UNO set to purchase property without using eminent domain : The Gateway (UNO — The Univ of Nebraska at Omaha), 9/20/05

By Crystal Reid

Area businesses spoke against the university administration using eminent domain to acquire 17 acres of land around 64th and Center Streets, at the open session of the Board of Regents meeting on Friday.

After closing the meeting for debate, the regents decided that UNO could not pursue eminent domain until all other options were exhausted, said President/Regent Elizabeth Kraemer. Even then, eminent domain must be presented to and passed by the regents.

The regents unanimously voted 8-0 for UNO to proceed with acquiring the land, which would be used for what Kraemer described as "Aksarben Village," a UNO community residential, shopping and entertainment area. Other acquired land could be used for expanding south campus and athletic fields.

The area businesses that addressed the board were concerned about what eminent domain would mean for their future.

Ann Amato, co-owner of Amato's Cafe & Catering, said that their business was their life insurance policy.

"This is the future for our children," Amato said.

Sam Amato, a liver-transplant patient, said that taking away his business would give him nothing to do.

The owners of the three businesses implied that the offers made to them for their businesses were well below what they were worth.

Nils Anders Erickson, owner of Rainbow Recording Studios, said that he felt threatened by two real estate agents who said that he had 30 days to take their "low-ball" offer. The Amatos said that they would not be able to pay off their business and live comfortably off of the rest of the money for the next 15 years as they had planned.

The Gateway: www.unogateway.com