Blaine is wary of using eminent domain: Minneapolis MN Star Tribune, 11/9/07

A developer with a vision for a more than $150 million sports and entertainment complex seeks the city's help to secure nearby properties

By Eric M. Hanson

The developer who wants to bring a new sports and entertainment complex to Blaine [MN] is asking for the city's help to force nearby property owners out by using eminent domain if necessary.

Developer John Donnelly told the City Council on Thursday night that his company won't be able to attract investors to the more than $150 million project without removing five light-industrial properties next to the site.

"There's a reluctance to spend that kind of money when this is on your front door," Donnelly said at the council meeting, where he discussed drawings and some details about the SportsTown USA proposal.

Donnelly Development Group, of Edina, described the project as an asset to "Blaine's identity as an amateur athletics center for the Midwest." Plans include a hotel and indoor water park, fitness center, restaurants, indoor go-carts, a lake and a public square for sports ceremonies, even indoor surfing and skydiving.

Donnelly's group asked for the city's help in getting the nearby property owners to sell, saying industrial properties would be a detriment to the visual appeal of the project.

"What you're asking is for us to condemn these [properties]," City Council Member Russ Herbst said. "I'd have to think long and hard about that."

Herbst was joined by virtually every council member in voicing concern about using eminent domain as a development tactic, although support for the project's goals and features was unanimous.

Donnelly's group is a spinoff of a previous developer that proposed a smaller version of the complex in 2005. The current project represents 30 developable acres on a larger site that encompasses 63 acres, he said.

James Determan, who owns between three to four acres of the industrial property at the heart of the issue, said he is willing to move if the price is right. So far, it hasn't been, he said.

"If they want to use eminent domain, I'll fight them to the end," he said. "I don't think it's legal to use eminent domain unless it's for a public use, and that's not a public use. It's a private development project."

Also at issue is the amount of public subsidy the developer is seeking. The group wants a property tax break that is estimated at roughly $13 million over 15 years.

Council Member Dick Swanson called that figure "awe inspiring."You're asking for the moon," Herbst said.

Still, city leaders were interested enough in the proposal to direct the city's staff to meet with the developer over the next few months to get closer on an agreement.

Minneapolis MN Star Tribune: http://www.startribune.com

Money pit on North Queen: Lancaster PA Newspapers, 11/11/07

Too late to undo county office project that has budget, legal problems

By Helen Colwell Adams

The conversion of the former Armstrong building to county offices is running late and over budget, but the newly elected county commissioners think it's too late to pull the plug on the project.

"I have said I would walk away from this project in a heartbeat if it were feasible," Republican Scott Martin said last week.

But he and the other two commissioners-elect, Republican Dennis Stuckey and Democrat Craig Lehman, agreed that the county probably could not recoup its investment in 150 N. Queen St. if the new commissioners halted the work.

Through the end of October, the county had spent more than $25.4 million, including the $8.3 million paid to the building's owner through eminent domain, and county Administrator Mark Esterbrook estimated another $13.5 million is needed to finish the renovations.

If no additional expenses pop up, that would put the project about $3.5 million over the original total of $35.4 million for purchase and remodeling.

That doesn't include an estimated $38 to $40 million to renovate the county courthouse at 50 N. Duke St.

The Armstrong building could end up to be even more expensive; former owner Dr. Ira Trocki has sued in federal court, contending the $8.3 million is far below the actual value of the property.

Trocki said last week that he would have rented the entire building to the county for $3 million a year, the same price that Armstrong World Industries paid before moving out.

"Their interest payment [on the renovation costs] is going to be more than what they're going to pay me in rent," Trocki said, "and they wouldn't have to go to court."

Commissioners Dick Shellenberger and Molly Henderson, who voted along with former commissioner Pete Shaub to take the property by eminent domain, last week said they still think 150 N. Queen was the best option for a county government desperately in need of more office space.

Even though the job will "take us a little longer than we anticipated," Shellenberger said, "I think it was the right move."

Lehman isn't so sure.

"It may be one of those things that it's simply too far down the road to turn back now," he said.

"I hate to say that. I really do."

Growing pains
Space problems at the courthouse, mostly related to the rapid expansion of Lancaster County Court offices, led to the commissioners' decision late in 2004 to take 150 N. Queen by eminent domain.

The commissioners said at the time that their other option was building offices on land the county owns on Sunnyside peninsula — an unattractive alternative because it would have taken hundreds of county workers out of downtown and would have blocked a planned housing development on the Sunnyside property.

But troubles have plagued the project, from Trocki's lawsuit to a series of complications with the renovations — holes in floors and walls, fires, fumes and other safety concerns — that led the city fire department to shut down work in May.

Tenants in the building went to court, resulting in the county paying $753,000 so far for safety monitors, lease terminations, legal fees and relocation costs. County workers whose offices are already at 150 N. Queen — about 300 now — also complained about conditions.

Some county offices were scheduled to move into new space this month and in December, but because the renovations aren't finished, the timetable has been pushed back.

"A new master schedule will be forthcoming in the next two weeks," Esterbrook said.

About 15 offices, and another 400 employees, are shifting to 150 N. Queen to make room for court expansion; two new judges are joining the bench in January. Esterbrook said moving expenses are budgeted at $150,000 in 2007-08.

He said the court will "work with us to accommodate new judges temporarily until the fifth floor can be made available for temporary use by the judges." The commissioners, controller, Congressman Joe Pitts and the district attorney now have offices on the fifth floor of the courthouse.

With $25.4 million spent through October and an estimated $13.5 million remaining to finish the work at 150 N. Queen, the total would be $39 million, about $3.5 million more than the original estimate.

Once the other county offices have relocated, renovations must be done at the courthouse itself. Esterbrook said estimates for that work are $38 to $40 million.

The newly elected commissioners questioned the project during the campaign. Last week, they said the county probably has no option but to finish the relocation.

"It's difficult to halt the project with the money we've sunk into it," Stuckey, the current county controller, said.

"It's certainly something I will be taking a close look at," Lehman said. "It seems to me at this point … that it's probably too far along to backtrack."

"I've always had my doubts about the project," Martin said.

He suggested that a public-private partnership to redevelop buildings on the first block of East King Street, with a long-term lease for the county, could have kept properties on the city tax rolls and been more efficient in terms of proximity to the courthouse.

"If there was a way it could be worked out that [150 N. Queen] could be returned, and be a return on our investment as well … I would definitely be open to discussing that," he said.

"The bottom line is, we're accountable to the taxpayers."

Friendly, not so friendly?
Henderson and Shellenberger, though, contend that for the square footage available at 150 N. Queen, the cost of the project is reasonable.

On a tour of projects funded with county contributions before Tuesday's election, Henderson repeated what she had said in other campaign appearances: that the eminent domain proceeding was a "friendly" takeover.

Henderson said Trocki asked for his assessment to be lowered prior to the takeover, contributing to the $8.3 million compensation, which she said was the legally mandated average of three appraisals.

"He is the one who set the bar lower," she said. "That figured into the ultimate price years later."

Trocki hotly contested Henderson's assertions, saying last week that he didn't fight the eminent domain process because his lawyers said it was an unwinnable battle.

Instead, he is arguing the county undervalued the building, which he bought for $12.1 million in 1998.

He also said the county offered a settlement of the assessment appeal, which he said was originally filed by Armstrong. He now believes the assessment settlement of $8.3 million was a tactic to drive down the value of the property — along with leaks to news media about plans for eminent domain, which Trocki said succeeded in scaring away tenants.

"No tenant wanted to move in and then get thrown out shortly thereafter," he said.

Trocki said he had been negotiating with county officials about leasing space in the building ever since Armstrong World Industries, which had been renting the entire structure, filed for bankruptcy and notified Trocki it was moving out.

The county needed about 50,000 square feet then and much more later, Trocki said, so he agreed to $11.50 per square foot, plus covering all renovation and cleaning costs, with the understanding that when the lease was up for renewal, the county would pay market rates.

Trocki also said he discussed selling the building to the county for $20 million, although he said he might take $18.5 million.

He said he had the building under agreement of sale for $15 million, and had another pair of buyers, Pat Egan and John Meeder, willing to give him a slightly better deal, when the eminent domain action occurred.

"They still went ahead and eminent domained," Trocki said, and ended up paying Egan nearly $1 million to terminate his lease and relocate.

Trocki's attorneys said "it was highly irregular that an agency would take a building for the exact same use it has," and he suggested it's the first time such an eminent domain taking has happened in Pennsylvania.

The renovation costs, he said, are "absolute craziness."

Trocki is asking for another $10 million-plus in the federal lawsuit.

"We hope somebody will be reasonable and get this over with," he said.

"... It was not a friendly eminent domain."

Lancaster PA Newspapers: http://local.lancasteronline.com

Rosemount divided over new project with old look: Minneapolis MN Star Tribune, 11/10/07

Although it receives high marks from a Met Council panel of experts, a key piece of Rosemount's downtown rebirth is drawing considerable flak

By David Peterson

The birth pains, in the creation of a new downtown Rosemount, are audible in the voices of Wallace Johnson and Mark DeBettignies.

Johnson, president of Apple Valley-based Stonebridge Companies, is developing a huge new building that is supposed to ignite a Stillwater-like, revitalized downtown in the city's historic center.

DeBettignies is a City Council member fighting off opposition to the project. "I get tired trying to answer all the questions," he said. "People just don't see the big picture."

