Eminent domain changes complicate Boynton redevelopment: Palm Beach (FL) Post, 5/3/06

By Will Vash

Frustrated city commissioners pushed ahead with the first phase of the Heart of Boynton redevelopment project Tuesday night and weighed a last-minute proposal from a local developer to save the second phase of the project.

Debris-strewn lots, churches, older houses and buildings in the city's northeast district will be replaced under the first phase of the 4-year-old Heart of Boynton plan by shops and businesses topped with affordable condominium units if the city can seize key pieces of the land through eminent domain law.

About 13 of the 30 lots in the 10.3-acre first phase, along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard just east of Seacrest Boulevard, are listed for eminent domain. The city has filed lawsuits on most of those lots.

Four more parcels in phase one, whose owners originally agreed to work together to redevelop their properties as a partner with the CRA, will be considered for eminent domain by the CRA and city this month.

A major hurdle Tuesday night was the changes made by legislative efforts to bills curtailing eminent domain for economic redevelopment.

Last week, the bills would have set a deadline of of July 1 or Oct. 1, but changes Tuesday would put the bill into effect upon the governor's signature.

"The timeline for this has in fact shrunk," said City Manager Kurt Bressner. "If the bill goes as amended, (phase two) won't make it."

Meanwhile, Intown Development Group, presented a development plan for first two phases of condos and commercial space promising 300 jobs as the last best hope to meet the legislative deadlines.

Samantha Simons, president of Intown, said the company would pay for surveys and property analyses in preparation for eminent domain proceedings for phase two in exchange for the negotiation of a development agreement making Intown the "project developer."

Without Intown, there's was no chance phase two acquisition through eminent domain filings would go forward in time, Simons said.

"We've invested millions of dollars in this community the last four years," Simons said. "The least you can do is give us an opportunity."

In the end, commissioners asked city staff to look over the proposal, but no promises were made.

Commissione Mack McCray said many of the issues should have been worked out months ago.

"Now there is an urgency to get all of this done," McCray said. "It seems like the ball has been dropped.

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