Thursday, June 14, 2007

Acquisition Press

City defends downtown project land buys
http://www.fortwayne.com/mld/fortwayne/news/local/17367707.htm

"Fort Wayne legally bought land for the Harrison Square development and any information requested by the City Council will prove that fact, the city’s attorneys said Wednesday."

"While land purchases by the city and City Utilities must be approved by the City Council, Wernet said those rules do not apply to the Redevelopment Commission. He said the commission has purchased property numerous times in the past without seeking council approval, which is permitted by state law."

"Wernet said the council authorized money to buy property downtown when it approved a $10 million county economic development income tax bond in 2005. Part of that bond was specifically marked for buying land, including for a catalyst project."

"Wernet argued that the commission wasn’t even required to get appraisals for the land because it didn’t use eminent domain. He said appraisals were done after the fact to gauge the value, and those appraisals should be completed by Monday’s commission meeting."

10 comments:

john kalb said...

Open note to Ben Lanka: In regard to your report on attorney John Wernet's comments that "TIF money can be used to purchase property in or serving a special tax district", this is a contention that turns the definition of "infrastructure" on it's head - he and our other city attorneys want us to accept their baseless reasoning that privately-owned properties are somehow "serving" the transportation corridors around them. Are we to accept this - that a retail tire sales company, a restaurant, a fast-food outlet, et al are "serving" the tax district (which in this case is the Jefferson Blvd. roadway on, or in the case of the Palace, only near) in the same way that a sewer system would serve this tax district? This must be a new "Fort Wayne City-Speak".
First of all, the sewer system is not a privately-owned service - it is owned by the political entity - none of the properties on Jefferson, or the Palace, were so owned. Secondly, doesn't the "service" go the other way - a public roadway serves the bordering properties, not the other way around! The present city attourneys, Wernet and Manges included, seem to be acting as defenders of the administration instead of giving them good legal advice as to the legality of planned actions (is it possible that Wernet didn't even know about the actions of Leatherman and Co. due to the secrecy of these actions until the deals were done?)
Guys - Fort Wayne residents are not as stupid as you seem to think we are! John B. Kalb

Scott said...

You might have missed a or in your discussion. Read it again. "TIF money can be used to purchase property in or serving a special tax district. The defense is the properties were in the TIF district, not serving the district.

John B. Kalb said...

Scott - No I didn't miss it - take a look at the Amendment I to the Jefferson Illinois Road District - The only part even close to these properties is the public roadway and the public strip for the sidewalks along Jefferson Blvd. plus there is no possible way that the Palace property on Harrison St. could even remotely be in the Amendment I area!! This is more of the misleading info. from our "public servants". If you need verification on this, see the Redevelopment Department map of the Amendment I. John B. Kalb

Scott said...

Where is Amendment I found so everyone may review it?

Also, who made the purchases of the land? Was it the City, DID or a private company? And if the City or DID did not make the purchases and a private firm did is the City buying the land from the private firm?

Lastly, in my opinion the project would have gone on anyway without the purchase of the Palace using the TIF money. It would have just changed the configuration of the project and maybe have made it cost a little bit more. So your point might be valid, but it probably won't be a death blow to the project.

John B. Kalb said...

Scott - See www.cityoffortwatyne.org/images/stories/community_development/special_projects_gis/files/ Then zoom to 300%& see a) original Jefferson/ Illinois EDA; b) Amendment I Jefferson/Illinois EDA (This is just the roadway from the Illinois Rd./Jefferson Blvd. intersection east on Jefferson to Calhoun St., then north to Washington Blvd, then west to Jefferson at Swinney Park); 3) Amendment II which was just approved on May 21, 2007 and now includes the Jefferson Square area. Please note where the land in question is located - for your info., the building that was run into yesterday by the pickup truck in the 300 west block of Jefferson is one of thee buildings. John B. Kalb

John B. Kalb said...

Scott - Something got lost on the address I sent in my last post. It should have been;
www.cityoffortwayne.org/images/stores/community_development/special_projects_gis/files/

Sorry - John B. Kalb

John B. Kalb said...

Scott - I will try again -
.... community_development/special_projects_gis/files John

Jeff Pruitt said...

The idea that the redevelopment commission doesn't need appraisals unless they use eminent domain is not based in state law. There is absolutely NOTHING in the code that supports that argument. I have requested they provide the exact statute they are basing this statement on and/or any other legal justification.

I've written about this at Fort Wayne Left and posted the relevant statute for all to read.

I would certainly like to hear from anyone that reads the statute and is willing to argue for the Redevelopment Commission's position. I think this is the typical case of "if you repeat it enough then people think it's true"...

kknuth said...

Jeff,

The entire statute reads:

(b) The redevelopment commission shall first approve and adopt a list of the real property and interests in real property to be acquired and the price to be offered to the owner of each parcel of interest. The prices to be offered may not exceed the average of two (2) independent appraisals of fair market value procured by the commission except that appraisals are not required in transactions with other governmental agencies. However, if the real property is less than five (5) acres in size and the fair market value of the real property or interest has been appraised by one (1) independent appraiser at less than ten thousand dollars ($10,000), the second appraisal may be made by a qualified employee of the department of redevelopment. The prices indicated on the list may not be exceeded unless specifically authorized by the commission or ordered by a court in condemnation proceedings. The commission may except from acquisition any real property in the area if the commission finds that such an acquisition is not necessary under the redevelopment plan. Appraisals made under this section are for the information of the commission and are not open for public inspection.

PLEASE NOTE this line:

The prices indicated on the list may not be exceeded unless specifically authorized by the commission.

Doesn't that give them the authority to pretty much buy what they want, at any price that they want?

Jeff Pruitt said...

Kevin,

I'm glad you brought this up. I've blogged about this before.

The first thing I want to point out is that the argument that they can buy whatever they want at whatever price they want has nothing to do with eminent domain. That's an important point to remember.

Now, the Redevelopment Commission does have the authority to buy the land at whatever price they want but only after they get 2 appraisals. The statute says this explicitly:

"The prices indicated on the list may not be exceeded unless specifically authorized by the commission or ordered by a court in condemnation proceedings"

So they must have a "list" and the definition of "list" is also defined explicitly:

"The redevelopment commission shall first approve and adopt a list of the real property and interests in real property to be acquired and the price to be offered to the owner of each parcel of interest. The prices to be offered may not exceed the average of two (2) independent appraisals of fair market value"

Now remember the commission isn't arguing the point you made in your post - and I believe it's because they understand that they needed those appraisals and they never got them. They are arguing that the appraisals aren't necessary because they didn't use eminent domain.

It's an important distinction and, as I said before, I have absolutely no idea what their legal basis is for that argument...