Council Bluffs Decides Tonight On Eminent Domain Law: KETV-7 Omaha NE, 9/25/06

Vine Street Neighbors Fight City Takover

Council Bluffs [IA] City Council members have one week to approve a law that would allow them to use an existing eminent domain law to acquire 66 properties across the city.

After Oct. 1, the law in Iowa becomes much more restrictive. Until then, the city can take a property that needs to be developed.

The area currently in the city's sights is near North 16th Street to 25th Street and around downtown Council Bluffs. One property on the list is a little neighborhood off the beaten path, and neighbors of Vine Street - a block-long residential spot - have heard the threats before.

"Every few years, they talk about this block being torn down and urban renewal coming in. The last time was four years ago," said Susan Parker, who has owned a home on Vine Street for 20 years. "When I bought it, we knew. The neighbor man knows. We know on this block."

Parker said she's not ready to give up her home yet.

"All your life, you pay for your home and you'd like to stay there until you're old and gray," she said.

Vine Street is threatened because it sits on a creek that runs behind the fence in Parker's back yard.

"It's kind of in a floodway situation, so this would be the opportunity to develop that and improve that waterway situation," said Council Bluffs Mayor Tom Hanafan.

Hanafan said that's why Vine Street is on the city's list of 66 eminent domain properties. He said developing those areas would help rejuvenate the city.

"They've been in the works, or we have plans for rehabilitation of downtown, and rehabilitation of certain areas," the mayor said.

City Council members will talk about the eminent domain properties at Monday night's council meeting. If it doesn't pass a law to take those properties before Oct. 1, it will lose the chance. The new law goes into effect in October of next year. It says cities can't condemn a private property unless 75 percent of it is blighted.

Plans for Vine Street could include retail or putting water back into the creek. Hanafan said just because it's on the list doesn't mean the city will definitely take it.

Iowa is one of 22 states that passed a law that put eminent domain restrictions on cities. That was in response to last year's U.S. Supreme Court ruling stating that cities could force homeowners to sell their land to the city even if it wasn't blighted. Local governments would then have the right to give builders the go-ahead to develop that land.

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