Aldermen shoot down suggestion of
Eminent Domain for Fifth Street Road right of way acquisition
Topic leads to discussion about other
aspects of the project
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[November 17, 2017]
Tuesday evening committee of the whole meeting of the Lincoln City
Council, City Administrator Bob Mahrt introduced the topic of
adopting a policy for Eminent Domain in order to complete the needed
right of way land acquisitions for the Fifth Street Road project.
While that suggestion was shot down by aldermen, the discussion led
to other points of concern over the project by aldermen.
Mahrt began by explaining that there are approximately 40 parcels of
land that must be purchased for the project to move forward to bid
letting. Of the 40, he said that only 16 were “mostly settled.” The
other properties he said owners were either holding out for more
money, or they had disengaged and were not responding at all to
requests and/or offers from the city.
Mahrt said this was an issue because the city has a timeline
connected to state monies. Mahrt said that the project relies
heavily on federal funding, and if the city doesn’t get to the bid
letting within the coming year, it could miss out on current funding
and have to wait for another cycle.
He said he knew that Eminent Domain was not “palatable” to him, but
it was something the city has the right to do in order to keep the
project moving. He said adopting an Eminent Domain policy does not
mean the city would utilize it, but it would be another tool for
completing the project. He said he was asking for a resolution that
gives the authority to exercise Eminent Domain, but the aldermen
would have control of the situation on a case by case basis.
Ron Keller asked Mahrt to expand a little bit on the use of Eminent
Domain and the process involved. Mahrt said that the properties have
all been appraised and values set. The city has to work within the
federal guidelines on property value so it doesn’t have a lot of
wiggle room on the amount offered to the land owner.
The process he said would be to approach the land owner with a
letter and or a visit first. If the landowner doesn’t respond
favorably, then the city can start the process with a notice of
intent to exercise Eminent Domain. The land owner would have 60 days
to respond, then the city would have to file suit against the
landowner and the case would go before the courts. The court would
then hear the case, set the value of the property and award the
compensation to the landowner.
The city would pay the landowner, and he or she would be forced to
turn their property over to the city by order of the court.
Steve Parrott asked if there were landowners who have said flat out
‘no’ they won’t sell. Mahrt said yes, there are a couple.
Rick Hoefle said he’s seen Eminent Domain and he wants no part of
it. He went on to ask about the value of the project.
He noted that the project has been ongoing for the past 21 years,
and still nothing is done. Hoefle thought there could be work done
on the road to make it better now, without doing all the detailed
curb and gutter work and multiple lanes.
Michelle Bauer said she lives in that area, and she really doesn’t
want to see the project die altogether. However, she noted that
looking at the financial side of the project, the city still needs
to raise $1.2 million for its share. She said that with that kind of
shortfall, she certainly didn’t see the need to exercise Eminent
Domain at this time. She said she agreed with Hoefle that the road
needs work now.
She recalled there were conversations with area businesses on the
street such as Heritage Packaging and Sysco that the road would be
completed, and that the completion of the road would lead to
Bauer also wondered if there was an Economic Development plan that
impacted the area once the road was completed. She said to her
knowledge there was no plan. “We don’t have a vision for the road.
As a council, or at least this council, hasn’t sat up here and said
if and when the road is finished, here is the plan for the road.”
She concluded says she would vote “flat no on Eminent Domain, no
Mahrt said this was merely a point of discussion, where he was
seeking direction from the council on how to proceed because of the
funding opportunities. He said if the city did not want to use this
as a tool, then they would have to find another method.
Hoefle asked about the funding: was it a use or lose scenario? Mahrt
said he would investigate that, because he could not give an
informed answer at this time.
Mahrt also reminded the council that this was a long term project
that the city has invested in. He said yes there would be a local
match from the city, and the final payout date if the project
remains on schedule would be 2020.
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Jeff Hoinacki is one of two aldermen who have been involved in
the project for the past several years. He noted that there has been a lot of
money and time invested in the project. He didn’t want it to just go away.
Tracy Welch said from what he’s reviewed he can’t see how much money has already
been spent, but he didn’t want to fall into the pattern of belief that because
the money has been spent the project has to keep going. He said it was wrong to
think that way. The city can cut its losses. He added that he wasn’t saying to
scrap the project all together, but he did think the city should consider
shelving it. He noted that the city has a sewerage mandate coming up that they
are going to be forced to finance, and there are other more immediate needs,
such as the $1.2 million being spent on a new fire truck, and a new police
station. He finished saying, “I want no part in taking people’s property away
from them. I think the fact that they haven’t agreed to this already says quite
Bauer said she wanted to clarify, “I am not anti-finishing this project. I am
anti finishing this project without a plan.” She went on to say with the final
pay out date of 2020, the city ultimately has some time to figure this all out.
Hoefle asked if this topic was coming up because of deadlines. Mahrt said it
was. He explained that the Illinois Department of Transportation funding through
STU funds ran in cycles. If the city misses this cycle of funding, then it could
be years before it gets back on the cycle.
A representative from the engineering firm for the project, Crawford, Murphy,
and Tilly was also on hand at the meeting. He clarified that the STU funding
runs in a five year cycle, so yes missing this cycle could result in a lengthy
He added that CMT is still working toward reaching agreements with all the
property owners, but his question would be, if it gets down to the final two and
they just refuse to sell, what will the city do then?
There was also a question of funding already received. If the city “shelves” or
drops the project, are there dollars that will have to be given back to federal
and state agencies?
Bauer asked if there was a protocol for the Mayor or members of the council to
accompany CMT when they call on property owners. She said she thought that might
be helpful, and she would be willing to go with the firm on those visits. The
CMT representative said that yes that is acceptable, and the mayor or aldermen
could accompany negotiators.
The representative went on to say that the price paid for the land is
established through the funding sources and federal guidelines. He said there
were cases were the property owner may be able to justify why he or she feels
the land is worth more, and there is some leeway in the amount offered, but not
Mahrt said he was coming to realize that the council was not that well informed
about this project. He said it was never his intention to introduce a topic that
would lead to talks of killing the project. Mahrt said he felt aldermen needed
to have a better understanding of the project, and he would work to see that
He commented regarding Eminent Domain, “We can throw this out the window. It was
a discussion item, but to throw out this project that so much effort and money
has been put out and funding is already available to work towards would not be a
recommendation that I would make.”
Keller said he felt the council does support the project, and does not want to
throw it out, but that there is no need for Eminent Domain at this time.
Kathy Horn commented that when the foundation of the plan was laid out for the
council, the majority of current city aldermen were not on the council. Of the
eight present, only she and Hoinacki have been on hand for the past several
years, and have worked on the project. The same is also true for the mayoral
The end result of the discussion was that there will not be a resolution for
Eminent Domain for the council to consider. Also, Mahrt will work toward giving
the council more information about the project and bringing all the aldermen up
to speed on it. He will also fulfill a request from Welch to give an accounting
of dollars spent to date on the project.