Each man sounds weary, despite what would seem good news: An influential Metropolitan Council advisory committee has found the project - by a decisive margin - the most impressive that any suburb offered up this year. The group recommended that Rosemount alone reap nearly $1.6 million of the $8 million available this year for innovative development.

City officials see the proposed Stonebridge project - more than 100 apartments atop ground-floor office space, with underground parking, all of it wrapped within old-time brick facades meant to recall a 19th-century downtown streetscape - as a model for the rest of the area.

A group called "Save Rosemount" sees it as an abomination. Among their reasons: The need to exercise the city's power of eminent domain to acquire one parcel, and the substitution of rentals for condos once the condo market went sour. In their literature, available on the Web, two unnamed residents say that apartment complexes "turn out to be ... all Junkies."

In reality, DeBettignies said, these will be high-quality units, built to condominium standards in hopes of converting them later. "You wouldn't believe the aesthetics," he said. "Wood floors, moldings - really nice."

Johnson, meanwhile, has had to produce version after version of his building, trying to satisfy city officials as they seek the right look, as though it were actually several older buildings.

"We've been going back and forth to get consensus," he said. "It's hard when you have six or seven people with opinions. But we're getting there."

Such projects are a recipe for migraines for all involved, said Carolyn Krall, an architect and urban designer with Landform, a Minneapolis firm that consults with cities on similar projects but is not involved with this one.

"It's been very hard for the city to attract a developer who can build the kind of traditional downtown buildings they'd like to see," she said. "Buildings that will enhance what's left of their original, historic downtown. It's very challenging.

"Developers can make a lot more money with a lot less trouble - barely a mile or two away - by adding to the miles and miles of strip malls from Savage to Rosemount."

Minneapolis MN Star Tribune: http://www.startribune.com

Save Our Village Holds Seminar To Discuss Eminent Domain: New Hyde Park NY Illustrated News, 11/9/07

By Margaret Whitely

Recently, Save Our Village (SOV), an activist group in New Hyde Park dedicated to "saving the village" from Metropolitan Transportation Association (MTA) and the Department of Transportation's (DOT) Long Island Railroad (LIRR) "Main Line Corridor Improvement Project" held a seminar at the New Hyde Park Road School auditorium. The group focuses on the environmental, social and economic effects it will have on the quality of life in the village. The seminar was to discuss Eminent Domain as it relates to the Village of New Hyde Park.

SOV President Robert Femminella, along with vice-presidents Diane Bentivenga and Christina Prieto-Maroney, introduced the guest speakers; Thomas Levin, a partner with the law firm of Meyer, Suozzi, English and Klein and Edward Gutleber, an attorney with the same law firm, both volunteering their time, spoke on various aspects of eminent domain law, and New York State Senator Craig Johnson, who reiterated that he is vehemently against the Third Track Project and will continue to be so until the MTA presents a clear plan to the community that is approved by the community residents and its civic organizations and its local government officials. Johnson pointed out that although Governor Eliot Spitzer appears to be for the Main Line Project, he is absolutely against it and has told the governor of his feelings many times explaining to him the drastic impact it will have especially on the Village of New Hyde Park.

The first speaker, Thomas Levin, received a laugh when he started his speech off by saying, "Don't kill the messenger."

He then went into the extensive background of eminent domain. He said, "Eminent domain first originated in England when the King or Queen could take property at will and when nobody had any rights."

Levin said, "In the United States, when we developed our constitution some 220 years ago, we took the concept of eminent domain as a power, but limit the power of the federal government and give those powers to the states. The only place there is an actual discussion is in the Fifth Amendment when it says no property shall be taken for public use without just compensation."

He explained that sometimes people refer to eminent domain as condemnation, but he said that carries with it the connotation that the property is blighted in some way, or a building is unsafe. But, "eminent domain," he said, "is much more than that." He said, "In New York State the power of eminent domain is in the state constitution to exercise the power to take private property for public use. The government can take property even though the owner is not willing to sell it. There is a statute called the Eminent Domain Procedure Law which spells out in great detail the process by which it gets done. For the much part any litigation about this law is usually fruitless because it just points out something the government has to do over and they do that and then take the property anyway."

Levin continued, "Eminent domain is essentially a government decision to take private property for a public purpose, and you will hear that phrase over and over again. There are limits on when and how the government does this. Ultimately, the courts do not second guess the wisdom or the merits of the decision because that is a political decision and any complaints about that do not go through the courts but through the political arena and that is why I am going to talk about the MTA."

He explained there are other statutes that have to be followed for eminent domain and the State Environmental Review Act is one. He said, "When anything has an impact on the environment this study must be done before any decision to take any property that has an impact. If that process is not done, that's a cause for a challenge."

He said the law that applies to this project is the Public Authorities Law in the State of New York that deals with the MTA and gives it various powers.

He said, "What we have in all eminent domain cases is one common key question. Is the taking of property that is proposed for a public purpose? It is not something that is put up for a vote. The government agency that proposes the taking is the one that gets to decide. The courts will eventually decide if it's a public purpose or a public use. When you look at the classic cases, the ones that the courts will spend only two seconds on are the ones where the government has claimed property to be owned for a public purpose. There is no condemning property to turn it over to a private owner. They are taking the property to turn it over to the government to own either temporarily or permanently. The examples given are military installations, government buildings, parking lots, public roads, railroads or public utilities. It would be hard pressed to make an argument that any proposal to take property to use as a railroad facility and the chances of the courts to rule that is not a public use is just about zero. The only thing the courts do in such cases is to look at the procedure to see that it has been followed correctly. To understand it more clearly read Title 11 of the New York Public Authorities Law, Section 1264, 1265 and 1267 that spells out exactly what the MTA can do."

Next up was Attorney Gutleber who spoke mainly about the compensation process.

He said, "The foremost principle is the concept of just compensation. Pursuant to both the United States and New York Constitution, a property owner is entitled to just compensation. The requirement states that the property owner be indemnified so that they are in the same relative position, as possible, as if the taking had not occurred."

He went on to say, "Just compensation, in its purest form, requires that the property owner be made whole by payment of the fair market value of the property valued at the date of the taking. The property owner will be compensated with damages to the real property that includes the land, building improvements, the building fixtures. There is no compensation for damages resulting in lost business. If only a portion of the property is taken, the property owner is entitled to indirect damages that may result in the diminution of the value of the remaining property. Another fundamental principal is that the property owner is entitled to fair market value taken at its highest and best use. For instance, if a single family owner, surrounded by all business property, can prove that there will be a change of zoning of his property to business, he can then claim the higher amount of compensation."

He continued, "The value of the property must be determined by an expert real estate appraiser. Initially, they will determine the amount of damages sustained and make an offer. The property owner may then accept or reject the offer, but may still file a claim for additional damages."

The entire seminar gave an insight to the residents of what they can expect to the process if and when the entire process gets underway.

However, since the LIRR or the MTA have not submitted any definite plans to the residents of the Village of New Hyde Park it is hard to come to any conclusion as to what is planned.

For further information or to keep in contact with the SOV group, please call 516-328-1171 or email the group at SOV.NHP@GMAIL.com.

New Hyde Park NY Illustrated News: http://www.antonnews.com/illustratednews


Rent control under attack: San Francisco CA Bay Guardian, 11/7/07

Eminent domain reform measure on June ballot could kill San Francisco's rent-control and affordable-housing laws

By Steven T. Jones and Sarah Phelan

San Francisco's rent-control and affordable-housing laws could be struck down by a statewide initiative that appears to be headed for the June 2008 ballot.

The measure is sponsored by a coalition of conservative property rights advocates under the guise of limiting the government's ability to seize property by eminent domain.

Cities and progressive organizations are fighting back by trying to qualify a competing ballot measure that would restrict the ability of governments to seize owner-occupied homes but would invalidate the more radical initiative. Groups from the San Francisco Tenants Union to the League of California Cities are actively mobilizing to gather the needed signatures by the Dec. 3 deadline.

SFTU director Ted Gullicksen told the Guardian, "180,000 rental units stand to be affected in San Francisco," and argued that the invalidation of rent-control laws would rapidly gentrify the city. He noted that environmental groups have lined up against the measure because of ambiguous wording that "could also impact the revamping of the Hetch Hetchy Dam as well as the work on the levees and the delta."

His group is mobilizing volunteer signature gatherers to qualify the competing measure — which would need more votes than the right-wing measure to quash the latter — and trying to educate the public through the Web site www.eminentdomainreform.com and a Nov. 14 rally planned for noon at the State Building at Van Ness and McAllister.

Eminent domain laws have been a hot-button political issue since 2005, when the US Supreme Court ruled in Kelo vs. City of New London that the Connecticut city could use eminent domain to seize land for a private development project. The furor over that decision triggered last year's Proposition 90, which would have restricted eminent domain and defined "regulatory takings" so as to cripple local governments' ability to enforce environmental laws and other restrictions on property use.

Prop. 90 was narrowly defeated (by 47.6 to 52.4 percent of voters statewide, but 29 percent in San Francisco), and advocates for the constitutional amendment titled Government Acquisition, Regulation of Private Property hoped to learn from the experience in crafting this new measure, for which they say they've gathered 850,000 signatures and plan to have one million by the Nov. 26 deadline for turning in 694,354 valid signatures of registered voters.

That measure "had a substantial amount of baggage in that it delved into regulatory takings," Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, told the Guardian. The latest proposal, he said, "is a fairly tightly drafted measure that deals with eminent domain."

