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City closer to condemning property

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City Council Oct. 12 approved an ordinance that grants the city the authority to condemn property for the Civic Park project.

Though the ordinance, and therefore the authority, to begin the condemnation process is in place, the city continues to negotiate to acquire land for the park's first 35 acres, working with five area businesses to acquire the land those businesses now sit on.

Those five businesses are Thompson Pontiac GMC Cadillac, Tri-States/Whitely, DaBryan Coach Builders, a Sears warehouse and Greyhound Bus. City officials, other than to say the negotiations are ongoing, have not commented on those negotiations.

Lynn Thompson, of Thompson Pontiac GMC Cadillac, said the last communication the company received about the project was that the car dealership was out of the project.

"The last thing we heard was three or four weeks ago, and that was that we were out of the project," Thompson said.

Though the two parties were unable to negotiate an agreement on price, Thompson said, they came very close.

"The total dollar figures were very close, or we thought it was," Thompson said.

Thompson said the company had spent more money on the Civic Park project than the other businesses, adding that the company had expended $100,000 on the project so far, because it was "pushed to get the design of the new project to move together quickly."

"This is something that, if it continues, could bankrupt our company and break us. We've got 110 employees and their families in addition to our own family to think of. We can't afford to spend another penny on this," Thompson said.

He added that the Civic Park project is a "great project, but we can't let it bankrupt us."

The ordinance passed Oct. 12 included the Thompson property in the condemnation process.

Thompson's brother and partner in the business, George Thompson, resigned in late September from the board of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce because he felt the Civic Park situation could cause a conflict of interest.

Thompson was chairman-elect of the board for 1999.

Jim Anderson, of the chamber, said the board would determine a new chairman-elect for the 1999 year at its Oct. 19 board meeting.

Both the board's executive committee and its outgoing chair, Nikki Sells, will make nominations for replacements.

Anderson declined to name any nominees prior to the selection process. The chamber's board meetings are closed to the public, but an announcement should be made early in the week of Oct. 19, Anderson said.

"We're trying to be a good member of the business community. We appreciate the City Council's concerns and what they're trying to do, but we have to think about our business," Thompson said.

He added that the condemnation process would be better for the company, and that he wished that process had started several months ago.

Another family-owned company in the area, Tri-States/Whitely, a textile leasing business, will have to move from its six acres once it signs an agreement for the city to purchase the land.

President and Chief Executive Officer Robert Mahoney, whose family has owned the company for 40 years, said the city has been "very nice. We've had no complaints about the negotiations."

Tri-States is still looking at its options for moving. Mahoney said the company may move to the Partnership Industrial Center, or the business may be sold.

The city has made an offer for the property, but Mahoney said he is still investigating the offer to make certain it is fair.

"It seems equitable to me at this time, but I still want to look at it carefully," Mahoney said.

In order for condemnation proceedings to begin, both sides recognize at some point that they are not able to agree on a price, said Howard Wright, city of Springfield attorney.

The condemnation proceedings may not be used on every piece of property to be acquired for the project.

In order for the condemnation proceedings to begin, the city files a petition

with the Greene County Circuit Court, which then appoints three commissioners who are knowledgeable in real-estate matters.

The court appoints these commissioners once it has determined that the parties cannot agree on a price. The commissioners then view the property and determine its value.

Either party may appeal that determination by asking that a jury determine the value.

The city may take possession of the property upon paying the value set by the commissioners or a jury.

The city uses condemnation fairly regularly, Wright said, and City Manager Tom Finnie said that the number of property owners involved in other cases, such as condemnation for a street expansion, is sometimes more than five.

"It would actually be a rarity to have only one property owner involved," Finnie said.

Wright estimated that the city condemns 10 or 11 properties during a given year.[[In-content Ad]]

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