Proposed charter amendment in Creve Coeur targets eminent domain: St Louis MO Post Dispatch, 11/17/06

Supporters gather signatures to put measure on ballot

By Erin Taylor

Several Creve Coeur City Council members spent part of Election Day last week collecting signatures at polls to put a proposal regarding eminent domain on a future ballot.

The goal would be to amend the city charter to require a "supermajority" of council votes to approve the use of eminent domain.

Councilman David Kassander, Ward 3, said preliminary counts indicate proponents exceeded the 1,250 signatures needed to put the issue on a future ballot.
If approved by voters, a supermajority of six council members - rather than five - would be needed to authorize the use of eminent domain in the city

The group spearheading the proposed charter amendment is made up of four council members - A.J. Wang, Ward 2; Kassander, Ward 3; Jeanne Rhoades, Ward 4; and Laura Bryant, Ward 4 - as well as several city residents.

There have been ongoing disputes in the city regarding the use of eminent domain, due in part to the Olive Boulevard Transportation Development District (TDD). A city task force was created late last year to study the issue and make recommendations.

Within the TDD, an additional sales tax is levied on retail sales to fund infrastructure improvements along Olive Boulevard.

The task force made several recommendations, one of which states that eminent domain should not be used unless the action is "not primarily for economic development purposes."

At a task force meeting in June, Susan Murphy, who served on the task force on behalf of the Creve Coeur-Olivette Chamber of Commerce, said she did not agree with a simple majority vote to approve the use of eminent domain for projects relating to economic development.

A simple majority vote would be acceptable if the project were to benefit the public overall rather than a developer, Murphy said.

A motion at the same meeting, recommending a supermajority vote to approve any use of eminent domain, was defeated.

A bill introduced at a City Council meeting in September that would have allowed placing the proposed charter amendment on the Nov. 7 ballot received the support of five council members but did not pass.

"The Creve Coeur City Council has been extremely divided on the issue of eminent domain, particularly with three council members and the mayor sitting on the Olive Boulevard TDD board," Kassander said.

"We just don't want to risk the council voting this down again," he said. "Our goal is to provide Creve Coeur voters with a genuine opportunity to be heard on this vital issue that directly or indirectly affects us all."

St Louis MO Post Dispatch: http://suburbanjournals.stltoday.com