Actually, as the Attorney General's Office has concluded in its summary of the measure, it would also strike down rent-control laws, a key source of affordable housing in San Francisco, Berkeley, and a couple of other California cities. The measure's broad prohibition on laws that "transfer an economic benefit to one or more private persons at the expense of the private owner" could also be interpreted as invalidating inclusionary housing laws, which require developers to create a set percentage of below-market-rate units, and other laws that regulate property.

Coupal admitted the measure attacks rent control and told us, "We think that's part and parcel of complete property rights protection." But he noted that units are only removed from rent-control protection when existing tenants move out. And he denied that the proposed act would affect inclusionary housing laws, citing a section that reads, "Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit or impair voluntary agreements between a property owner and a public agency to develop or rehabilitate affordable housing."

Yet he also admits that it's an open question whether affordable-housing requirements for developers will always be deemed voluntary. He said, "The issue of what is voluntary is currently being litigated in a number of courts."

San Francisco CA Bay Guardian: http://www.sfbg.com

Motion to stay eminent domain case denied: Oklahoma State University Daily O'Collegian, 11/5/07

By Michele Kraak

A Payne County [OK] judge denied a motion for stay pending an appeal in the ongoing Board of Regents and McCloskey Brothers’ eminent domain case Thursday.

District Judge Donald Worthington ruled earlier this year that OSU was entitled to the brothers’ property, which would be used in the university’s Athletic Village plan. The McCloskey Brothers’ attorney filed a motion for stay pending appeal so OSU would not be able to do anything with the property until the case has been settled. Harlan Hentges said in the motion that the potential harm to the brothers was irreparable because OSU intends to destroy the property.

Worthington refused to issue the stay, saying he didn’t think the court had the authority to issue it. In July, he ruled OSU could take the property using eminent domain for $84,000.

After the hearing, Hentges filed an appeal to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. No date has been set as of now.

Plans for the Athletic Village began about two years ago, and the two sides have debated whether OSU has the right to take the property.

In November 2005, OSU announced its Campus Master Plan, which included plans for an athletic village north of Boone Pickens Stadium. The university began buying property, forcing many students and faculty members to move. The original plan was to have all of the property acquired by July 2006.

The McCloskey brothers’ house is the last of 87 property units OSU wanted to acquire for the village. Hentges said it comes down to being right and being wrong.

“The McCloskey brothers had bought a house just a couple of months before the announcement (of OSU’s plan), and they didn’t think it ought to be done that way,” Hentges said. “They would not agree to a price on this house, so the Board of Regents ultimately decided to try to condemn the house.”

One of Oklahoma’s statutes says universities can acquire property through condemnation only in certain instances. Hentges said parts of the athletic village are going to be used for a hotel and a convention center, which is not within their rights.

“They didn’t prove that they were taking it for either a stadium or a field house, which are the only things that come close,” Hentges said.

Randall Elliot, who is representing the Board of Regents, could not be reached for comment.

Hentges said the most obvious argument against the Regents is that they are not qualified to be regents under the Oklahoma Constitution. Nine regents serve on the board, including a president. The governor appoints the eight other regents. The constitution says a majority of the eight regents the governor appoints must be farmers, which means they must earn a majority of their income through farming. Hentges said none of the regents qualifies as a farmer.

“The regents aren’t qualified to be regents,” Hentges said. “The Board of Regents we have is not the Board of Regents provided by the Oklahoma Constitution, and the way they’ve used their authority is not valid.”

The Board of Regents’ response to the motion for stay notes the Oklahoma Supreme Court has ruled a landowner is not allowed to stay in an appeal of a condemnation action. Worthington followed the Supreme Court’s precedent in his ruling Thursday, but Hentges said he thinks the ruling should be overturned.

“You and I could go out and file a lawsuit and say we’re the county commissioners, or we’re whoever we want to say we are, and we have the right of eminent domain,” Hentges said. “If the landowner doesn’t have standing to challenge that, that’s obviously a problem.”

Oklahoma State University Daily O'Collegian: http://ocolly.com

Blight removal: Savannah GA Morning News, 11/5/07


The state's eminent domain legislation has had the unintended consequence of making it more difficult to clean up blighted areas

WHEN THE U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2005 that local governments could seize a person's property for virtually any purpose - including turning the land over to private developers - alarmed state legislators around the country drew up rules corralling eminent domain powers.

In Georgia, a similar move was fired in part by the condemnation of more than 2,000 acres by Effingham County's Industrial Development Authority for a future industrial park.

In the 2006 legislative session, the General Assembly enacted strict new rules making it more difficult for local governments to seize property through eminent domain, and truncating the number of purposes for which land could be seized.

By so doing, however, the legislation has had the unintended consequence of making it difficult for cities to clean up blighted properties.

In Savannah, the problem is most common in houses owned by absentee owners who do not live in the area, and rental properties that landlords fail to maintain.

In a meeting with the area's state government delegation Thursday, Savannah alderman Tony Thomas rightly noted that because of neglect by landlords, "the quality of life is deteriorating in parts of the city."

Indeed, sagging, dilapidated houses are not only eyesores, but also contribute to the feelings of desperation and carelessness in a community that too often help to foster criminal behavior.

In its upcoming session in January, the General Assembly should consider targeted amendments to the state's current eminent domain laws, which will allow cities to take quicker action in cases where blighted properties pose health and safety hazards.

These amendments could include strict guidelines that nevertheless allowed cities a more expedited avenue for blight removal. In order to keep cities from taking homes solely for the purpose of economic development, the new provisions might also require any seized property to maintain the zoning level it had prior to seizure.

Such a provision would coordinate well with the city of Savannah's push to create in-fill housing in vacant or blighted areas.

Cities have a valid reason to want to keep blight at bay. State lawmakers should make it easier to guard against the wasting of vital housing stock.

Savannah GA Morning News: http://www.savannahnow.com

Neighbors unite to fix up homes of needy: Ventura County CA Star, 11/3/07

By Anna Bakalis

Neighbors helping neighbors is how a group of Moorpark residents are characterizing their new project aimed at fixing homes for those who couldn't otherwise afford it.

The "Let's Make Moorpark Beautiful" project is in its beginning stages, and volunteers hope to fill the gaps for those who might not qualify for home rehabilitation loans from the city.

Painting, hauling, weeding, removing old junk and repairing fences are some of the services the group would like to offer that might lift property values and boost neighborhood morale, said one of the project's founders.

Many people in the low-income areas have applied to the city for funding but have been told they don't qualify, said longtime resident Ernie Bergmann.

"Some of them make too much money, but then they do not make enough to fix their home," he said.

Organizers want to bring in money from local, state and federal agencies, a process that will likely require a nonprofit designation for the group, said one city official.

They need to file an application every year to apply for government funds, said David Moe, city redevelopment manager.

"If they can get it off the ground — anything from the community that can help the city — the more leverage the better," Moe said.

The idea for the home rehab program came out of a recent eminent domain amendment that was rejected by the City Council in a 5-0 vote. Eminent domain is the power of a public agency to forcibly acquire private property at fair market value for public use. The amendment would have re-established a lapsed authority over about a 1,200-acre project area, mainly in the downtown area.

The authority worried residents enough that they packed the council chambers last month to protest the amendment.

A blight study, completed by a consultant who identified areas for possible rehabilitation, was part of the eminent domain discussion.

"There are areas in Moorpark that are eyesores," Bergmann said. "We are not blind to that."

Bergmann has been a Moorpark resident since 1977 and hopes the program will bring people together. It is good to empower neighborhoods and residents, he said.

"I think people have a responsibility to their community," Bergmann said. "I think of them as next door neighbors that live across town."

The group of volunteers has met once to talk about ways to get the project going, and members are looking for help and input on how to kick-start the program.

Ventura County CA Star: http://www.venturacountystar.com

Phoenix Owner of Downtown El Paso Parking Promises a Fight for his Property: Newspaper Tree, El Paso TX, 12/27/07

By Rene Leon

Downtown redevelopment efforts may encounter another obstacle as one property owner has threatened to take an eminent domain-related measure to the voters.

Leon Woodward, a Phoenix resident and owner of U.S. Parking Systems, on Dec. 18 went before the El Paso City Council and warned he will bring forward a voter initiative calling for a 10-year wait on future uses of eminent domain if he feels his properties are in danger of condemnation.

Under Section 3.11 of the El Paso City Charter, Woodward can place an item on the City Council agenda with a number of voter signatures equal to five percent of those who voted in the last general municipal elections. Upon receipt of those signatures, the item must be placed on the agenda within 30 days. If the council votes down the proposed ordinance, Woodward would have the opportunity to again collect the appropriate number of signatures and submit them to the city clerk, who by law would be required to place the proposed ordinance on the ballot for the next general municipal election.

Woodward claimed he would need at least 2,018 signatures for his initiative to go before council, which would be five percent of 40,360 voters. However, Tony Rivera of the El Paso County Elections Department stated only 26,045 people voted in the May 2007 municipal general election, setting the required number of signatures at 1,301.

Anthony Washington, who is an assistant city manager in Phoenix, where Woodward had previously threatened similar voter initiatives when faced with condemnation of his properties there, said Woodward is a successful businessman who follows through on his commitments.

“He was prepared to exercise his rights. My experience with him is that he is a person who doesn’t make idle threats; he follows through,” Washington said of Woodward, who threatened but later withdrew his eminent domain initiatives after negotiations with Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon.

Oddly, Woodward left the meeting soon after making his comment during the meeting’s Call to the Public session, even though an item was scheduled later in the meeting calling for the expansion of Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, or TIRZ, No. 5, which includes the Downtown area. He said he scheduled his trip to El Paso two weeks prior to the meeting and was unaware of the TIRZ item.

