Officials try to allay fears about eminent domain: St Louis (MO) Post-Dispatch, 8/2/05

By Mary Shapiro

Ellisville is trying to update its comprehensive plan while also trying to quell rumors about the city's potential use of eminent domain.

A third public planning workshop, scheduled for mid September, will present a preliminary draft of the city's revised comprehensive plan to members of the City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission and residents.

While the city has been trying to gather residents' feedback on the future of their neighborhoods in recent planning workshops, officials admit they've also been trying to dispel rumors the city is considering use of eminent domain.

Some residents say the U.S. Supreme Court's decision reaffirming local governments' right to use eminent domain to force residents to sell their homes for private development has caused alarm, and they worry about its potential use in their neighborhoods.

Ellisville officials insist residents should not be afraid.

"I do not believe cities should have the right to use eminent domain in this manner, and as long as I'm mayor, rest assured that I will never consider it," Mayor Jeff Khoury said. "Missouri law has added a stipulation that only blighted areas can be considered for eminent domain in private development."

Some of the dozens of residents attending expressed their concerns about eminent domain at a comprehensive plan public workshop July 19.

City officials said fears were ignited by an anonymous flyer delivered to homeowners, claiming redevelopment consultants are being paid with tax dollars to seize private property for new retail and multi-family homes.

City Manager Brent Hobgood said the information in the flyer is not true.

"There are no such developments being considered, nor have city officials discussed using eminent domain," Hobgood said. "The workshop was designed to gather public input on the comprehensive plan update, not to tell our residents that we are seizing their homes."

City Planner Ada Hood organized the July 19 workshop, she said, to ask residents how they envision their neighborhoods growing or changing in the future. Hood said public input is the first part of the process to update the comprehensive plan, which is reviewed every three to five years.

"The public workshop process will allow city staff to understand key issues as identified by Ellisville property owners and residents," Hood said.

The comprehensive plan provides policy guidance on the planning, development and redevelopment of the city. The document is given to the Planning and Zoning Commission to review and either adopt or make changes prior to adopting it. The adoption process is conducted at a public hearing, during which residents will have an opportunity to provide input, Hood said.

After several developers contacted Hood, wanting to build multi-family buildings in areas designed for single-family homes, it became important to know what residents thought of the idea, Hood said.

For more information regarding the city's comprehensive plan, residents can visit the city's web site, www.ellisville.mo.us.

Post-Dispatch: www.stltoday.com