Palmetto aims to take theater through eminent domain: Bradenton (FL) Herald, 6/20/06

By Carl Mario Nudi

The [Palmetto FL] city commissioners voted unanimously Monday to take ownership of an historic theater through the eminent domain process.

Cindy and Joel Jarvis, owners of the Olympia Theatre, 512 10th Ave. W., said through their attorney they would use whatever legal means necessary to protect their rights to the property.

Attorney Recinda Perry told the commissioners the law allows a government to take private property only as a last resort.

The Jarvises do not feel the city has the legal grounds to proceed with eminent domain, considering the recent action of the commission to purchase a nearby building for a theater, Perry said.

Commissioner Eric Ball said there is a difference between the agreement the city was trying to negotiate with the Manatee Players and what they are trying to accomplish with the condemnation proceedings.

"Manatee Players theater was for their use and not the public's," Ball said. "The Olympia Theatre will be for the public."

The city plans to renovate the 48,000 square-foot building to provide space for meetings, wedding receptions, art shows, activities and performances.

According to the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution "private property (shall not) be taken for public use without just compensation."

The commission approved two resolutions, one commencing the eminent domain proceedings and the other outlining the process. They also agreed to offer the Jarvises up to $600,000 - $120,000 more than the appraised value of $480,000.

Mayor Larry Bustle read a statement giving his reasons why the commission should vote for "taking" the property.

Bustle noted that the Jarvises acquired the building from the city 11 years ago for $1, and since then have "bought, renovated and sold many properties for profit, while leaving the theater as a low priority."

He also said property taxes on the property were unpaid for the past two years and that the city had to take the Jarvises to court for delinquent utility bills.

"I believe, with staff, that it would be unwise for the City to enter into a partnership or agreement with property owners who have relied upon loopholes to avoid taking the right course of action," Bustle said.

Bradenton Herald: http://www.bradenton.com