11/05/2005

St. Charles may limit eminent domain: St Louis (MO) Post-Dispatch, 11/01/05

By Mark Schlinkmann

The [St Charles] City Council may take steps to bar use of its eminent domain authority to force the sale of homes to make way for commercial development in many neighborhoods.

The proposed resolution was introduced Tuesday night. One of the sponsors, John Gieseke, 8th Ward, said he wants to reassure residents, despite the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last June that said governments can take private property for economic development purposes.

Under the resolution, the city could still use eminent domain to acquire vacant, abandoned or dilapidated homes. The measure would not restrict the city's ability to force property owners to sell for a direct government purpose such as a new or widened street.

Nor would it keep the city from forcing the sale of businesses to make way for newer commercial developments. That prompted criticism from Kevin Rogers, who told the council that he was worried that he could eventually lose the Dairy Queen that he owns on First Capitol Drive to a redevelopment plan.

In response, Gieseke said he agreed that viable businesses should not be forced to sell either in such circumstances and that he expected the council to discuss that later.

The resolution would not legally bind the council in the future, but it could make it be politically difficult for current members to act counter to it after passing it.

Last month, the council gave eminent domain power to a redevelopment corporation formed by Lindenwood University to acquire land needed for the school's long-planned performing arts/fine arts center.

Supporters said that was justified because the goal was something that would benefit the city as a whole.

Lindenwood's chief operating officer, Julie Mueller, said the school reached a tentative agreement Tuesday with owners of a heating and air-conditioning firm in the buyout area without having to file an eminent domain lawsuit.

She said the school also has worked out a deal to buy two of three vacant commercial buildings on the site. She said an agreement has not been reached with the owner of the third vacant structure. Eminent domain could still be used to force that sale.


St Louis Post-Dispatch: www.stltoday.com