Included in a document packet given to the media are several letters written by Woodward and addressed to Mayor John Cook and the council in which Woodard describes what he feels are instances of intimidation on the part of Bill Sanders, a principle member of the Paso del Norte Group, or PDNG. The PDNG was a key supporting organization in the development of the Downtown 2015 Plan, which has been criticized by some for not including input from residents and business owners in its creation.

“Billie Sanders and his associates approached me several months ago with the intention of purchasing my business and downtown properties. I refused to sell and Billie Sanders decided to even the score by canceling my parking contract at the Chase Bank building,” writes Woodward in his letter to the mayor and council. He further states that he was contacted in October by an attorney who he claims informed him that the reason for the contract’s cancellation was because he refused to sell his properties to the Borderplex Community Trust, which owns the Chase Bank building and Bassett Tower.

Sanders, though, said in a written statement that he has never dealt with Woodward.

“Up until the recent City Council press coverage, I had never heard of Leon Woodward - and certainly had never spoken with him,” Sanders said in the statement. “Mr. Woodward appears to have quite an imagination."

Also included in the document packet was a photocopy of a Phoenix Gazette editorial column written by Dennis Wagner and titled, “Crazy Leon.”

“He runs parking lots downtown. And when someone gets him mad he becomes the most relentless man in Arizona. Leon produces nasty buttons and bumper stickers. He wears out the phone calling talk radio. He researches his foes, uses the system to find a weakness, then files lawsuits or complaints. He hangs on like a pitbull.”

Scribbled in marker in the margin of the photocopy page (possibly by the boisterous and unapologetic Woodward himself) was one simple statement: “Leon won again!”

Newspaper Tree, El Paso TX: http://www.newspapertree.com

Philadelphia within law in condemning private land for a Catholic educational project: Philadelphia PA Inquirer, 12/29/07

Court upholds church-state case

By Nancy Petersen

In Pennsylvania, it is now legal in some cases to condemn blighted private property and turn it over to a religious organization, the state Supreme Court ruled this week. The case, which blended the hot-button issues of eminent domain and separation of church and state, revolved around a North Philadelphia neighborhood that the city certified as blighted 36 years ago.

The city Redevelopment Authority condemned the property, in the 1800 block of North Eighth Street, in 2003 and transferred it to the Hope Partnership for Education, a Catholic religious organization that proposed building a nondenominational middle school on the site, among other projects.

One of the property owners, Mary Smith, appealed the condemnation, arguing that it benefited a private religious entity and was not for a public purpose as the law requires.

Common Pleas Court found the action lawful, Commonwealth Court said it wasn't, and now the Supreme Court has ruled that it is, provided the primary purpose is to remove blight. "The principal or primary effect of the redevelopment plan . . . is to eliminate blight in this particular neighborhood," said Justice Cynthia Baldwin, who wrote the majority opinion. A secondary effect could be the advancement of religion, but there is no evidence that is the primary goal, she wrote.

Justice Max Baer disagreed, calling the majority decision unfortunate. "I believe this is a case of direct government aid, in the form of a land transfer below market value, to a religious organization for the development of a religious school," Baer wrote in his dissent.

The result, he wrote, is the "direct financing of religious education with the primary effect of advancing religion." The city, the Hope Partnership and Smith's representatives could not be reached for comment.

Philadelphia PA Inquirer: http://www.philly.com


County facilities vote is Tuesday: Payson AZ Roundup, 11/2/07

Storage owner at odds with county

By Erin Turner

Paul Pollock plans to live on Main Street for the rest of his life.

He and his brother, Robin, are building a home atop the Payson Mini Storage for themselves and their mother to share.

He likes the idea of having restaurants, shops and entertainment within walking distance.

His family has owned the mini storage for more than two decades.

There's just one problem with his dream - it coincides with the county's plan to acquire his land for the county facilities renovation project.

If voters approve the two ballot measures to fund the new jail and courthouse on the current site at Highway 87 and Main Street, the county would need to acquire land to the west, up to the Main Street Grille.

Pollock's mini storage sits between the Main Street Grille and Chris Smith Investments. His would be the last property acquired for the project.

"What they're asking the public to do is steal someone's private property, so they can save some money," Pollock said.

"We have future plans for this property. It is an ill-thought, ill-conceived plan. Why don't they put it somewhere where there isn't anything?"

Pollock said he opposes the county's plan to use eminent domain to acquire his land and the land to the east of his property, including the land Chris Smith Investments and Napa Auto Parts occupy.

"For eminent domain to work (the county) has to prove two things - that the project is essential and that where they want to build it, there is no other place to build it," he said. "They can't prove that. It's unthinkable." Gila County Supervisor Tommie Martin said besides Pollock, the other property owners are willing to relocate for the project.

"It's not about putting people out of business," she said. "It's about relocating them."

Pollock said he and his family plan to fight the county on the issue of eminent domain.

"We plan to vigorously challenge this thing," he said.

"If they pay me to leave, it's going to cost more than the whole budget they have for all of the properties," he said.

Martin said if the county is forced to resort to eminent domain proceedings and incurs that extra expense, the cost of the project would still be lower than other sites.

"It's still cheaper than buying another location and putting in the infrastructure and the 36,000 square feet that we're already in," she said.

Pollock said another issue he has with the plan is the lack of space for future expansion.

"(The county) is landlocked once they get this project done," he said. "Why can't they find a place where they're not landlocked?"

Despite the potential conflict with his property, Pollock said he supports the need for new facilities.

"I have nothing against the project," he said. "They just should've been planning all along. The objection is the county's bad manners, not the project."

Other objections from Citizens for Fair Taxation include:
  • The method of funding, or requiring taxpayers to foot the bill, rather than the county re-examining its budget.
  • The location on Main Street and the Beeline Highway.
  • Fair Taxation Chair Leon Keddington said the proposed location in Payson could be better used for commercial businesses or shops.

Payson AZ Roundup: http://www.paysonroundup.com

Imminent Eminent Domain Rip-Off Threatens California's Environment: California Progress Report, 11/2/07

By Gary A. Patton

Last year, Californians successfully fought off a statewide ballot initiative that used the rhetoric of eminent domain abuse to attempt to undermine a swath of laws protecting our health and environment. Well get ready; it looks like we'll have to fight even harder this year.

Wealthy owners of apartments and mobile home parks are currently collecting signatures to place another initiative on California's June 2008 ballot that they'd like you to believe is about eminent domain. And once again, they're hiding their anti-environment agenda. Tucked into the text of the initiative are provisions that would effectively prohibit laws and regulations that are intended to protect our air, land, water, and coasts from pollution, as well as laws that regulate development and prevent sprawl.

As if this weren't bad enough, the landlords are also using the populist issue of eminent domain reform in an attempt to wipe out rent control laws in California, hurting seniors, single mothers, veterans, and other working families who would lose the only housing they can afford.

A broad-based coalition of environmentalists, local governments, seniors, business, and labor has formed to defeat this measure – with PCL [the Planning and Conservation League] stepping up as an early coalition endorser and supporter. This coalition is promoting a strong, honest eminent domain reform proposal, which would prevent the government from using eminent domain to take a home to transfer to a developer.

The California Homeowner Protection Act doesn't have the hidden agendas or negative consequences of the landlords' scheme. But here's the problem: In order to qualify this measure for the June 2008 ballot, the sponsors need 1.1 million signatures by November 20. Currently they are about halfway to that goal. And while the landlords have money to spare for their signature gathering efforts, the California Homeowner Protection Act supporters are relying on volunteers to help get it over the finish line. That's where you, our faithful readers come in.

Please click here to sign the petition! An official petition that your family, friends, and co-workers can all sign will be mailed to you. Just be sure to mail it back by November 20.

Qualifying this honest eminent domain reform measure for the June 2008 ballot is absolutely critical if we are to defeat the landlords' Hidden Agendas scheme and its devastating impacts on our environment.

For more information, please visit www.EminentDomainReform.com.

Planning and Conservation League: http://www.pcl.org

Gary Patton is the Executive Director of the Planning and Conservation League, a statewide, nonprofit lobbying organization.

Airport looks to eminent domain to acquire property: Meadville PA Tribune, 11/2/07

By Jane Smith

Before the Crawford County [PA] Regional Airport Authority can remove obstructions at Port Meadville Airport, it needs a permanent easement from a property owner to take some of her land.

The authority filed an “eminent domain declaration of taking” in Crawford County Prothonotary’s Office Thursday, seeking the easement that will eventually allow pilots to have a clearer view of the runway when landing.

It plans to take over ownership of 6.6 acres of the approximate 29.25 acres owned by Marian Galbo along Cutter Road. The easement will allow removal of obstructions and provide air easements for navigational purposes.

In the petition for the easement, the authority noted it was not able to reach an agreement regarding just compensation for the land with the property owner.

“We offered the property owner $2,500 and we believe it is a fair price,” said Roy Brant, authority member. He said the airport authority is held accountable by the Federal Aviation Administration. One condition when the authority accepted the airport was the removal of trees that were obstructing the views of planes coming in from the west, said Brant.

He said there are restrictions on the height of the trees by the FAA and the trees on the land are higher than permitted. The offer made for the property was based on what the Bureau of Aviation was willing to approve, Brant said.

The property owner is exercising her right, and now the decision about how much she should receive will be up to the court, Brant said.

