Ann Arbor not likely to take Tios property, officials say: Ann Arbor MI News, 9/30/07

By Tom Gantert

Ann Arbor won't likely seize a parcel of property east of city hall that houses Tios Restaurant under eminent domain to secure it for a parking structure, city officials say.

The restaurant owners don't want to move - but they don't own the property. And the property owners aren't saying much.

Eminent domain allows government units to seize private property against the land owner's consent for public use. It usually involves taking land for highways or railroads.

City Council members Stephen Kunselman and Chris Easthope said they won't support seizing the property. Easthope said e-mails some residents have received indicating the city is considering such an action are "ridiculous."

"That's a heavy hand for a parking structure," Kunselman said. "That's not a bona fide reason to be using eminent domain."

Mike Zahn, one of the owners of the Tios parcel, said he didn't have an opinion on the possibility of selling the land to the city.

Tios owner Tim Seaver has started a petition and said Friday that he had about 200 signatures supporting his fight to keep his restaurant there. He said he doesn't want to move his popular Mexican restaurant.

"I would have to start over completely," Seaver said. "Once you start a business, you are known for your location."

City Administrator Roger Fraser said exercising eminent domain authority would "be a hard sell."

"We don't have it in our toolbag of tricks to use," Fraser said.

City Council Member Wendy Woods said seizing the property would be the "ultimate last resort."

"I don't know anyone on council at this point who would be willing to do that," she said. "We'd like to look at a lot more options before doing eminent domain."

Woods said one possibility would be moving the parking structure to the city-owned lot near the Ann Arbor District Library's downtown location.

The city directed the Downtown Development Authority to explore the feasibility of adding a parking structure east of city hall.

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