Threat of Eminent Domain Raises Tempers at City Hall
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Property owners in Chinatown and other blighted areas of Downtown Fresno are wary of the city's latest effort to extend its redevelopment rights, including the right of eminent domain. That is, the power to force property owners to sell.
Property owner Gil Latta told the council; "I see this quite honestly, as a land grab. I don't think it's a proper use of eminent doman. You just want to take our land for ten cents on the dollar.
Other property owners challenged the council, which was acting as the city's redevelopment agency. Things got so heated one speaker, Rory Ekern of Fresno, was forced to leave the council chambers.
After being ordered out by council member Lee Brand, he yelled, "I would like you to tell me why I have to step out."
Council member Larry Westerlund joined in; "Sir, you need to leave the chamber & because the chairman of the redevelopment agency has the authority to decide how the meeting is conducted. You must leave the chamber now sir.''
Brand, who's the chairman of the redevelopment board tried to reassure the crowd the city was not about to seize anybody's property. "This council will not do anything about eminent domain unless it's an absolutely last resort." He said.
His effort to describe the controversial practice as a tool that was unlikely to be used did not placate those concerned. Chinatown activist Kathy Omachi said there's a general distrust of the governments intentions toward private property. She believes that's actually stopping improvements in Chinatown. "People are not going to take a chance on a property or business when they are not sure what the city or county is state is going for."
The council will take the comments received at Thursday's meeting into account, when it takes another vote on the merger of the redevelopment programs at a meeting on July 22nd.
fresno, fresno chinatown, fresno downtown, local, gene haagenson
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