O'Fallon, MO. Residents Fight To Protect Downtown From Eminent Domain.
Recently Newsflash recorded the story of Brick, New Jersey, where local officials used eminent domain (condemnation) as a weapon to take over land that was destined to become a Home Depot. More often than not, however, eminent domain is used against citizens -- not in their favor. Here's a story sent to Sprawl-Busters from a little town in Missouri, where residents are fighting to protect a huge area of their downtown from eminent domain and the bulldozers: "On March 27th 2003 the city of O'Fallon Missouri rolled out a Conceptual plan presented by Main Street Ventures LLC. This plan would bulldoze 110 acres of the City of O'Fall's older part of town. We were told by the Board of Aldermen, and the City Administrator: 'Don't worry it is
just some ideas'. Then on April 18, 2003 the property owners and businesses received a letter that said we would be replaced by the Concept Plan and that EMINENT DOMAIN would be used if need be. The City tells us 'Just conceptual, don't worry'. The City established a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) Board
on May 6th and the map was larger than the original concept plan. The Mayor and Board said the plan is 'conceptual'. The Planning and Zoning
Board passed a moratorium on building permits on an area larger than the
concept plan. Old Town Preservation Committee was launched into action by March 28th, and after the TIF Board met, we began to not believe that the plan was just 'conceptual'. Our plan of action has been to make the public aware of what is happening. The Board of Aldermen has been lobbied heavily by our group and members of the community. we have placed over 1200 yard signs
and many 4x4 and 4x8 signs. We have made a web site that is generating
hits from all over the country (www.saveoldtown.com). The most
interesting thing about the development is that the City started its campaign with deception by saying that downtown is dying and sales tax revenue had declined 43% since 1997. They claimed that real property taxes were up only 1.5%. The truth was that we had a lumber yard close that generated
over $14 million in sales. The old town area was actualy up 11.5% in sales
vs 5.5% up City wide. Over the last two years real estate taxes were up
10% per year. We have given the Aldermen more facts about the plan than
the City's Staff. The Developer has given the city projected future
sales tax estimates that are 600% over the existing taxes, but has no
retailers. They are going to unveil a preliminary plan Agust 11th and we
will see if they have listened, or if we will have to turn up the fight.
The OTPC has a lot to be thankful for. People have helped from all over
the country and the residents have been solidly behind us. Our advice to
others is 'resolve' -- and when you first hear something, react, because in our case prior to the announcing of the Concept Plan, Staff had already hired
TIF cosultants, TIF attorney's and a public relations firm with whom
they have already spent over $55,000 to tell the citizens how good this
plan will be for them. When this fight is done -- win or lose -- we have to make
this EMINENT DOMAIN for private business go away before it sadly ruins
What you can do: For more information about the Old Town Preservation Committee, go to www.saveoldtown.com. For more background on tax incremental financing, search this database by the words "TIF".