The Manhattan [KS] City Commission voted Tuesday to use eminent domain to take property from two landowners for the downtown redevelopment project.
The commission unanimously decided to begin the process to take properties located at 517 N. Third St., owned by Penny Ferlemann Sizemore, and 521 N Third St., owned by Sizemore’s sister-in-law, Marlene Ferlemann. The property at 517 N. Third St. is leased by Family Dollar.
Representatives of Dial Realty Corp., the company orchestrating the redevelopment project, said it had been able to reach agreements with all the other properties in the project’s boundaries except these two.
Dial had been able to build around two other landowners who refused to sell, but their plans call for Third Street to be relocated, and the two buildings, which will be taken with eminent domain, are in the way.
The Simmons Company, which Dial brought in to appraise the properties in question, had decided Sizemore’s property is worth $578,000. Dial representatives said they’d offered her $750,000 for the property, which was appraised by Riley County for 2005 at $354,820.
Simmons appraised Ferlemann’s property at $66,000; Dial representatives said they’d offered her $100,000 for it. The county appraised it at $39,430 for 2005, city documents said.
Sizemore appeared at the commission and said she’d driven all the way from Oklahoma to appear. She made an emotional appeal to the commission, crying and comparing them to the communist government in her native country, China.
“I believe now I’m in America, far away from the communists,” Sizemore said. “Please, leave my property alone.”
The commissioners said they understood Sizemore’s situation, but agreed the property must be taken to allow the project to continue.
“The good of the city must be the trump card over the good of the few,” commissioner Jayme Morris-Hardeman said.
However, this doesn’t mean the property is guaranteed to be condemned by the city. City Attorney William Frost said the two parties may still reach an agreement.
“This commission has the choice to abandon this case up until the point that it is consummated,” Frost said.
Eminent domain comes from the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states that private property may not be taken for “public use without just compensation.” It was interpreted at first to allow government entities to force the sale of property to government for use in buildings like schools.
In recent years, the action has become controversial because of its use by municipal governments to acquire land for local redevelopment. The United States Supreme Court ruled in June that “public use” can include development projects that benefit the public good.
It was pointed out to the commission that the Kansas Legislature is considering a bill that would limit the use of eminent domain, and may or may not include an exception for projects that are already underway.
Nancy Bammes, owner of Family Dollar’s neighbor Nancy’s Boutique, 501 N. Third St., said she believed the city’s use of eminent domain should be against the law.
“To me, it is not what the founders wanted, not what they wanted at all,” Bammes said. “Eminent domain like this shouldn’t be legal.”
The Commission also voted to designate 17th Street as Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Drive. They had been asked to commemorate a Manhattan street in honor of King by the Manhattan Martin Luther King Memorial Committee.
Seventeenth Street runs in front of Ahearn Field House, where King delivered his final speech at a university before his death in 1968. A bronze bust of King will be featured outside the east side of Ahearn, facing 17th Street.
The street will not be renamed, the designation will be an addition to the street’s name.
“We have a memorial that is not only a worthwhile memorial, but also a significant memorial,” the Rev. Jim Spencer said.
Kansas State Collegian: http://kstatecollegian.com