County sends out eminent domain notices: Wichita (KS) Business Journal, 7/24/06

By Bill Wilson

Sedgwick County [KS] officials Monday hand-delivered condemnation notices to 22 property owners in the downtown arena footprint.

And on Wednesday, county staff will ask Sedgwick County commissioners to approve a resolution authorizing the start of eminent domain proceedings in Sedgwick County District Court.

Efforts to buy the land outright are stalemated, says Assistant County Manager Ron Holt. The filings will "expedite" the arena project while leaving the door open for property owners to accept the county's offer later.

Commissioner Dave Unruh says he's not disappointed by Monday's developments.

"We've got to get the process going ...," he says. "I suppose that (court proceedings) are the way some of these are going to end up, but we're very confident that our appraiser can justify and defend the values that he's come up with. As a result, we're pretty convinced that we need to stick with our valuations."

John Belford, who owns Belford Electric Inc. at 600 E. Waterman, says he's surprised by the eminent domain notice. However, Belford provided the Wichita Business Journal a copy of a July 13 letter from county project services manager Stephanie Knebel denying his appeal of the county's valuations of the Waterman property and Belford's other building at 326 S. Commerce.

Wichita entrepreneur Fran Jabara, who owns a warehouse at 310 S. Commerce through his company S & J Real Estate LLC, also got a condemnation notice Monday. He says that the county has offered a fair value for the land in the arena footprint. The warehouse, appraised by the Sedgwick County Appraiser's Office at $194,200, has a $300,000 offer pending from Sedgwick County.

"I really don't want to negotiate this case through the media," he says. "We've got to deal with these people. Until we can get this resolved, I don't want to prejudice our case."

Unruh says the commission's decision to proceed with condemnation Wednesday comes down to the concept of fair market value. Sedgwick County has a price it believes is fair market value for the 22 properties. The owners don't agree.

"We have a responsibility to the taxpayers and their money to pay fair market value," Unruh says. "That is what we will do."

Wichita Business Journal: http://wichita.bizjournals.com/wichita