Property issue going before council tonight: Bedford OH Times-Register, 8/29/07

Will consider using eminent domain to seize land from Right Dimensions

By Matt Fredmonsky

Tonight, Kent City Council will take what could be the first of three steps in approving the use of eminent domain to seize private property in a downtown block.

The special council meeting is scheduled primarily to discuss and vote on the decision to force the sale of three parcels owned by California-based real estate firm Right Dimensions. The meeting is the first of three scheduled this week, with executive sessions requested after each special meeting.

The executive session request cites the need to discuss pending litigation and land acquisition, according to the meeting agenda.

The city and Right Dimensions are currently involved in a lawsuit instituted by the firm because of damage city personnel inflicted on one of the structures fronting College Avenue. Following the damage, the firm filed a claim with the city's insurance company, Sutton Insurance of Aurora, ranging from $30,000 to $70,000 in the summer of 2006.

The insurance company and Right Dimensions were unable to agree on a settlement, which led to the firm filing a civil suit in Portage County Common Pleas Court in March.

Now council is moving forward with the eminent domain process to force the firm to sell its property to the city based on reasoning the city will be eliminating and removing conditions of blight and deterioration.

The resolution declaring the necessity for implementing the eminent domain process requires three separate votes from council. However, seven yes votes tonight from council can suspend the rules requiring three readings and two subsequent meetings Thursday and Friday. Adoption of the resolution will require seven yes votes to pass the issue with an emergency measure and forego a 30-day delay before the process can begin.

City Manager Dave Ruller said approval of the resolution will allow city staff to begin the formal legal process for instituting eminent domain.

The city is attempting to amass land in the block once targeted by Right Dimensions for a downtown village project. Officials again intend to market the block for a development project but not until the city has control over the entire area.

Right Dimensions president Andrew Lombardo sent a letter to council Aug. 14 stating his firm will fight the city's attempt to force a sale of the property.

"From the time it was apparent that we needed to initiate a lawsuit we have been working toward our developmental goals," Lombardo wrote. "Right Dimensions has no other alternative but to proceed with out own plans to develop out land. As a result of our efforts, we will be submitting plans for a design review to your community development department."

As of Tuesday afternoon, no proposals for the three parcels had been submitted to the city, according to the community development department.

Bedford OH Times-Register: http://www.recordpub.com