Galbo said Thursday she has “no comment,” and she referred questions to her attorney, Diane Adsit, who also declined comment.

Meadville PA Tribune: http://www.meadvilletribune.com

Council To Invoke Eminent Domain On K Street: CBSTV-13, Sacramento CA, 12/18/07

Sacramento city leaders have decided to invoke the use of eminent domain to speed redevelopment on the 700 block of K Street.

The Sacramento City Council unanimously voted to start the process of forcing owner Moe Mohanna to sell his properties. Mohanna has vowed to fight any measures to force him to sell his property.

"I don't want the government to have the right to take my properties and give it to someone else for their private use," says Mohanna. "I'm going to fight it. I will be there at the door, with the chain, waiting for the police to come and arrest me."

CBS13 correspondent R.E. Graswich has reported that the city is already talking with a Los Angeles developer to build on the property. Graswich says that the developer would receive about $24 million in redevelopment funds from the city for the project.

CBSTV-13, Sacramento CA: http://cbs13.com

Residents In Historic Areas Bothered By Blighted Designation: WTVF-TV5, Nashville TN, 10/30/07

Some Clarksville [TN] residents fear they will lose their homes.

The Clarksville City Council recently passed a redevelopment ordinance that lists six communities as blighted areas.

Don and Patsy Sharpe live in one of those areas.

The Sharpes fear the language in the ordinance gives the city the power to do what it wants with their historic home.

"By moving them into blighted that gives the subject powers of eminent domain," Don Sharpe said. "Private property can be taken from individual owners and transferred to the hands of private developers."

The communities are located in downtown.

City leaders said the term "blight" is required language in order for the city to receive special grant funding.

Frank Lott worked on the ordinance four years ago. The words "blight" and "eminent domain" can be found throughout the ordinance. The language is needed for future funding.

"There can't be any action that takes place without the property owners, essentially their consent and their willingness to say, 'I'm going to sell my property,'" Lott said.

Homeowner Lynnee Jellison agrees the language in the ordinance can be confusing but she doesn't believe the city wants to seize her property.

"No, no not at all because I own my home," she said. "No one is going to take my home and the city isn't interested in redevloping houses that are in good shape."

The Sharpes' home is also in good condition. If their home stays, they wonder what would happen to those that are made to go.

Individuals who drafted the ordinance said eminent domain exists regardless of the ordinance. City government has the power to deal with abandoned properties or those designated as "blight."

But the ordinance wasn't designed to buy homes.

Residents and city leaders attended a community meeting Tuesday night at the L&N Station. It was organized to help clear up confusion over the language in the ordinance.

WTVF-TV5, Nashville TN: http://www.newschannel5.com

Neptune's Shark River project dropped: Asbury Park NJ Press, 10/29/07

Township shuns use of eminent domain

By Bill Bowman

A combination of recalcitrant property owners, a slowing economy and the [Neptune NJ] township's refusal to use its eminent domain powers has forced the unofficial redeveloper of the Shark River North Channel area to drop its interest in the project.

Billed as turning the area along South Concourse and New York Road into a "waterfront gateway," the project's plans include building 145 condominiums, restaurants, shops and a public promenade.

But difficulty in getting some property owners to agree to sell their land - exacerbated by the Township Committee's refusal to use eminent domain to acquire properties - forced Paramount Homes to walk away from the project, company president Jeffrey Fernbach said.

"Without eminent domain, it's never going to happen," Fernbach said of the project. He said property owners will not negotiate if they know their properties are not subject to be taken by the township.

Fernbach said he hoped that his company could still do the project.

"We spent a lot of time, money and energy on it," he said. "We hope that something changes."

Fernbach told Michael Bascom, the township's chief financial officer, about his decision on Monday, Bascom said.

Bascom confirmed that Paramount asked the township to consider using eminent domain to acquire several properties - including a vacant lot that was targeted for an access point to the promenade - but the township refused.

He said Paramount's decision did not kill the project.

"We don't consider the project over," Bascom said. He said that other developers have shown interest in it.

First, however, the township will meet with the property owners to "discuss other potential developers," Bascom said.

He said that the township has already had an informal meeting with one developer who had stopped by the municipal building on another matter.

Committeeman Thomas Catley, who was mayor at the time the Shark River channel area was declared an area in need of redevelopment, blasted the Democratic administration for the breakdown.

"This is a major failure of leadership for the current majority and calls into question their stewardship of the entire revitalization process in Neptune," he said. "What this means is Neptune will miss out on much needed improvements to the appearance and economic viability of our Shark River waterfront, and the Neptune taxpayer will not reap the benefits of the tax relief that was to be a by-product of this development."

The project is also threatened by a lawsuit filed by the owner of Midway Ice and Fuel on Route 35 challenging the redevelopment area designation. The state Department of Transportation is requiring that Midway's building be removed from the median before it will approve the necessary realignment of the highway.

Asbury Park NJ Press: http://www.app.com

Dacono abstains from eminent domain: Longmont CO Times-Call, 10/25/07

By Kacia Munshaw

The Dacono City Council will not use eminent domain to seize 2 acres of land that is part of Clem Dufour Park, saying it doesn’t want to spend more taxpayer money on the issue.

Ron Warner purchased the property from Union Pacific in February for $6,400 after he discovered the city didn’t own it. The property cuts through the park, its ballfields and the parking lot of the BMX track.

The city originally offered to buy the land from Warner at an appraised value of $47,000. Warner declined, saying the offer was too low, considering he has $93,000 invested in the property.

“The biggest issue for council is that we don’t want to pay for another appraisal and we don’t want to pay his price,” town administrator Karen Cumbo said Wednesday. “No one else is going to buy this land.”

She said the city would rather not pay Warner anything and see what happens. The city has already found two locations for a new ballfield, which could cost between $60,000 and $100,000 to build, Cumbo said.

Through eminent domain, the city has the right to seize the land after a second appraisal of the property paid for by the city. The final price of the sale would be determined in a court hearing.

“In my opinion, there is only one buyer for this property, and that buyer is the city of Dacono,” Mayor Wade Carlson said during the council hearing Monday, when the council voted 3-2 vote to not use eminent domain.

Council members Kay Cole, Sandra Tucker and Michelle Burns voted against the motion to exercise eminent domain. Charles Sigman and Tom McCune voted in favor.

The council members in favor of eminent domain said the issue is a serious problem that needs to be rectified.

“Sooner or later, we are going to have to pay for this appraisal,” Sigman said. “I would rather take care of it sooner rather than later.”

However, his opinion was in the minority.

“We shouldn’t be spending the city’s money on this right now,” Burns said. “(Warner) bought it under speculation, and he should sit on it. We have other things to worry about than playing games with Mr. Warner.”

The council did not say if or when it will revisit the issue.

“We are all really in agreement that we should own the land,” Carlson said. “The only disagreement is how to proceed.”

Contacted Tuesday, Warner said he had no comment on the council’s decision. He also didn’t return a call Wednesday.

Longmont CO Times-Call: http://www.timescall.com


Town to pay $6M for land: Charleston SC Post and Courier, 12/6/07

Mount Pleasant planned to condemn a 1-acre tract near Shem Creek known as the OK Tire property
By Prentiss Findlay

[The Mt Pleasant SC] Town Council voted Wednesday to spend $6 million to acquire 43 acres of Shem Creek property, thus settling its condemnation lawsuit against the owners of about an acre of the land known as the OK Tire property.

"We're glad it's behind us," said Town Administrator Mac Burdette.

After an executive session, council voted unanimously to authorize Mayor Harry Hallman to sign the agreement with property owners Mark Mason and Phillip Smith.

The town and the property owners will meet to close the deal Dec. 18, said Town Attorney Allen Young.

Under the agreement, the town will acquire a section of creekfront known as the Bailey Docks.

"Getting the docks is very important," Burdette said. It means the town could build a public creekfront that goes from a park at the OK Tire property near Coleman Boulevard down to the Bailey Docks just past Vickery's all the way to the harbor, Burdette said.

"It's a great day. It will allow us to have true water access for the general public," he said. Funds for the purchase will come from the town Tax Increment Financing District. He said the town would likely want to talk to other creek property owners about acquiring more property for public use.

If the town and the property owners had not reached agreement, a circuit judge was scheduled to hear arguments Dec. 19 on the property owners' motion to dismiss the town condemnation suit.

Young said that Hallman will sign the documents agreeing to the purchase today. "It ends the lawsuit completely," Young said.

On Oct. 10, Young issued a statement that under the authority council had delegated to him, he would file a $2,285,000 condemnation action for the OK Tire property. Mason and Smith countered that the property was worth $4.6 million. Earlier, council made a $6 million offer for the OK Tire property and the Bailey Docks. Mason and Smith wanted more than $7.6 million. Council did not specify how much the town will pay for the OK Tire property.

OK Tire Documents: Click here to download PDF documents pertaining to the condemnation and purchase of the disputed OK Tire property. The acrimonious negotiations were marked by Mason's threats to obtain the hard drives of council members' computers to reconstruct e-mails he said had been purposely deleted because they concerned town business. He alleged that town business was being done under the radar by e-mail. Mason, an attorney, also alleged other violations of the state Freedom of Information Act. He was not immediately available for comment late Wednesday night.

Mason planned to put 24 condominiums on the OK Tire land and 24 floating boat slips on Shem Creek. In 2005, the town offered $2 million for the OK Tire property and the Bailey Docks on Shem Creek, which are small docks shrimpers use.

