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“In the great majority of cases, people settle with the city before going through formal condemnation,” attorney Johnson said. “I think in this case, it is more of an attempt to stop the trail project.”
At the council meeting, property owner Terry Langness indicated the same to the council.
“How many of you have moved to your property and suddenly get the property taken from you for a bike trail?” he asked. “How would you expect us to react?”
Bloomington’s Lee said the city prefers to reach agreement with property owners. While the city can no longer condemn to acquire property for private developments, he said the change hasn’t been a barrier to development in the South Loop area near the Mall of America.
When several properties there became available, the city bought them or reached deals to eventually acquire them.
“We’ve been pretty lucky,” Lee said. “When we knew they were listed, we went to the council and said it would behoove us to act now. And the City Council said yes.”
Richfield’s Stark thinks the debate over eminent domain may not be over. For cities, the law creates issues when an area is targeted for redevelopment. As cities buy properties one by one, the last property owner in the area becomes much more powerful than the first owner who sold, he said.
And he said if Best Buy were looking for big plot of land today, without a tool like eminent domain Richfield probably couldn’t compete with an outer-ring suburb that could point the company to a cornfield.
Now that the economy is picking up, Stark said, it could be just a matter of time before legislators begin looking at cities and asking why certain areas are suffering from disrepair and disinvestment.
“If they start asking why we can’t fix it up, it will bring up discussion of eminent domain as a tool again,” he said.
Mary Jane Smetanka • 612-673-7380