Holdout battles OSU in eminent domain case: Arkansas City KS Traveler, 12/7/06

By Justin Juozapavicius, Associated Press

A judge could decide Thursday if a property owner can go ahead with his challenge of Oklahoma State University's use of eminent domain to take his property for a planned athletic village.

For months, holdout homeowner Kevin McCloskey has claimed the university has no authority to take away his land because OSU's governing body, the Board of Regents, has failed to abide by a long-forgotten requirement that at least five of its eight members be farmers.

He accuses the university of violating a 1944 state law that says farmers must have a majority on the governor-appointed Board of Regents.

''We are optimistic that the laws out there intended to protect us will indeed do that,'' McCloskey said.

But university officials say OSU has been as sympathetic as it could be to McCloskey and other landowners and accuse him of trying to get more money out of the deal.

The university has gone to court to try to seize McCloskey's 66-year-old ranch-style house through eminent domain, or the taking of private property for public use.

''We have said from the beginning (McCloskey's) claims are extraneous and irrelevant to eminent domain,'' said OSU spokesman Gary Shutt. ''The issue of questioning the qualifications of the regents has nothing to do with eminent domain.''

McCloskey bought the home in 2005, a couple of months before the university announced it would clear out the Stillwater neighborhood north of Boone Pickens Stadium to make way for an indoor practice complex, outdoor practice fields and a baseball stadium, thanks to a record, $165 million gift from oilman alumnus T. Boone Pickens.

The university had offered McCloskey $62,000 for his home, or about 2 1/2 times more than he paid for it.

But he turned it down, later saying the whole matter could be settled for less than $90,000.

In October, a board of court-appointed appraisers estimated McCloskey's property to be worth $84,000 which, by law, OSU was required to pay to the court, even without a final settlement between the two parties.

In the meantime,both sides are weighing a jury trial to decide the matter.

''It's not a win or lose fight, it's a degrees of losing fight,'' McCloskey said.

Arkansas City KS Traveler: http://www.arkcity.net