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Downtown condemnation tabled to later workshop

By Dennis Box-The Courier-Herald

Eminent domain became a controversial topic at the Jan. 22 meeting of the Bonney Lake City Council.

The council was considering an ordinance to negotiate or declare eminent domain on five properties in the downtown area, but members decided to table the issue to an upcoming workshop.

The city staff stated the properties are needed for a future civic center, which is planned for an area in the downtown triangle. The triangle is bordered on the east by 184th Street East, on the southwest by state Route 410 and on the north by Sumner-Buckley Highway.

Eminent domain or condemnation is a right of a government entity to take private property for the public good, like roads or city buildings.

During the council discussion, Councilman Mark Hamilton questioned the need of the city to condemn the properties at this time.

“It has always been the council policy to negotiate with property owners,” Hamilton said. “My feeling is the city is rushing in too fast. Condemnation has a bad connotation. We need to make sure there is a clear guideline that we go as far as possible without condemnation.”

Deputy Mayor Dan Swatman said he understood Hamilton's concern, but believes the council needs to be clear with citizens about properties the city must have to complete the downtown.

“With the downtown we've established the city must pick up those properties,” Swatman said. “You either do it or not. Once you decide it's for public use, you must let people know. But negotiation never ends.”

Swatman said the city has “a lot of tools to work with people.”

At the council meeting, City Attorney Jim Dionne explained if the ordinance is passed the city must either buy the properties through negotiation or condemnation.

“There is no third option or walking away,” Dionne said. “It is my understanding we need to get these properties fairly quickly under control.”

Hamilton said he is against negotiation through condemnation.

“There is strong support for the downtown plan with a small group, but I think the general public is neutral,” Hamilton said. “If we take a wrong step (through condemnation) they could turn against it. Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate, then if we have to, we take it through condemnation. It hurts everyone if eminent domain is abused. We have to be so, so careful.”

Dennis Box can be reached at dbox@courierherald.com.

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