Charleston SC Post and Courier: http://www.charleston.net

Baldwin Park Residents Figh Eminent Domain Abuse: Californians for Property Rights Protection, 12/6/07

Hundreds of Homes and Businesses at Stake

Last night, a hundred of Baldwin Park homeowners and property owners attended a standing room only city council hearing to express their opposition to the city’s plan to seize around 600 properties to benefit the Bisno Development Company. As reported by KTLA News and other media sources, the developer has demanded that the city seize local properties before voters consider an eminent domain measure slated to appear on the June 2008 ballot.

Find out what this diverse community is doing to fight back! Visit KTLA News’ website (news section) for its live coverage of the contentious public hearing -- http://ktla.trb.com/. The video can be found within the “News” tab/section, scroll down to 12/5.

As illustrated in a letter from the developer to the city (see links below), Baldwin Park is proving to be a classic case of how a public agency works with a wealthy and politically connected developer to use eminent domain to seize homes and small businesses from unwilling sellers. Should the city continue its course, our campaign to reform eminent domain abuse will certainly highlight Baldwin Park as one of the worst cases of eminent domain abuse in the state. It is not everyday that a city will consider a project that displaces hundreds of homeowners and small businesses!

The Alliance is one of the proponents of the “California Property Owners and Farmland Protection Act,” an eminent domain reform ballot measure slated for the June ballot, as referenced in the developer’s letter. The ballot measure prohibits the use of eminent domain for private to private takings, while allowing the use for public projects. In short, if our measure passes in June, local property owners will be safe from the reach of the Bisno Development Company and its allies on the Baldwin Park City Council.

Referenced Letters
See www.calpropertyrights.com for the Alliance’s letter to the city council and the developer letter urging the city to expedite eminent domain proceedings.

Property Owners from three LA cities, all just several miles apart, are fighting cities and developers wishing to seize their property – a geographic “Triangle of Eminent Domain Abuse”!

City of Baldwin Park: http://www.sgvtribune.com/rds_search/ci_7613475?IADID=Search-www.sgvtribune.com-www.sgvtribune.com

City of Duarte: http://www.sgvtribune.com/ci_7642839

City of Azuza: http://www.calpropertyrights.com/pdf/11-3-07_SGVN.pdf

Californians for Private Property Rights Protection: www.yesonpropertyrights.com

On Exchange Street, eminent domain becoming imminent: Akron OH Buchtelite, 10/25/07

By Brandon Welk

The University of Akron has had plans for a new stadium in the works for a while now: The $55 million contract was approved several months ago. Groundbreaking and excavation for the InfoCision Stadium is expected to begin in January. It will replace the decrepit Rubber Bowl and will include rooms for classes and more parking spaces. Completion of the stadium is scheduled for the 2009 Zips' football season, when they will have a new place to lose to the Buckeyes.

There are several issues regarding the construction of the new stadium, including the campus community's acceptance of increased traffic, estimated costs incurred and whether it is justifiable to replace the Rubber Bowl and most notable, the biggest issue: eminent domain.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, eminent domain refers to the power of the state to assume ownership of private property for public use, with compensation to the owner. To build a stadium, the university needs to buy much of the property surrounding campus to make room.

There have already been students displaced from the residence halls next to the Rec Center to the new Exchange Street dorm because the property will be needed for the stadium. Though the university owned that property already, move a little farther out from campus and there's plenty of property they didn't.

The job of buying property isn't over yet, but plans for demolishing buildings on the property aren't expected to be delayed. Though there are multiple businesses located on Exchange Street that will be affected by eminent domain, none is more noticeable or popular than Manny's Pub across from Europe Gyro and Campus Book and Supply.

And no business owner dislikes the prospect of being forced to move more than Manny does. He doesn't want to have to move the business he's worked so hard to maintain, and when asked about how he felt about eminent domain and the new stadium, he replied, "I'm still here, aren't I?"

Why would he want to move? He's got the perfect location: accessible by students and those living walking distance of the university, a loyal customer base and features that keep people coming back.

Featuring nightly drink specials, a $2 shot of the night, three pool tables, a dart board and an Internet jukebox, Manny's has plenty to offer. It also offers a touchscreen game machine, plenty of bar space, tables, and booths, an outdoor patio that welcomes smokers, friendly employees and Friday night's legendary Power Hour.

Manny's Pub has more to offer than the bars downtown with a more personal atmosphere and the advantage of being close enough to campus to not worry about needing a cab.

Not to mention, if Manny is forced to leave, he's not only losing one business, he's losing three, as he owns the neighboring Aroma Coffee & Tea and leases the Chopstix Chinese restaurant next to that.

But it seems that, sadly, eminent domain is becoming more imminent. The university wants that property.

Ted Curtis, the vice president of capital planning and facility management, has recently stated that the first phase of the drawing for the new stadium isn't completed yet, it hasn't delayed groundbreaking.

Here's a solution: If the architectural designs aren't done yet, why not include Manny's in the design? If the land is needed anyway, why not keep Manny's there, but incorporate the physical structure into the new stadium somehow? Have Manny's be a part of the same building as the stadium, but with a separate entranceway facing Exchange Street.

That way, the building isn't moving far. It can retain the same customers and features that make it one of the best bars in Akron, and even more people can enjoy Manny's because of its direct proximity to the stadium. Having a bar like that built into a stadium isn't unheard of, so why can't we make it work?

One of the goals of eminent domain is to compensate the owner of the private property for the fair value of the property taken. But who can place a fair value on all of the hard work that Manny has put into building the business he loves so much or on all the countless nights of fun had there?

That sum might be difficult for the university to muster.

Akron OH Buchtelite: http://media.www.buchtelite.com

Settlement OK'd in eminent domain case: Boston MA Globe, 10/25/07

Family to receive $2.8m for farm

By Melissa Beecher

A seven-year battle is over after the Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee approved a $2.8 million settlement and agreed to drop any further appeals on an eminent domain case that took a former family farm for the site of the new regional high school.

The payment is in addition to a $1.8 million purchase price the board made for the 177-acre Casella family property in 2001.

"The Casellas were paid an unfair price for the land by the School Department, and when a jury agreed, they filed an appeal," said George McLaughlin III, the attorney from Boston-based McLaughlin Brothers who specializes in eminent domain and represents the three Casella families.

"After the school district lost two times, they have wisely decided to stop the bleeding," McLaughlin said. "It has been a long time coming."

Cindy Barrett, chairwoman of School Committee, said the decision was ultimately a financial one.

"It took two years for our first appeal to be heard," said Barrett. "Even though we still believe there is a valid reason to clarify the expert testimony, we had to take into account how much per month would be accrued due to interest."

Superintendent Alan Genovese concurred with the board's vote.

"Even if we won the appeal, all it meant is that . . . we would start over from scratch. This could have gone on for another 20 years," said Genovese.

"We've reached the point where we need to put this behind us," he said.

The vote to drop the case was 6 to 0, with School Committee member Charles McKinney abstaining. McKinney has abstained from all votes regarding the Casellas because he was a friend and neighbor of theirs.

The vote means the district will issue a $2.5 million bond, which was approved by Groton and Dunstable's Town Meetings in 2005. The remainder of the balance will be found in the High School Land Acquisition Fund, where $198,000 will be drawn, and High School Building Fund, where $135,000 will be used.

Genovese said the borrowing would not have a financial impact on taxpayers until fiscal 2009. No money will come from the district's operating budgets.

The settlement concludes a saga that began in 2000, when the school district voted to take the Casella land on Chicopee Row for $1.8 million. The schools had been reviewing several parcels, but after topography testing, determined the Casella farm was the only property of its size in either community that could accommodate a new high school.

The Casellas sued, claiming the district significantly undervalued the land, which they believed should have been sold for $4.8 million. While the case was in the courts, the high school was built. It opened in 2003. The $36 million project took advantage of the School Building Assistance Funding, receiving 67 percent state aid reimbursements, school officials said.

The eminent domain case went to trial in June 2005 and a jury determined the value of the property was $4.1 million. The district was instructed to pay the difference.

The school district appealed that decision, saying that the expert testimony of two law firms - one of which gave a high valuation of the land - should not have been admissible in court. The appeals court rejected this argument in August.

At that time, the district was ordered to pay the original $2.5 million plus accrued interest, which is approximately $250,000.

In a prepared statement, school district leaders said that the director of business and finance, Timothy Sheehan, would be working to expedite the bonding process so the settlement could be paid "as quickly as possible."

Genovese said he believes that it worked out for the district in the end. Given escalating construction costs over the last five years and the moratorium of state aid for school building projects, the high school project continues to make financial sense, he said.

"It's unfortunate that this had to go through the eminent domain taking, but the fact remains that we have a beautiful new school in a great location," said Genovese. "If you go back to that point in time, it was the right thing to do."

Boston MA Globe: http://www.boston.com

Eminent domain discussions raise questions over land owner rights: Amador County CA Ledger-Dispatch, 10/23/07

By Kelly Enos

Recent eminent domain proceedings flying around Amador County - and a particularly controversial case in Plymouth - have some property owners concerned that they could lose what they have worked to keep for years.

"I wasn't really sure what it meant when I first heard the term," said Shenandoah Valley resident Jose Villa, "but with all this going on in Plymouth I started wondering if any city could obtain any property because they wanted to."

Eminent domain, also referred to as "condemnation," is the power of local, state or federal government agencies to take private property for public use as long as the government pays a just compensation. The government can exercise this power even if the property owner does not wish to sell, as outlined in the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution and in article 19, section one of the California Constitution, which uses examples such as schools, roads, libraries, police and fire stations as a guideline for public use.

