Why doesn’t city use eminent domain power to seize property at intersection of Silver Lake Street and Summit Avenue?
What’s the difference?
In 2013, City of Oconomowoc officials decided to use eminent domain to seize property on Wisconsin Avenue, across from the Community Center. The justification for the action was the city needed the land for a parking lot for the Community Center.
Jump ahead to today, 2015. Tuesday, city staff asked the council to approve paying $165,000 to the owner of a corner lot at the intersection of Silver Lake Street and Summit Avenue that, according to Mark Frye, the city’s DPW director, is needed so the city can reconstruct the intersection.
Prior to 2013,, the owners of the Wisconsin Avenue property, Ken Herro and Jon Haas, were willing to sell their property and in fact, at one point, thought they had a verbal agreement with the city for the purchase.
New Mayor Jim Daley balked at the agreement and instead had the land rezoned from mixed use commercial to institutional and then had an assessor, hired by the city, assess the land at a figure considerably lower than the agreed-to price. The lower assessment came about because the land was no longer zoned for commercial use.
Herro and Haas balked at the city’s switch in tactics and the city responded by seizing the property. That move led Herro and Haas to take the matter and the city to the Waukesha County Circuit, where it still resides.
So if the land and house at the intersection of Silver Lake Street and Summit Avenue is needed for the eventual reconstruction of the intersection–and that has not been determined yet (see article)–why isn’t the city using its eminent domain power here?
Something doesn’t smell right. Of course we have a new mayor and a significantly revamped common council, but new Mayor Dave Nold was part of the council that approved using eminent domain in the past, as was Ald. Mike Miller.
Why isn’t it being considered here? Why is the city willing to write a check for $165,000 for land and a house that is in disrepair and is an obvious eyesore.
Frankly, eminent domain is a nasty, disagreeable process that should not be used, except under extraordinary circumstances, but one has to wonder why it was acceptable in the past but is not now. Citizens of Oconomowoc have a right to expect consistency from the city in how it implements policy and practice. Doesn’t look like we’re getting it, does it?