Council gives OK for eminent domain: (Fall River MA) Herald News, 9/28/05

By Daniel Fowler

If Samuel Shapiro won’t sell his land on the former Kerr Mill site to the software company pledging to create 600 jobs, he may lose his property anyway.

Fall River moved a step closer to acquiring Shapiro’s 4.62-acre property Tuesday when the City Council voted to give the city’s Redevelopment Authority permission to take the land by eminent domain if necessary.

The City Council unanimously approved a Major Plan Change to the Kerr Mill Urban Renewal Plan, which paves the way for a takeover pending state approval of the change.

Roughly 18 acres of the 33-acre former Kerr Mill site houses the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Advanced Technology and Manufacturing Center.

Meditech wants the remaining 15 acres, including the Shapiro parcel, for its 110,000-square-foot facility. The Massachusetts Development Finance Agency owns the rest of the site, and will sell its portion of the 15 acres to Meditech.

"I think that this is the type of economic development Fall River needs," City Councilor Alfredo Alves said. "I’d have no problem taking this land by eminent domain."

Kenneth Fiola Jr., executive vice president of the Fall River Office of Economic Development, presented the plan change to the council Tuesday, acting as an agent for the Fall River Redevelopment Authority.

"I don’t think anyone jumps up and down for eminent domain, but sometimes there is a need for eminent domain," Fiola said. "We are still going to work toward a friendly purchase and sales agreement."

If the city takes the property, Shapiro would receive compensation for it, relocation expenses and could get additional money if he takes the matter to court.

Fiola said the intention is to negotiate until there is "no possibility of a resolution."

"It won’t be a prolonged negotiation process," Fiola said.

After the Kerr Mill Complex burned down in 1987, the site and its owners couldn’t decide how to redevelop the land. Finally, in 1999, the Redevelopment Authority created the Kerr Mill Urban Renewal Plan and took the 33-acre site by eminent domain, with the exception of Shapiro’s land.

Though all councilors voted for the change, some such as Linda Pereira and Council Vice President Leo Pelletier said the city and Meditech should work to avoid using eminent domain.

"You have to be nervous when you take something by eminent domain," Pelletier said. "I want to make sure that if it does go by eminent domain, that (Shapiro) gets every opportunity from the city of Fall River to make sure he is satisfied."

"I regret having to take something by eminent domain," Pereira said. "But for the value we are going to get, I’d support taking it by eminent domain."

Fiola said he intends to submit the new plan to the state for approval this week.

Herald News: www.heraldnews.com