In spite of the efforts of some to tout the positive benefits of the eminent domain, a 3-3 vote of the Redevelopment Agency (RDA) board axed its use in the mixed-use Market Street urban renewal project.
The debate heated up as Redevelopment Agency board members - the City Council serving in that role - held polarized opinions about the weighty tool whereby a government entity can force property owners to sell against their will.
"I think it sends a good message to the community that an RDA project can be done without that threat," said Councilman Shane Siwik.
"It would look pretty in the paper to say this is being done without eminent domain, but there's a tax advantage to the property owner," said Councilman Bill Anderson.
"Get off your white horse," he told Siwik.
Craig Smith, attorney for the RDA, explained protections the state law now provides to property owners, including release from paying capital gains on the sale if the proceeds are reinvested within a specified time period.
"I've done projects both ways," Smith said. "On occasion, it's a helpful tool in the case of holdouts."
The proposed Market Station project - which would include a variety of housing units, office and retail space - would extend from State Street to Main Street, between 2100 South and Truman Avenue (2330 South).
Developer Steve Aste, principal of the Park City-based Cascade Development Partners, said he had no plans to employ the threat.
"If people don't want to sell, we will not be coming to ask the city to exercise eminent domain," Aste said.
Councilman Casey Fitts abstained from the vote because his family owns property in the designated area.
Anderson was joined by council members Mike Rutter and John Weaver to cast votes to retain the power of eminent domain for this particular development, while Siwik, along with council members Marilyn Brusch and Rhea Goddard, dissented.
At least one property owner breathed a sigh of relief.
"I'm glad to not have that hanging over our heads," said Shannon Valdez, owner of Central Collision, a thriving business within the project's boundaries.
In a previous configuration, the Ritz Bowling Center and a few other businesses had been included in the project area. RDA members voted unanimously to exclude any land east of State Street.
Salt Lake City UT Tribune: http://www.sltrib.com