Property owner wins eminent domain case in Arnold: St Louis MO Post-Dispatch, 5/22/07

By Robert Kelly

Dr. Homer Tourkakis will be able to keep his dental office [in Arnold MO], even though the city has condemned the property to help make room for the large Arnold Commons shopping center, a Jefferson County circuit judge ruled Monday.

"It is the court's opinion that government has the inherent power to take private property by eminent domain for true public purposes," Judge M. Edward Williams wrote in his three-page ruling.

"These uses would include the construction of roads, sewer systems, water lines and many others but most emphatically would not include the construction of a shopping center by a private developer as is the case here," the judge said.

Kelley Farrell, attorney for Arnold, said the ruling would be appealed. "We definitely think it is constitutional and that Arnold acted properly," said Farrell.

Even so, Tourkakis claimed victory over the city's attempt to take his dental office at 1506 Big Bill Road.

"We're very satisfied," Tourkakis said. "Government should not get involved in private enterprise."

The judge heard arguments in the case in January. At the time, Williams expressed some sympathy for the dentist.

"This is not a public use" of the land, as required for redevelopment under eminent domain laws, Williams said from the bench.

"You will never convince me that a shopping center is a public use," he said.

On the other hand, Williams said he had some doubt that he would have the authority to overturn the Arnold City Council's decision to declare Tourkakis' office and surrounding land blighted.

But in his ruling on Monday, the judge said he did not believe that Arnold had the constitutional power as a third-class city under Missouri law to declare private property as blighted for redevelopment by a private developer.

The construction of Arnold Commons is continuing around Tourkakis' property. He was among the last holdouts against selling his property for the shopping center project.

Farrell said she was unsure whether the city would continue to negotiate with Tourkakis while the judge's ruling was appealed.

Tourkakis previously declined the city's offer of $343,750 for his office and the surrounding land.

St Louis MO Post-Dispatch: http://www.stltoday.com