Supes take rare stance, approve eminent domain for Stadium Road: Columbus MS Commercial Dispatch, 5/16/07

By Kristin Mamrack

At the request of District 3 Supervisor Mike Smith, the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors Tuesday voted 3-2 to take a portion of a county resident's land by eminent domain.

After a motion to accept two of three remaining deeds for property along Stadium Road passed unanimously, Smith asked to start eminent domain proceedings on a 10th of an acre “because (the property owners) don't want to sell it.”

Eminent domain refers to the power of the state to take private property for public use with payment of compensation to the owner.

“Eminent domain is a very last resort,” protested Board President and District 1 Supervisor Harry Sanders. “I'm opposed to taking somebody's property who doesn't want to sell it. Is there not some other way to do it?”

Smith said the Stadium Road project - which calls for a bypass to relieve traffic around New Hope High School - was started years ago.”

“This one-10th is not fenced-in property,” he explained of the land, owned by six members of the Richard Cole family. “It's where the existing road is.”

“Eminent domain is one of the most extreme measures,” agreed District 4 Supervisor Jim Terry. “But if you think it's best, I will vote for it.”

“This is the first time I've heard officially we're going to eminent domain somebody's property,” Sanders objected, noting the item was added to the board's agenda at the start of the meeting. “I haven't seen a thing on this and it wasn't in the agenda published in the newspaper. It's a surprise.

“It's a very big decision,” he added, asking Smith to postpone his motion. “To me, it's a political decision.”

District 2 Supervisor Tommy Southerland also asked Smith to delay a motion.

“I am not against Stadium Road, but I have a very good reason to ask you not to bring it to a vote today,” he said, without revealing the reason.

“It is a great concern to me when we deal with people's property,” said District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks. “Mike has done his due diligence and I think he understands the needs of the area he represents.”

“I met with Mr. Cole yesterday to give him one more shot to change his mind,” Smith added. “He said he didn't (want to sell) and I said there would be action (taken).”

“Eminent domain is serious,” Sanders tried again. “You need to give the board time to explore all options.”

“You made the motion to put $188,000 into ‘the road to nowhere,'” Smith responded, referring to the board's earlier decision to use some of the interest money earned on the sale of Baptist Memorial Hospital-GoldenTriangle on the Stadium Road project.

“I'm trying to finish it. I don't want to get into no discussion about it. We need (the road) to relieve traffic to our schools. The 10th we're taking is already a part of the gravel road.”

A motion, made by Sanders, to postpone the decision lost in a 2-3 vote, with Brooks, Terry and Smith voting in opposition.

The motion to take the property by eminent domain then passed, with Sanders and Southerland voting in opposition.

Columbus MS Commercial Dispatch: http://www.cdispatch.com