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Split Council Decides to Use Eminent Domain and Acquire Route 1 Properties

At last night’s City Council meeting, the City Council approved an ordinance authorizing the acquisition of properties located at 7409 and 7411 Baltimore Avenue (Route 1) using eminent domain. Five businesses at these locations will be affected by the acquisition and further development, including Smoothie King, Subway, Hair Cuttery, Shanghai Cafe, and a cell phone repair shop. It’s unknown when the leases of these businesses will expire.

The vote was a tie. Brennan, Day, Dennis and Stullich supported the measure. Cook, Kujawa, Kabir, and Nagle opposed it. Mayor Wojahn broke the tie in favor.

Before the vote, a motion to table the vote was defeated (tied at 4-4, with Mayor breaking the tie).

I personally felt that the Council should have selected a concept design and the associated budget before deciding to acquire the Route 1 properties. Over the past 5 years, the City Council discussed a few options to build a City Hall at the current location. The cost figures of these options ranged from 4 million to 12.5 million. It’s true that the City Council decided to select the Knox Road site for the future of City Hall, however, it never voted on how the new City Hall would look like.

Back in 2012, the City Council engaged a consultant to design a concept plan to build an extension to the existing City Hall. This design would have cost the City Hall between $4 to $5 million.

In 2014, when the Council decided to select the Knox Road site as the future of City Hall, it talked about two options – whether to build the City Hall alone ($8 million) or build jointly with the University. The joined project was later estimated at 12.5 million and would require the acquisition of the Route 1 properties.

Several residents spoke at the meeting. Many residents also sent their comments via emails. Almost all of the District 1, 2 and 4 residents opposed the proposal. They were concerned about high cost of the project, the loss of property tax revenues from the affected businesses. The majority of the District 3 residents supported the proposal.

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