Sugar Creek delays decision on Sugarland: Blue Springs MO Examiner, 6/12/07

Residents concerned about eminent domain

By Joe Parmon

As several residents facing potential relocation waited anxiously for a decision, Sugar Creek city aldermen last night tabled a vote to approve the proposed Sugarland Center redevelopment project along with a tax increment financing plan designed to entice a developer to begin construction.

If all three phases are completed, about 60 homes would be affected in the project area situated on about 40 acres at the northwest corner of Sterling Avenue and U.S. 24. A grocery store and other attractions are slated to be built, while residents fear eminent domain could be used to take homes and clear the way for the development.

Aldermen discussed several issues surrounding the project, including the purchase of property and negotiations with the developer, Sugarland, LLC, during an executive session following the regular meeting.

The eminent domain issue has raised the ire of citizens across the state and elsewhere. Resident Penelope Marth handed aldermen and others copies of a local newsletter which contained a press release dated May 21 in which a circuit court judge ruled in favor of an Arnold, Mo., dentist who had fought to save his dental practice from what he claimed was eminent domain abuse. Saying she doesn't want to sell her home, Marth remarked she and others object to eminent domain allowing cities to seize private property for the benefit of another private entity.

"I'm not against redevelopment, I'm against eminent domain abuse," said Marth, whose family has lived at her home on South Harris since 1920. Marth said there are better locations in the area for the redevelopment.

"To see land that has never been developed, and to see trees, streams, parks, and wildlife cemented over, that's wrong," commented Marth.

South Sterling Avenue resident Eleanor Miller said she has lived in her home for the past 48 years and doesn't want to move either.

"I've raised my kids in that home. I don't want them to take it," she said.

City Administrator Ron Martinovich has said the city doesn't have eminent domain authorization and is attempting to buy the homes, as the city is seeking to obtain the property for the first phase by Aug. 1.

The total redevelopment cost for the first two parts of the project is $42.3 million, with the developer asking for $23.5 million in TIF assistance.

Blue Springs MO Examiner: http://www.examiner.net