Leader Blues

Monday, August 07, 2006

TOP STORY >> City taking land for library

IN SHORT: Jacksonville City Council approves using eminent domain, but property owner says he’s been offered too little.

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

“If eminent domain will allow the library project to move along more quickly, then this is what the city should do,” said Robert Dougherty in a letter to the Jacksonville City Council.

It’s his property that the city wants to take under eminent domain procedures for the library, and the council voted unanimously Thursday night to go ahead with the condemnation.

Dougherty owns about 1.1 acres—three lots—and it’s the only land the city has not worked out an agreement to purchase for the library. The city is seeking about a block of land on the south side of West Main from Wal-green’s to Warren Street. The land is currently home to two vacant buildings, a closed gas station and a detail shop.

In the approved resolution, the council gave the mayor the approval to exercise eminent domain. The resolution states “that despite extensive efforts on behalf of the City of Jacksonville to purchase certain properties owned by B&C Rental Properties for construction and development of a new Jacksonville library, lengthy efforts to amicably resolve the parties’ differences have failed.”

They have failed, according to Dougherty, because the city is offering him about half of what it gave the other land owners.

In his letter, Dougherty says the Scheaffer family was paid $300,000 for the Main Street Texaco location, about $10 a square foot.

The Abdin family was paid $80,300 for the land housing the closed tobacco store and Fishnet thrift shop, which worked out to $10.70 a square foot.

The city also just worked out an agreement with Dougherty’s brother, Butch, to buy the three lots in the block that he owns for $231,550, or $7.98 a square foot. Butch Dougherty accepted the offer just last week.

The council also approved a resolution Thursday night, which would let the mayor complete that purchase.

Robert Dougherty says the best offer he’s received from the city has been just $4.54 a square foot, or a total of $225,000.
“My property makes up 42.6 percent of the proposed library site and I am being offered 27 percent of the proposed total purchase price,” Dougherty said in his letter.

City attorney Bobby Bamburg explained that under eminent domain the land owners would still have to be fairly compensated for the land, but eminent domain will allow the city to proceed with its public project—in this case the library—while the sides work out fair compensation. Bamburg said it is possible for the city to reach an agreement with B&C Rental without filing the condemnation papers, but passing the eminent-domain resolution gives the city option for quick access and the ability to start construction without a long delay.

Dougherty did add in his letter that he “fully supports the construction of the library at the Main Street and Warren Street location as quickly as possible. The mayor and city council are to be commended for moving forward on this worthwhile project.

“In the meantime, the difference of opinion as to the value of my property needs to be resolved to the satisfaction of all.”
Mayor Tommy Swaim has said that most of the cost of the land would be paid for by private donations. In July 2004, Jacksonville residents approved a one-mill property-tax increase to pay off $2.5 million in bonds to build the new library building. “I’d like for this to be a centerpiece for the downtown area,” Swaim has said, with amenities including a park-like setting. The new library building will be approximately 13,500 square feet, about 4,000 square feet larger than the current city library built in 1969.