Mishawaka takes legal step on project: South Bend IN Tribune, 3/5/07

Use of eminent domain OK'd to acquire property for underpass

By Sue Lowe

The owner of Loading Zone Liquor doesn't think the city of Mishawaka has offered him enough money to move his business out of the way of the North Main Street underpass.

"Their offer was almost 50 percent less than fair market value," Ray Buzalski said. "We're not averse to selling. But we want enough money to relocate."

His business on the northeast corner of Jefferson Boulevard and North Main Street and the billboard next to it are the only two remaining pieces of property the city needs for the underpass under the Canadian National Railroad tracks.

So members of the Mishawaka Board of Public Works and Safety voted to authorize use of eminent domain proceedings to get possession of those last two pieces of property last week.

The billboard is owned by Burkhart Advertising.

Representatives for the city have reached agreements for the city to buy an additional 40 pieces of property.

Gary West, director of engineering for the city, said the need to go through the courts to get the property won't slow the project down.

"They're at the north end," he said of the pieces of property.

Buzalski said representatives of the Indianapolis law firm representing the city told him in December that the city would use eminent domain.

He said he's not trying to block the project. But he feels the offer the city made for the property is "ridiculous."

"I don't think it's fair a city can bankrupt a small business by using eminent domain," Buzalski said. "All we're trying to do is get a sufficient amount of money to move."

Buzalski said that if he didn't own two other businesses, "the city would literally be putting me and my family in the street."

City attorney John Gourley said the city can acquire the property in four to six months even if there is a trial later to determine the value of the property.

Mayor Jeff Rea said the prices paid for property are based on appraisals from certified appraisers.

He said although assessments are now supposed to be based on market value, the assessments are still not keeping up with appraisals.

People who sell property to the city also get financial help with relocation.

Work on the underpass will begin when the railroad is moved south of its current location. The underpass will then be built at its current location.

The Board of Public Works and Safety already awarded a contract to Jackson Services of Rochester to tear down five buildings. That company bid $46,320 for the work.

The board will open quotes for demolition of the old Mishawaka Transmission building at 1204 N. Main St. at its March 13 meeting.

The underpass should be finished in about two years.

South Bend IN Tribune: http://www.southbendtribune.com