According to Arthur J. Hazarabedian, an attorney with the California Eminent Domain Law Group, the term "public use" is interpreted very broadly by the courts.

"The project need not be actually open to the public to constitute public use," he said. "Instead, generally only a public benefit is required to the courts and satisfies the public use requirement of federal and state constitutions."

Hazarabedian adds that although government agencies have the power of eminent domain, successful challenges to the government are occasionally made.

"Such challenges, however, are the exception, not the rule. Most usually result in a delay rather than an outright prevention of the governments right to take," he said.

The city of Plymouth has jostled the eminent domain issue from agenda to agenda regarding an easement that is needed to complete a pipeline project that will allow treated water to be brought into the city via the Tanner reservoir.

The properties in question are owned by Ron and Linda Matulich and Russell and Doris Evitt. Although the Matulich family had agreed to the terms of the easement contract, according to the city's legal counsel Shasta Greene, the contract cannot be completed since part of the Evitt property is located on the Matulich side. The matter of the easement and eminent domain proceedings will once again be heard during the city council meeting tomorrow.

Proposition 90 that ran on the 2006 ballot would have banned the use of eminent domain seizures for private developers but was rejected by voters. According to Brian Heaton, a communications specialist with the League of California Cities, an adoption of statutory and constitutional reforms are the strategic focus for the board this year.

"The board voted unanimously to continue supporting its strategy of pursuing eminent domain reform," he said, "both legislatively and in an initiative processes."

The League of California Cities intends to ensure that federal legislation addressing the issue of eminent domain does not impact states such as California.

"California has strong laws that limit the use of eminent domain and have protection for property owners," Heaton said. "We will oppose the federal private property rights implementation act that is being promoted as a response to a recent supreme court ruling since it does not address condemnations, eminent domain or economic development projects in any way."

An June 2008 ballot initiative that will be known as the California Property Owners and Farmland Protection Act would prohibit public agencies from taking private property from one owner to give to another, while preserving the government's right to utilize eminent domain under specified conditions.

In an attempt to contact those who are immediately involved with the proceedings in Plymouth, the Ledger Dispatch was unsuccessful.

Villa plans to attend the meeting in Plymouth to better understand how the city can control property owners in that manner.

"This is of interest to me since I know that the county is planning to develop all around Plymouth and I'm not sure if that will include my land," he said.

He added that if future development begins to infringe on his area, he and his family will relocate.

"We moved here from the Bay Area 13 years go," he said. "We wanted to see open spaces and trees instead of malls and concrete. What a shame that the government can use something like this to turn tables in their favor."

Amador County CA Ledger-Dispatch: http://www.ledger-dispatch.com

Activist homeowner ready to negotiate: Asbury Park NJ Press, 12/16/07

Eminent domain foe in Long Branch

By Carol Gorga Williams

A key member of a citizens' group lobbying to stay in their ocean-view homes here is dangling an olive branch.

Lori Ann Vendetti - moved by the holiday season, concerned over the impact the long fight is having on her own mother and dealing with grief following the death of a beloved member of their tightknit group - said she is tired and would like to find a way to end the fight.

Vendetti is a member of the Marine Terrace, Ocean Terrace, Seaview Avenue Alliance [MTOTSA], the group of residents that many credit with turning the city's reputation for successful oceanfront redevelopment into an examination of the morality behind the use of eminent domain.

The group lost its right to keep the city's redevelopment from its enclave in trial court; attracted the help of the Institute for Justice, a national public interest law firm taking the case for free; and now is waiting for a date in appellate court.

Since the group began its fight in 2003, it has attracted widespread media attention and has helped tarnish the image of longtime Mayor Adam Schneider, who by his own admission has become the poster child for the national movement against eminent domain abuse.

Schneider says the neighborhood needs to be taken to make way for the second phase of Beachfront North, a redevelopment project that could bring another 185 high-priced homes into the area. But opponents say the MTOTSA enclave is one of the last surviving Shore cottage communities, and that many of its residents did not learn about the potential for redevelopment until it was too late to stop the bulldozers.

At Tuesday's City Council meeting, Vendetti came forward and said maybe it is time to find a way for everyone to get along. She would like to stay in her seasonal home in the enclave, her parents would like to stay in their year-round one, and other residents feel the same way.

But maybe there is a way for the developer to go forward with some plan, even if it is not the original one, Vendetti said, suggesting a limited compromise. This is the first time a MTOTSA member has publicly considered settlement, which Schneider tried to pursue last year, only to be accused of politicking in the wake of an upcoming municipal election. (Schneider won re-election.)

"Maybe one of you can look into your hearts and see how we can stop this," Vendetti told the mayor and council Tuesday.

Vendetti believes market forces ultimately will see the oceanfront redevelopment to fruition, but she also noted the market clearly is changing and perhaps there is no longer such a demand for high-density housing. She still holds on to the concept that the developer, Applied Development of Hoboken, can make a tidy profit by building on the property of willing sellers without forcing others from their homes.

Currently, Applied owns nearly half the 38 properties in the community.

The concept she is referring to is known as "infill" by some, even though Schneider has a different definition. He believes "infill," as it was discussed for Beachfront North, always meant taking all the homes, and just building smaller projects than Applied initially proposed.

Vendetti also appealed to the council to consider an ordinance to stop the use of eminent domain in the city. "I think this is the time," she said.

Councilman Brian A. Unger said he was working on some form of legislation, but acknowledged getting another council member to second his motion would be difficult. "I'm sorry it has taken so long," said Unger, adding he is having trouble finding a lawyer in Monmouth County to review his work because so many make their living on condemnation cases. "I"d like to do something credible that has some" teeth, he said.

The other four council members have said that while they do not like the use of eminent domain, it is a necessary tool for urban areas that need to assemble properties for large redevelopment projects.

"We've been stagnant for three or four years," said Vendetti. "It is not going to end," she said, noting each side faces potentially years of further legal appeals.

"I think it is time to look at other alternatives where we can stay and other people can build, and let's get on with our lives," Vendetti said.

Schneider said he did not respond Tuesday to her appeal because he did not want to infringe on her time at the microphone. (The city enforces a strict five-minute rule for public comments, and that includes any give-and-take with officials.)

But he expressed a willingness to try to find a solution to the emotional issue. And just as Vendetti said any compromise would have to include the right to stay for those who wish it, Schneider said any settlement would have to include the provision to build more than on just isolated lots.

In the earlier settlement meeting, Schneider offered a plan that would relocate the homes of long-time, full-time MTOTSA residents to another location within the same area. By grouping them together, more property for development would become available.

Schneider said the city has never gotten a response to some of the ideas it put on the table at that meeting.

"If they want to sit down and talk about it, let's talk," Schneider said later in the week. "You want to talk about it in a public meeting, I'll talk; you want to talk about it in a private meeting, I'll do that. With attorneys there or without, I'm willing."

Contacted later in the week to see if she still felt the same way, Vendetti said she did. A number of MTOTSA residents who were elderly have passed away since the dispute began, the most recent of whom was Anna DeFaria, and Vendetti said she is having trouble just looking at DeFaria's empty, dark cottage.

"It's been long enough," said Vendetti of the dispute. "It's in litigation but that doesn't mean we can't work something out. . . . It is not right to have this hanging over their heads," she said of the community's elderly residents.

Asbury Park NJ Press: www.app.com


Proposition 7 - Eminent Domain Amendment: About.com, Austin TX, 10/21/07

By Jacci Howard Bear

Summary prepared by Eminent Domain Watch

HJR 30, aka Proposition 7, (click here for full text: http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/tlodocs/80R/billtext/html/HJ00030F.htm) is an amendment to the Texas State Consitution that requires government entities to sell property acquired through eminent domain back to the previous owners at the original price paid, if it is not put to the prescribed use within 10 years. Under previous law, the original owner could repurchase the property for fair market value at the time the public use is cancelled.

The proposition was approved by voters in the November 2007 election.

The amendment was necessary because selling the property back to the previous owner at the original price, were it below market value, could be considered a grant of public money and would be in violation of current law.

Conditions under which the new law applies are:

  • the public use for which the property was acquired by the entity is canceled,
  • no actual progress is made toward the public use during a “prescribed” period of time
  • the property is unnecessary for the public use for which it was acquired.

Arguments favoring the law were that it treats property owners more fairly and discourages indiscriminate use of eminent domain. Arguments against it were that it gave previous owners an unfair financial windfall, and was unnecessary legislation
because 10th anniverary cancellation for property acquired through eminent domain is extremely rare.

About.com, Austin TX: http://austin.about.com

Seaside protesters say no to eminent domain: Monterey County CA Herald, 12/16/07

Seaside petition precedes City Hall vote

By Andre Briscoe

Nearly a dozen protesters met early Saturday in Seaside to gather signatures on a petition expressing opposition to the extension of the use of eminent domain in that city.

Property owner Tim Cunha organized the meeting at the rear of Acme Coffee & Roasting Company just days before an election at City Hall to form a committee to advise the City Council on whether to extend its authority to impose eminent domain.

For the past week, Cunha has been distributing a flyer about the Dec. 18 election and what he believes it will mean to the community.

"I just want the general public, who are going to be impacted by this, to be aware of what's going on. I don't think the majority of them know what is happening," he said. "So really, we are encouraging them to participate in the process."

The first petition signers arrived at 10 a.m. Several grabbed clipboards and copies of the petition and made their way through the neighborhood that would make up the project area affected.

