Holladay turns down eminent domain: The Salt Lake (Salt Lake City UT) Tribune, 9/16/05

By Cathy McKitrick

Property owners and merchants in this affluent east-side city [of Halladay UT]expressed relief Thursday after the City Council, acting as the Redevelopment Agency board, voted to specify that eminent domain would never be used to obtain properties in the Village Center Redevelopment project.

The vote came down 4-1, with RDA board chairman Steve Peterson voting against nixing eminent domain.

“As a board, we hope we put the fear of eminent domain to rest. We want to use the carrot incentive rather than the stick. We won't be taking properties,” said Councilman Lynn Pace.

Public outcry earlier this summer against the threat of eminent domain in the future - should the Legislature choose to reinstate that power to Utah's cities - alerted Holladay officials that most residents and merchants opposed it.

Kerry Brown, owner of Olympus Pharmacy, felt the councilmembers made the right decision.

“Knowing the current council, I was aware that they'd be taking a huge political risk to use eminent domain for economic development,” Brown said.

The RDA board also pared down the 57-acre project area by removing 1.5 acres at the north end that are already under redevelopment, and also taking out the Holladay Villa Condominiums, another 4 acres.

Residents of the condos also had opposed the blight designation and feared the city had plans to force owners to sell.

“Blight is not anyone's favorite word, but there's no alternative that brings the benefits that the U.S. Supreme Court allows for RDAs. We're talking about a state definition of blight, not a street definition,” Pace said.

The council also approved a request for proposals for the 1.6 acres owned by the city at the historic heart of Holladay. This area has an awkward intersection where 2300 East, Holladay Boulevard and Murray-Holladay Road converge.

Today, the hulking Video Vern's building on this land purchased by the city in 2004 will be demolished.

The large structure was built in four stages between 1935 and 1951, and housed several businesses, including Erickson's Pharmacy, Color Tile, an Albertsons Grocery Store and of course Video Vern's, which touted a huge inventory of hard-to-find titles.

The city's intent is to remake the intersection into a pedestrian-friendly, unique market and gathering place with parking on the periphery.

Through September the city will receive written statements of interest from developers interested in the 1.6-acre parcel, and will view presentations during the month of October.

Come November, city officials hope to have a village center plan and budget to present to the residents of Holladay.

Salt Lake Tribune: www.sltrib.com