After a second appearance before the Newport City Commission, Raymond Butts may have caused some change in the minds of city commissioners.
Butts came before the commission in November imploring it to pass legislation to prohibit the use, or the threat of using, eminent domain to obtain property for city projects.
The commission declined, saying it would be too difficult and would limit the ability of the city to grow through development.
But a month later, when Butts again asked the commission to consider the issue, he brought an example of how the city of Bowling Green, Ky., passed such a law.
Butts, who lives on Joyce Avenue and ran for City Commission in 2002, produced a copy of a Bowling Green ordinance that specified the city would not use eminent domain, or any "threat thereof," unless it pertained to city projects.
Butts said it proved that such an ordinance could be written and passed. And an ordinance could deter developers from threatening to use eminent domain to convince property owners to sell their land, he said.
Still, commissioners declined to take a step toward drafting an ordinance.
"When you make those kinds of decisions, it makes it very difficult to make change," Newport Mayor Tom Guidugli said.
But Guidugli did say he would try to get eminent domain laws changed at the state level.
"I'm going to work with legislators to make sure it's clear and clean and that it's not abused," Guidugli said.
Guidugli said there have been two projects for which the city has used eminent domain: some properties for the development of Newport on the Levee and for land in the Cote Brilliante neighborhood, which has not been developed.
Commissioners previously said there are no current projects for which eminent domain would be used. Butts countered that the city should be able to pass an ordinance saying it would not use eminent domain.
Still, Guidugli said passing an ordinance would limit the city if a future project was devised that required eminent domain.
Guidugli pointed to the good that can come from development.
"Without eminent domain, (Newport on the Levee) would have never happened," he said.
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