City Continues Eminent Domain Process

Managing Editor

St. Marys administrators continued with their efforts to occupy downtown real estate Monday by having city councilors execute the first reading of legislation to appropriate certain real estate.

Council completed the first reading of Ordinance 2019-11, authorizing appropriation of certain real estate, for what Law Director Kraig Noble categorized as a follow up to legislation that council previously passed — Resolution 2019-07 on Feb. 25  — declaring the necessity and intention to appropriate for municipal purposes for property. Noble described that legislation in February as a two-step process, with Monday’s first reading serving as a second step in a hope to move negotiations along.

“We have sent notices out and they have all been completed, so now the next step is to pass this ordinance,” Noble said. “This is [to] start the official process of getting appraisals on it, enter into negotiations, there has to be another notice that has to be sent out and then once all of that is done and if negations fail, it will authorize us to file in court a petition to take the property through further litigation.

“But that is pretty far down the road, however, this is the ordinance that starts that procedure.”

The legislation will be read three times and has to be passed by a two-thirds majority.

St. Marys administrators approached council during a Feb. 25 meeting to ask for the passage of a resolution in an attempt of acquiring the Palm Building — 101 to 103 E. Spring St. in order to construct a new municipal building to not only keep the main city operations downtown but to serve as a move toward its downtown revitalization efforts.

As part of that resolution, the city is also seeking eminent domain if property owner Kalvin Schanz does not negotiate with the city. 

A new municipal building is planned to be constructed during the final phase of the Spring Street reconstruction Project — a multi-phase, multi-year project from Knoxville Avenue to Wayne Street.

According to Cornell Law School, eminent domain refers to the power of the government to take private property and convert it into public use. The Fifth Amendment of the United State Constitution stipulates, however, that government may only exercise this power if it provides compensation to the property owner or owners. 

With the need of acquiring the Palm Building, the city has been in a stalemate with Schanz and his company, Counsel Appraisals Inc., which had its charter revoked by the state of Ohio.

The city sent a letter to Schanz to negotiate for the purchasing of the property on March 9, 2017, Dec. 7, 2017 and a final offer on Feb. 7, 2019. The city’s third letter indicated to Schanz that it would more than likely follow-up with the eminent domain process if it is not able to obtain a negotiated agreement from the owner.

With no contact from Schanz in the two years the city has reached out to him, council passed, unanimously, Resolution 2019-07, declaring the necessity and intention to appropriate the building for municipal purposes during that February meeting. The resolution was the first step of the eminent domain process.

With the JPMorgan Chase Bank branch at 125 W. Spring St. closing July 30, Councilman At-Large Todd Fleagle asked of if there were any consideration about moving municipal offices to the Chase branch once the bank leaves.

“We have had several decisions in-house with the engineer, the mayor, Mr. [Douglas] Riesen and I and right now, it does not appear to be big enough,” said Director of Public Service and Safety Greg Foxhoven. “We need 13 offices; we need a conference room, council chambers and [the bank] has not approached us, but we would consider it.”

Noble, however, added that the basement of the branch has pumps that run continuously in order to keep it dry — adding the prospect of moving the administration offices to that location more grim.