Sutton Creek eminent domain action going to jury trial: Norman OK Transcript, 8/3/07

By Carol L. Cole

The City of Norman and Sutton Creek Development LLC are expected to go to a jury trial early next year to determine what the city will pay in its eminent domain action to purchase the 53-acre Sutton Creek Addition.

The next step will be a hearing Oct. 16 in Cleveland County District Court to determine the legality of the condemnation taking.

Assistant City Attorney Blaine Nice said the defendants are challenging the city’s ability to condemn the property because the property would not be used for public benefit such as a park, street or bridge.

Wildlife experts have said building Sutton Creek would degrade the habitat and reduce wildlife populations in the Sutton Urban Wilderness Park. The 53 acres would be used as a buffer for the park.

“They have challenged the necessity of taking,” Nice said. “It has to be for a public purpose.”

Norman city councilmembers voted Jan. 23 to file an eminent domain action in district court after more than 800 citizens protested the proposed development.

Three court-appointed commissioners charged with putting a value on the development determined in June that the property is worth $800,000.

The developers originally purchased the undeveloped land east of the IOOF Cemetery and west of Sutton Urban Wilderness Park for $500,000. Their price to the City of Norman to purchase it was $1.95 million.

An attorney for developers Doug Greeson and John Mertens said Thursday that they continue to try to find a compromise.

“I believe that Doug Greeson and John Mertens are working with the city in trying to come up with some creative solution that benefits the entire city,” said attorney Mark Stonecipher of Fellers, Snider, Blankenship, Bailey and Tippens in Oklahoma City. “But if we have to go to trial, we have to go to trial.”

Nice said if the judge determines the condemnation is legal, it likely will go to jury trial early next year.

Norman OK Transcript: http://www.normantranscript.com