SeaTac City Council Rescinds Eminent Domain Claim Against Park-N-Fly
In a victory for private property rights, the SeaTac City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday, Jan. 26th to rescind their earlier condemnation of the “Park-N-Fly” business at 17400 International Boulevard.
The paid parking lot – easily recognizable by its landmark sign, a vertical blue and gold key, across the street from Sound Transit’s light rail station at Sea-Tac International Airport – is the focus of ongoing negotiations over development of a proposed city center there.
Council members voted last Sept. 22 to condemn the property in an eminent domain action. Had the condemnation proceeded, it was anticipated that the SeaTac would sell the land to a private developer who then would build a parking garage and a city center complex.
“We are very pleased that the city council reconsidered its earlier action and upheld the Constitution and respect for private property,” John Houlihan Jr., an attorney for James and Doris Cassan, owners of Park-N-Fly, said following the action. “The Cassans look forward to continuing their long-standing business.”
Doris Cassan added that they now “will continue to pursue with the city what will make a first-class project.” This will be a mixed use development including some combination of a hotel, retail, office space and possibly some multi-family housing in addition to parking.
Councilman Rick Forschler said prior to the vote the earlier condemnation of the Cassan’s property was “a misuse of eminent domain.” He noted that while the council said it wanted to take the property for a “public use,” that use actually would have been a sale of the land to a developer who would build a private parking garage there.
“The Cassans are committed to making this a first-class development,” said Councilman Tony Anderson in support of rescinding the condemnation. He also appealed to both parties to “continue their negotiations (for development of the site) in good faith.”
And Councilwoman Mia Gregerson said she would vote to rescind because “the city and property owners are working together for a development that works.”
Councilman Ralph Shape, who defended the condemnation action at the council’s Jan. 12 meeting, offered no comment before voting to repeal it.
Council members approved the condemnation ordinance last year because they “believed it was in the best interests of the city,” said Councilman Gene Fisher, who introduced the ordinance to rescind at the earlier meeting.
“Because of conversations going on (since the original action) between the city and property owners … working together for development that works,” condemnation of the Cassan property is not appropriate and he could not support it, Fisher declared.
However, he noted that ordinance repeals condemnation without prejudice, which would allow the city to invoke that action in the future “if parking needs increase and negotiations with the property owners stall.”
Earlier in the meeting, Scott Roberts, property rights director with the Freedom Foundation, told council members there is a need for eminent domain reform in Washington and urged the lawmakers to act with that in mind.
“You know the difference between right and wrong,” Roberts added, and rescinding condemnation of the Cassan property “certainly is right.”
Companion bills to limit the use of eminent domain in Washington, introduced at the request of Attorney General Rob McKenna, currently are before the Legislature.
Doris Cassan summarized their plans for the property and urged the council to allow Park-N-Fly to remain in private hands and be developed privately by them.