Smithfield Leaders Consider Eminent Domain for Historic Property: WAVY-TV10, Portsmouth NH, 2/13/07

By Cheryl Tan

For centuries, Windsor Castle has stood the test of time. Built in the 1700's, it was once home to the founder of the town of Smithfield, Arthur Smith. For the last several hundred years, it has been a peaceful place to be.

Downtown business owner Jim Abicht said, "There's a peacefulness out here. It's a comfortable place to live, people care about one another."

That's why there's sympathy for the woman who currently owns the home.

Anne Betts Hooper is ready to sell the property that's been in her family for four generations.

"If we can't buy it, whether we think eminent domain would be the way to go, I'm not convinced, yet. We're certainly going to look at it," said Town Councilmember Harry Deshiell.

Deshiell said Smithfield is ready to buy the land, with new money from an angel investor, who wants the land to be turned into a park.

Right now, Newport News developer, Lewis McMurran, holds an option to buy.

Deshiell said, "There is no other land in Smithfield. We have no parks, no playgrounds with kids that are publicly owned, we have no public swimming pools, we have nothing. This would be an ideal site for a public park."

Town leaders say negotiations are underway with the buyer, but, they say, eminent domain is still on the table.

"It certainly is a possibility," said Deshiell.

"It's certainly an ugly way of doing things. You would hope that through negotiation and financial manoevering, a deal could be met that would satisfy the owner of the property as well as the town's wants," Abicht said.

McMurran said he plans to buy the land and live in Windsor Castle. He tells 10 on Your Side he is interested in working with town leaders on future plans for the land.

WAVY-TV10, Portsmouth NH: http://www.wavy.com