Grand jury's eminent domain stance lauded: (Redding CA) Record Searchlight, 7/12/06

Property owners who would be affected hope the report stops city from using the law

By Marc Beauchamp

The Shasta County [CA] grand jury's views on the use of eminent domain were hailed Tuesday by the owners of two high-profile properties the city of Redding has long eyed for redevelopment.

"We're pleased as punch, exceedingly happy," Demetra Kutras said of this week's grand jury report, which recommends against use of eminent domain for private development of the Park Marina riverfront and the Parkview Market near City Hall "without a binding referendum to determine public sentiment within the city."

Hardev Bal, who bought the Parkview Market in 1994 after arriving from India, said a referendum is a "good idea, they can see whether this is desperately needed. They (the city) can't come in and do whatever they want. There should be some kind of checks and balances."

City planners envision a multi-story mixed-use development on Bal's property as part of efforts to revitalize the Parkview neighborhood.

Eminent domain "should be really only for public use like schools and those kind of things and not for private developers to make money," Bal said.

Demetra Kutras said she hopes the grand jury report "will put an end" to talk of using eminent domain on the riverfront property, which has been in her family since the 1930s. It's now owned by Kutras, 53, and her brother Chris, 55.

But much of the land is controlled by the McConnell Foundation, which acquired long-term leases on the property in the 1990s. Most of the leases expire in 2020.

The city and McConnell have discussed transforming the riverfront property — now home to many aging commercial buildings and businesses such as an aqua golf driving range and a trailer park — into a showcase of parks and trails with some limited commercial development.

The Kutrases maintain they weren't consulted on the plans. In the past, family patriarch George Kutras has been sharply critical of Lee Salter, head of the McConnell Foundation, and Mike Warren, who retired as Redding city manager in April.

A year ago, a committee appointed by the Redding City Council held several meetings about Park Marina that included the Kutrases and representatives of the foundation.

Although there has been no breakthrough, Demetra Kutras is hopeful of progress. "We feel we can all work together," she said.

She praised Kurt Starman, Redding's new city manager, whom she described as "very sound, energetic and forthright — a man who has lived here his whole life. I look forward to working with him."

Record Searchlight: http://www.redding.com