Stores resist eminent domain use: Albany NY Times Union, 10/6/06

Associated Press

A group of stores [in Syracuse NY] is asking the state's highest court to hear their challenge to a development agency's use of eminent domain in the proposed expansion of the Carousel Center into a multibillion dollar megamall.

Macy's, Lord & Taylor, J.C. Penney and seven other stores on Wednesday asked the Court of Appeals in Albany to hear their arguments against the Syracuse Industrial Development Agency's use of eminent domain on behalf of developer Robert Congel to seize some of their lease rights at the mall.

Last week, the state Supreme Court Appellate Division upheld the condemnation of lease rights that would have given the stores power to halt Congel's planned expansion of the mall. The agency began eminent domain proceedings against the stores at the developer's request in 2002.

David Linger, an attorney representing seven of the stores, said the Court of Appeals generally takes four to six weeks before deciding whether to hear an appeal. And, if it agrees to consider the case, it likely would not be heard until next spring, he said.

In their request, the stores cited the controversial U.S. Supreme Court decision last year upholding the use of eminent domain by the city of New London, Conn., to take homes for a private development by Pfizer Corp. The decision sparked a national debate on local governments' use of eminent domain to take private properties to benefit private developers.

If New London's actions seemed radical, then the Syracuse Industrial Development Agency's use of eminent domain is "at least as novel and is far more breathtaking," the stores said.

Neither SIDA nor Congel's office had seen the motions and both declined comment.

Congel has proposed expanding Carousel Center into Destiny USA, which would rival Minnesota's Mall of America as the nation's largest retail-entertainment complex. Destiny USA also would be the world's largest green-energy complex, operating entirely on renewable energy sources.

After years of political setbacks, Congel recently negotiated a 30-year tax deal with the city that allows the project to move ahead.

Albany NY Times Union: http://timesunion.com