City Reconsidering Eminent Domain Decision
After beginning a condemnation process in September to seize ownership of a private parking lot on International Boulevard – for the private development of an envisioned city center – the SeaTac City Council appears ready to reverse course.
SeaTac council members entertained at their Jan. 12 meeting an ordinance, introduced by Deputy Mayor Gene Fisher, to rescind the earlier condemnation action against Park-N-Fly surface parking lot, which James and Doris Cassan have operated for almost 50 years.
Action on the ordinance to stop legal proceedings to condemn the Cassan’s property was delayed, however, when Councilman Ralph Shape, who supports condemnation, requested that it be held for consideration until the next council meeting.
Under council rules, that automatically ended discussion of Fisher’s proposed ordinance, which was moved to the agenda for the council’s Jan. 26 meeting.
John Houlihan Jr., an attorney representing the Cassans, later told The B-Town Blog that they “are hopeful that the council at its next meeting will take up the ordinance and repeal condemnation” of their property.
Meanwhile, companion bills to protect private property by restricting the use of eminent domain were introduced in the Legislature Monday – SB 6200 by Sen. Michael Carrell, R-Lakewood, and HB 2425 by Rep. Jay Rodne, R-North Bend – at the request of State Attorney General Rob McKenna.
They provide that private property may be taken by a public entity only for public use, that no public entity may take private property for economic development, and that that taking private property by a public entity for economic development or tax revenue enhancement does not constitute a public use.
SeaTac’s 2010 budget includes funding for the city’s lobbyist to oppose this proposed legislation in Olympia.
Houlihan said he believes the two bills address the use of eminent domain as applied by SeaTac in its earlier action to condemn the Park-N-Fly property. They also would amend the Community Redevelopment Act to prevent potential abuses through eminent domain to remedy “blight” through “condemnation.”
Earlier in their Jan. 12 meeting, following a public hearing, council members voted 6-1 to continue until May 15 a moratorium on development permits in the city’s proposed entertainment district.
Fisher argued for leaving in place that moratorium, which was imposed by city council in November, so a newly appointed ad hoc committee, which has yet to meet, can have time to review zoning in this area and propose changes to accommodate new development.
Initial reaction to Fisher’s proposed ordinance during the meeting indicates that on Jan. 26 the condemnation of the Cassan property may be rescinded by at least five votes. In addition to Fisher, Mayor Terry Anderson and Council members Tony Anderson, Rick Forschler and Pam Fernald indicated their support for reversing the prior action.
Shape argued that the council was bending to pressure from a public relations campaign orchestrated by the Cassans, and claimed they have taken no action to develop their Park-N-Fly property for an extended time.
But Houlihan disagreed, telling The B-Town Blog that most recently they submitted an application for a design revision in December.
The Cassans paid over $10 million in 2007 when they converted a long-term lease into ownership of the property. Before initiating the eminent domain process, the city offered them $8.6 million for the parking lot.
They have filed with the city plans for mixed use development of their property at 17400 International Blvd., including retail and a hotel.
The city, however, wants to build a parking garage on the parking lot site, and encourage private development of a city center entertainment district north of S. 176th St. and just east of Sound Transit’s airport light rail station.
Here’s a video report on this case, produced by the Evergreen Freedom Foundation:
And another one from Fox News: