Council votes to start eminent domain against landowners: Salt Lake City UT Tribune, 5/23/07

By Derek P. Jensen

Three property owners in Tooele County may be forced out to make way for business jets.

The Salt Lake City Council cast a unanimous vote Tuesday to initiate eminent domain against the property owners in order to tap federal money to upgrade the city's Tooele Valley Airport. The action was taken to keep the city on schedule with installation of an instrument landing system - it would allow more private pilots, business planes and flight school traffic to land in Tooele - if the property is seized.

There was no public hearing prior to the vote and the affected residents, who live in Erda, did not address the council.

"It's a tough thing for those property owners," conceded Councilman Carlton Christensen. "There was a hope an agreement could be reached."
Tuesday's 5-0 measure means the city likely will move forward with a 102-acre expansion of its Tooele airstrip. The administration has pushed the condemnation since the funding secured by the Federal Aviation Administration must be spent by Oct. 1. The city hopes to begin construction in June.

In March, the property owners complained, then won a reprieve from having their land taken when the council agreed to continue negotiations. All along, the owners have maintained appraisals made by the federal government have been too low.

Despite Tuesday's vote - it sets up eminent domain proceedings for early June - Councilwoman Jill Remington Love has not ruled out an amicable agreement.

"It's still our hope that we can voluntarily negotiate these properties," she said.

City officials need the property and air rights for the landing system they say will free airspace at the international airport for more commercial flights, as well as bolster safety at both venues.

The Tooele County Commission has sent a letter in support of the city's airport improvement plans.

Lack of the landing equipment, according to Christensen, has hampered the small airport's potential.

"We don't make any money off of it," he said. "Quite the contrary. But we are trying to bring it up to a usable state."

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