph the Church of Kingdom of God in Christ are among the 15 properties.

Starting eminent domain proceedings could invigorate a project that began almost four years ago, CRA Director Doug Hutchinson said.

"We need some way to forecast a timetable," he said. "The community's been waiting and watching."

The Urban Group, which is conducting the contract negotiations, said it has made numerous contacts with property owners. Even after the city initiates eminent domain proceedings, the CRA can continue to negotiate with owners.

But some board members were hesitant.

"I'm not in favor of eminent domain for an individual's house, regardless of the greater good of the project," board member Don Fenton said.

All of the properties that serve as homesteads have been taken care of, Hutchinson said.

Of the 16 other parcels involved in Phase 1, the CRA has purchased eight properties, has one contract pending, one is involved in legal proceedings, and six properties are designated as self-assembly areas, meaning they will join with the CRA in the Heart of Boynton redevelopment.

While property owners will get fair-market value for their homes under eminent domain, those who sold to the CRA have gotten better values.

For instance, Thursday the CRA approved the purchase of a home on Northwest Eighth Avenue. The home's assessed value was $53,563, and the fair-market value was appraised at $100,000. The owners received that amount, plus $100,000 to relocate to a comparable home in the area.

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