Eminent domain mulled for Pike land: Metro West Daily News (Boston MA), 6/18/06

By D. Craig MacCormack

[Framingham MA] Selectmen will ask the town's Economic Development and Industrial Corp. to study how to broker a deal with a local developer to take over part of the MBTA park-and-ride lot for a possible restaurant.

Michael Laurano, lawyer for Timothy Hanna, asked selectmen to consider an eminent domain land-taking from the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority of 1672 Worcester Road, with Hanna financing the acquisition costs.

Under the proposal, selectmen would then deed the property to Hanna for the purposes of creating a new business, which Laurano said would likely be a new restaurant.

"Mr. Hanna has the will and the resources to do this project," said Laurano during Monday's selectmen meeting.

The park-and-ride lot has 250 parking spaces, said Laurano, but most days finds only about 20 cars parked there. He said the Turnpike Authority has let its ownership stake in the land lie dormant for several years.

"The Rugg-Gates house is practically a blighted building," said Laurano, referring to the historic home that is on the land.

In 2001, Hanna, who owns Ken's Steak House, scored a victory in his long-standing battle with the Turnpike Authority when his suit challenging the legality of taking the same land from him was reinstated on appeal.

But the state Appeals Court in 2004 affirmed a Superior Court ruling, saying the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority was justified in taking the entrance to a proposed hotel and office park in 1994.

The suit alleged the Turnpike took the land as an eventual gateway to a private development. The suit further alleged the Turnpike was aware the site was inappropriate for a park-and-ride facility and that other nearby land was available for that purpose.

Selectman Charles Sisitsky asked Laurano whether the board has the authority to take land by eminent domain from a state agency. Laurano said the taking is legal as long as the public use is not changed, and the park-and-ride lot would remain under Hanna's proposal, although a smaller version.

Chairman Dennis Giombetti called the idea "very appealing," saying it would continue the town's push to redevelop parcels that have passed their prime.

Sisitsky wondered if, with the EDIC's help, the board and Hanna could work with the Turnpike Authority to broker a deal without being forced to take the land by eminent domain.

The land, which borders the Turnpike and Rte. 9 and sits near the 9/90 complex, is part of Boston Properties' proposed $40 million hotel-office complex. The design calls for an access road to run beside the park through Hanna's former land.

Boston Properties wants to build a 150-room hotel on a loop ramp north of the Turnpike and two 150,000-square-foot office buildings to the south.

In 1997, a jury awarded Hanna $750,000 to supplement the $1.4 million the Pike paid to the bank that held the mortgage on it.

But Hanna refused the money to appeal for $780 million — half the potential value of the properties to which his former land serves as a gateway.

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