University City, Missouri, is a suburb of St. Louis, known for the Delmar Loop, an expansive strip of bars, luxury hotels, restaurants, and more. The neighborhood is different north of the Loop, between Delmar Boulevard and Olive Boulevard, with much less commercial activity.
Officials in University City have held meetings in recent months, discussing possible plans for the redevelopment of that area. Rumors indicate that plans include building a Costco and more mainstream retail spaces, which differ significantly from the small, locally owned businesses that populate that area of Olive Boulevard.
Opponents of the redevelopment plans openly stated they fear the city will use eminent domain to take property to tear down homes to make way for the new stores. The city manager tried to quell those fears by stating that eminent domain is “off the table” when it comes to owner-occupied homes. However, this does not necessarily mean that eminent domain will not be an option for commercial properties or multi-family rental properties.
The government has the power to take private land using eminent domain as long as it meets two requirements: The purpose of the taking is for public use, and property owners receive just compensation for any land taken. Public use often refers to building hospitals, schools, parks, roads, and other amenities for residents of a community. However, in recent years, the Supreme Court ruled that “public use” can also apply to private redevelopment projects that will benefit the economy and provide jobs. Proponents of the University City plan claim the proposal will do just that.
In July, one University City councilmember suggested the possibility of using eminent domain for another reason—to get rid of “drug houses.” According to councilman Bwayne Smotherson, Third Ward residents are concerned about houses in the area known for regular drug activity and the risks that come with it. Smotherson claimed that taking the property would reduce risks, save police resources, and encourage more people to come into the area.
Governments have used eminent domain to improve blighted areas in the past. However, neighborhoods must meet certain specifications to qualify as blighted, and the government does not have the right to come in and take property simply because it does not like how someone is using it.
The government has not yet initiated any eminent domain actions in University City, and we will keep watching to see how the situation develops.
No matter where you live, do not hesitate to call an attorney for help if you believe eminent domain may jeopardize your land. At Sever Storey, we dedicate our practice representing the rights of property owners and ensuring they receive just compensation for their land in any condemnation claim. We help people in all parts of the United States, so please call our eminent domain attorneys at (888) 318-3761 or contact our office online to discuss your options.
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Before going alone against the State let us give you our opinion. It is our pledge that we will provide a free case review for any individual or business facing eminent domain or condemnation. Contact us now at 888-318-3761