Eminent domain set to be discussed: (Bowling Green KY) Daily News, 7/3/05

By Jim Gaines

An ordinance that would prohibit Bowling Green from using its eminent domain power to buy property and turn it over to private developers is back on the city commission’s agenda for Tuesday night.

Commissioner Brian Strow proposed the ordinance in January, but it was tabled by a 3-2 vote in anticipation of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on whether eminent domain could be used for such economic-development purposes.

That court ruling came down June 23, granting governments sweeping latitude in using eminent domain.

Immediately afterward, Strow renewed his proposal to create a new section of city code to assure city property owners that the city won’t use eminent domain as part of its ongoing downtown redevelopment efforts.

Commissioner Brian “Slim” Nash said Friday that he has been in discussions with Strow about the matter.

“But it has really been more of a process discussion, asking him when he would bring it back up,” Nash said.

Strow could not be reached for comment.

Nash said he has studied the complete Supreme Court ruling and has been soliciting input from constituents, asking them to respond by noon Monday.

“As for where I stand now on the ordinance, I have yet to make a decision,” he said.

The proposed ordinance states: “The city, or any agent of the city, shall not use eminent domain, or the threat thereof, to take private property from a private property owner, except in those specific instances herein stated: the building, expansion or maintenance of public buildings, public parks, public utilities, public roads, public bridges and public rights-of-way.”

Mayor Elaine Walker said June 24 that she opposes the ordinance change.

The city’s redevelopment plan was written in part to specifically allow that use of eminent domain, and several of the projects now under way were turned over to private developers. Although none of the land sales for those projects were forced through eminent-domain proceedings, some downtown property owners say the explicit threat of eminent domain makes any negotiations inherently unfair.

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