City Of SeaTac Reconsidering Controversial Eminent Domain Decision

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by Ralph Nichols

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:

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2 Responses to “City Of SeaTac Reconsidering Controversial Eminent Domain Decision”
  1. Doris Cassan says:

    Rebuke by Shape

    Yes, I guess I did get my hands slapped by a ruler from the head master.

    Yes, we did place an ad, yes we did hire an attorney, and we did consult with a public relations company.

    The consultants hired by the City of SeaTac, with hard-earned tax payer money, amounts to many, many thousands of dollars. Let’s name a few of the consultants: KPG, Heartland, Makers, Seth-Harry, Mithun, AHC, City Attributes, Streetsense, to name a few.

    And I believe there are three full time attorneys on staff, plus outside attorney firms. The City also has a public relations person on staff.

    The City hired lobbyists for Olympia and DC., again with taxpayer money. According to the direction given to the lobbyists:
    SeaTac will watch for returning bills seeking to clarify State law in response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision (Kelo v. New London) that up-held the use of eminent domain for economic development purposes. SeaTac will oppose legislation limiting activities needed for developing…

    It’s very difficult for an individual to protect what is rightfully ours against all that power.

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  2. tripC says:

    This sounds awfully reminiscent of when the city of Burien condemned the Meal Makers restaurant property owned by the Strobel sisters. They owned that property for 30 years, and Mealmakers sat there for 25 years. I wonder what would bring in more revenue to the city now. An unused road serving empty lots, and the unused town square, or the former Mealmakers? I find Dan Rosenfeld- principal of Urban Partners comments interesting in light of what has not happened over at Town square. “Leaving the Meal Makers building in its current location would obliterate the [Town square] plan” Do you think he still believes this? Does the Burien city council? I was, and do support economic development in these cities, especially Burien. I have lived here most of my life, and my family has lived here for over 70 years. We all supported this city incorporating to give THE PEOPLE voice in how their land and community is run. At what point is the distinction between who is working for who lost? We must never forget who works for who, and that we created a system of laws to protect us from government. I support the Cassans in their effort against the city of Seatac trying to unlawfully reallocate their land to support the ideas of these times.

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