City Commission takes first step toward using eminent domain in south redevelopment: Kansas State Collegian, Manhattan KS, 3/28/07

By Willow Williamson

The city commission voted unanimously on the first reading of an ordinance to allow the city to use eminent domain to acquire certain properties within the South End Redevelopment Area.

The commissioners agreed that though it was not something they wanted to do, it was necessary for continuing the redevelopment project.

"As an elected official, this is truly a test we are faced with in terms of our commitment to our vision of recreating the downtown area and trying to be fair to everybody and all parties involved," said commissioner Tom Phillips.

Mayor Bruce Snead said he hopes the city will not need to rely on eminent domain.

"I am optimistic that the number of properties will be secured by successful neutral negotiations, and hopefully we don't need to use eminent domain at all," he said. "That will remain our priority, but if necessary, we have to take these steps at this time frame."

Negotiations are ongoing between Dial Realty and the seven property owners who still have not accepted Dial's offers. During any time of the condemnation process, the property owners still can negotiate, according to city staff.

"Of the seven that are left, there are a lot of meetings going on, probably only one or two that have really been less communicative, but we keep chiseling away, and we keep trying and working pretty hard to get it," said Bob Welstead, president of Dial Realty.

Representatives from O'Reilly Auto Parts said they were not so satisfied with Dial's negotiations. Charlie Downs, who spoke on behalf of O'Reilly told commissioners that two years earlier during the first planning of the redevelopment project, they had given Dial three different sites where they would be willingly relocate.

However, he said Dial would not communicate with them during that time, and all but two of the sites were sold to other buyers. Later, he said Dial did offer them a relocation site, but it was not adequate.

"Through this whole thing, folks, money has not been an issue. All we've asked is to be kept whole," Downs said. "Were not asking for blue skies. We just want to have a quality location that our great team can continue the great sells that we've earned in the Manhattan area."

There was a heated discussion after the meeting between Welstead and the representatives from O'Reilly Auto parts. Robert Greene, director of real estate and legal services for O'Reilly Auto Parts, told Welstead that Dial did not do anything for them when Dial had the chance.

"We joined in the hunt three years ago," Greene said of the three properties. "If you want to force us out, have at it."

One of the three sites is still available, and negotiations are in the making to secure it for O'Reilly.

"The sky is the limit, and if need be, we'll pay the limit," Welstead told them.

Kansas State Collegian, Manhattan KS: http://media.www.kstatecollegian.com