The city got the authority to use eminent domain to acquire land for development in 1996, when it adopted a redevelopment plan by merging several redevelopment projects. A 2006 state law puts a 12-year limit on the use of eminent domain by city redevelopment agencies, meaning the authority will expire in April 2008 unless an extension is approved by the City Council.

David Henderson, an associate professor of economics at the Naval Postgraduate School, was one of several signers who canvassed the neighborhood with petitions.

"When you look around here you see a community. You see all kinds of mixed uses. They can call it blighted, but they are destroying a community," he said.

Land grabbed by force is usually taken for less than market value, Henderson said.

"There is no market test. The neat thing about when (a person buys property) is that there is a market test," he said. "Do you really value the land? Then prove it. Buy it. Persuade the person to sell it to you."

Local businessman Joe Vierra called the threat to use eminent domain an attack on small businesses.

"This is just another example of big government pushing out people who are trying to grow their own small businesses, do their own redevelopment and improve the neighborhood," he said.

Property owner Lawrence Samuels and his wife Jan Heider said City Hall should let property owners improve their own properties as part of a redevelopment program.

"You see new houses here in Seaside. It seems to be improving really well by letting people do what they want to do with their own property. I don't see that the government has to get involved," said Heider.

"Redevelopment is fine," said Samuels. "Just don't use the gun to get what you want."

Eugene Lee, chairman of the Seaside Taxpayers Association, agreed with Samuels.

"I'm not against redevelopment, I'm against eminent domain. This is private property and they are robbing the poor to give to the rich. I thought it was supposed to be the other way around."

City officials have maintained that using eminent domain would be a "last-resort scenario."

"It is in (the city's) best interest that we create a win-win proposition for all concerned, something that would be satisfying financially, emotionally and otherwise for everyone," Assistant City Manager Jill Anderson said in August.

In October, the council approved the election to form the 15-member project area committee to represent the Laguna Grande, Gateway and City Center redevelopment areas, portions of which make up the West Broadway Urban Village project.

That project would encompass 40 acres of primarily privately owned land stretching from Canyon Del Rey and Del Monte boulevards past Fremont Boulevard to the upper Broadway Avenue area.

Cunha will present the petitions to the City Council at its next meeting in January, regardless of the outcome of the election, he said.

"This local government has to be accountable to its people," he said.

If the authority is extended, the advisory committee will remain active for up to three years and will review the progress of proposed developments.

Monterey County CA Herald: http://www.montereyherald.com


Withdrawal of Eminent Domain Findings Gives Hope to Duffield St. Preservationists: Brooklyn NY Daily Eagle, 10/17/07

But City Says It’s Only a Technical Error

By Sarah Ryley

Advocates for the preservation of homes allegedly once involved in the Underground Railroad are viewing the city’s recent withdrawal of eminent domain findings concerning one of those homes as a renewed opportunity to save them. City officials, on the other hand, say the reversal was due to a technical oversight.

Seth Donlin, spokesman for the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, said a blight determination that included the 21 lots on three blocks in Downtown Brooklyn in question was prepared for the department by environmental consulting firm AKRF in November 2003. But it was mistakenly not entered into public record at last May’s eminent domain hearing, requiring the reversal of the findings and a new public hearing scheduled for Oct. 29.

He said the blight determination would have to be obtained by making a formal Freedom of Information Law Request before it’s entered into public record.

“It is something that was produced specifically for the proceedings for eminent domain, and there is a specific time for which it is supposed to be made public,” he said. “Unfortunately, because of some oversight, it was not entered as it should have been [at the first hearing in May].”

Track Data, a financial firm with 150 employees; a rent-stabilized apartment building that houses 40 families; a handful of parking lots; and Amber Art and Music Space are also at risk of being displaced. Attorney Jennifer Levy, who represents one rent-stabilized tenant, and Joy Chatel, the partial owner of a home allegedly involved in the Underground Railroad, said she doesn’t believe there were any specific blight findings. Levy said the original urban renewal plan for Downtown Brooklyn found blight in very specific properties, but was later expanded to include a general area deemed blighted. This may not be substantive enough, in the eyes of the court, to justify the seizure of personal property. “I guess we’ll have to see what they have that they haven’t produced.”

“I was never briefed or given a copy of any blight study,” said Councilwoman Letitia James, a supporter of the Duffield Street homeowners. James said AKRF did a study in 2003 determining that the area was in need of redevelopment as part of the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning, which City Council enacted, authorizing the use of eminent domain to achieve that goal. “Separate and apart from that, one has to do a blight study,” she said. “I don’t think they did any study at all.”

The city plans to seize half the block bounded by Duffield, Gold, Fulton and Willoughby streets to build a one-acre public plaza and an underground parking lot, which would eventually be walled in by high-rises if the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning manifests itself as envisioned. The two other blocks under consideration for eminent domain are within the BAM Cultural District.

The public parking lot would also be used by the 500-room Aloft/Sheraton hotel duo now under construction on that block.

Gene Kaufman, president of Gene Kaufman Architect PC, which designed the hotels, said underground parking is an enormous cost for hotel developers — at least $25,000 per space when considering excavation, and more if the water table needs to be broken — that provides little return since many spaces go unused. “Fortunately, we’re directly across the street from an 800-space underground parking garage and one-acre public plaza that the city is building at no cost to us. We see that as an ideal parking solution.”

“That certainly explains more than the strange allegiance to the idea of having the park right there,” Levy quipped.

Although a perk for some customers, Kaufman said there would be little effect on the hotels if the parking lot is not built, since most visitors to the city take mass transit.

The City Council made one contingency on the seizure of the Duffield Street homes when it passed the rezoning plan — that a study look into claims that the seven homes on Duffield and Gold streets were once used by fugitive slaves as safe havens along the Underground Railroad.

AKRF also conducted that study, but found no conclusive evidence to support those claims.

Advocates of preserving those homes for a museum have questioned the findings, although the study was by all accounts the most extensive done on Downtown Brooklyn’s abolitionist activity.

“I think it was wrong for [the City Council] to say that the area needed further study, yet signed off on eminent domain,” said Levy. “I don’t think they should have approved the expansion of the urban renewal area without determining that each specific site was blighted.”

Brooklyn NY Daily Eagle: http://www.brooklyneagle.com

Selah dispute over trees' worth leads to eminent domain action: Yakima WA Herald-Republic, 10/20/07

By Erin Snelgrove

For the past three years, Maxine Schreiner has felt like a prisoner in her own home. She can't leave it. She can't find a buyer. And now she has to watch while Yakima County levels her front yard to expand Selah Loop Road.

"It's hard to see your property destroyed when you can do nothing about it," said Schreiner, who's lived at the Selah house for 29 years. "I have my good days and my bad days. It's emotional."

Schreiner and Yakima County are at odds over a 35-foot strip of land in front of Schreiner's house at 1100 Selah Loop Road, which is needed for a $3.25 million expansion project.

Since negotiations have proven unsuccessful, the county started eminent domain proceedings and the case is heading to Yakima County Superior Court on Oct. 30. At the conclusion of the expected three-day trial, a jury will decide what Schreiner will be paid.

Through eminent domain, public agencies are legally allowed to acquire a citizen's private property for public uses, such as railroads, utilities and highways.

"There's not a meeting of the minds," County Engineer Gary Ekstedt said. "There's no way to narrow the gap, so we have to use the legal process."

Schreiner said the county's offer falls in the low five figures, while she's seeking a six-figure settlement. She said the road improvement project will destroy her drain field and irrigation system. It will leave her property cut without a retaining wall, and she'll lose her landscaping, shrubs and fencing.

Just fixing these things will cost $60,000 to $80,000, and the county has not offered to make her whole, she said.

"I want to be compensated for the loss of the value of my property," she said. "If they can't replace it, they're obligated to pay the difference."

The land is at the site of the former Selah Central School, which operated from 1910 to the early 1940s. What remains are pipe-rail fencing, sidewalks and a stand of five sycamore and maple trees that are nearly a century old.

These trees offer privacy and comfort, Schreiner said. Saying goodbye to them will be hard.

"I will miss my trees," she said. "My kids went off to the university and never came back. My trees remain. They are kind of personal for me."

The county and Schreiner do agree her property is essential for the road expansion project, which will widen Selah Loop Road from two to four lanes between Goodlander Road and Gore Road.

It also calls for a roundabout at the juncture of Gore Road and Selah Loop Road, and a traffic signal at the intersection of Selah Loop Road and Goodlander Road. The roadwork will also include curbs, gutters and sidewalks.

Due to the county's dispute with Schreiner, Ekstedt said, the project is experiencing "significant delays" - an assertion Schreiner's attorney, Jamie Carmody, categorically denies.

He said his client doesn't want to go to trial but has no choice because county officials have neither responded to her proposals nor have been willing to sit down and talk with her.

"It's patently false that she has delayed or caused any delay in this project. It's unconscionable for the county to even suggest that," Carmody said.

"I didn't cause this," Schreiner added. "I don't want to be blamed for something I didn't do."

The county has already acquired 43 right-of-way parcels, including five houses. Three of the houses will be demolished in the next few months, while the other two will be sold after the road expansion concludes.

After the verdict, Ekstedt said, he plans to advertise for bids and begin the work in February or March. He estimates the project will be finished by next October.

He said the county instigates eminent domain proceedings in an average of one out of every 200 cases. It was not required for any of the other property obtained for this road expansion.

Yakima WA Herald-Republic: http://www.yakima-herald.com