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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET



Eminent Domain Defeated

May 6, 2010 - 9:21 PM | by: Eric Shawn

Some property owners praised it as a victory for private property rights.

Officials in Auburn, New York threatened to possibly use eminent domain to force property owners to sell their land so a developer could build a multi-million dollar hotel and conference center. But in a surprise vote, the Auburn Industrial Development Agency unanimously voted not to use eminent domain by a vote of 9 to 0.

As negotiations continued with three property owners over the past several months, it appeared that Auburn would have to resort to eminent domain to clear the way for the proposed 88 room, $11 million hotel and conference center. City officials said the hotel would bring jobs, new tax revenue, and improve the city, which is located in upstate New York, as it plans to launch a music festival in two years.

There was at least one hold out, Mike Kazanivsky, who owns a barren grass strewn lot that he says he bought to build a small miniature golf and ice cream amusement park. When we stood on his property two weeks ago, he wept at the thought that he could be forced to sell his land for a private project.

“Someone puts their whole heart and soul into it and then someone just comes and says, ‘I want that? Give it to me? That’s not right!,” he told Fox News.

“They are trying to take it from me,” he said, adding, “I don’t want to sell it.”

But when the decision was announced last night, there were cheers from local residents and Kazanivsky cried for joy.

“Nobody won, because we all went through hell,” he said. “This is great for everyone and we have to fight somehow to get this law stopped.”

He insists he does not want to sell his plot of land.

“Everyone kept saying you have to put a figure on it, you have to put a figure on it. How do you put a figure on something you don’t want to sell?”

He insisted “I never wanted to stop progress, but I didn’t want them to take this from me.”

Renee Smith Ward, who along with her husband Doug faced potential eviction from their business, