Manchester Auto Dealer Fights Eminent Domain: KSDK (St Louis MO), 9/19/05

By Ann Rubin

A Manchester business owner is the latest person to fight eminent domain. The city of Manchester wants to force him to sell his car dealership to make way for a big new shopping center.

Jim Butler says his Saturn dealership is immensely profitable. He doesn't want to sell and he says he shouldn't be forced to sell.

The dealership sits in a prime location: the corner of Manchester and 141. For the market he serves, he calls this the center of the world. Unfortunately, it is also the edge of a proposed new development.

Butler says, "We don't want to move. And if you can tell me where another five or six acres are on Manchester Road, I'd like to hear it because I can't find it."

He doesn't want to sell, but Pace Properties is desperate to buy. Pace needs his land as part of a new multimillion dollar development that will be accessed from Manchester Road. The city of Manchester may create a tax increment financing (TIF) district for the project. City leaders may also try to take over the dealership through eminent domain.

One Manchester alderman sponsored a bill trying to stop eminent domain for economic gain. Ward 1 Alderman Bob Tullock says, "To simply transfer property from one private owner to another private owner for capital gain, just because you think the second owner might be able to make more money with it, is fundamentally wrong."

But the bill didn't have the backing it needed and failed by a 4-2 vote. Mayor Larry Miles says eminent domain may be necessary in this case, "They got to take out one or two businesses just to put the street in. So they're going to have to be used. I'm sorry. That's my opinion."

The majority of residents in the area are already under contract for the project, which will be called Manchester Highlands. Most are ready to move as soon as the project is finalized. Homeowner, Kim Kloeppel says, "As far as the Saturn thing, I hope they work it out. I hope they don't have to use eminent domain, but I hope it doesn't delay the project."

Jim Butler says he's all for progress, just not at the expense of his business, "We're not against the development. We're against us being included in the TIF district."

There will be a TIF Commission public hearing to discuss this project. It will take place 7:00 p.m. Thursday at the Manchester United Methodist Church.

KSDK: www.ksdk.com