Businesses Cry Foul Over Use Of Eminent Domain: MyFox, St Louis MO, 6/26/07

By Betsey Bruce

Property owners from south St. Louis to Clayton to north St. Louis are refusing to give in to developers who are using the state's eminent domain law to acquire land for large redevelopment projects. A light industrial project called NorthPark promises new jobs and growing tax revenue. But several small business owners are complaining they should not have to suffer losses to make way for someone else's profit.

Mike Steidley, president of Midwest Mudjacking, a concrete laying firm, said they are being held in limbo by the project's developer, Clayco. "None of the business owners along Hanley Road know what to do and in my mind someone should be held accountable for that." he said.

Two months ago court appointed commissioners ruled on what the properties were worth. But the developer is refusing to pay the settlement amounts. Steidley's attorney Bob Denlow explained, "we've heard from the opposing side they do not intend to put the moneys in court for the property owners ..to keep ongoing businesses going elsewhere ." Business owners like the Henderson family of Bermuda Air Conditioning worry it could go on for years without any indication whether they will ever see any money. The business's secretary-treasurer Cathy Henderson described the experience as traumatic. "You don't know whether you should buy another building, have two of everything..two expenses of everything."

Several months ago, Larry Chapman of Clayco said all the property was needed to create a modern industrial park. He was unavailable to comment Tuesday. St. Louis County Councilwoman Hazel Irby described the situation as very unfair. She was elected after the council granted eminent domain powers to the developer. She said she would like to see changes in the state law so business owners don't face so much uncertainty.

MyFox, St Louis MO: http://www.myfoxstl.com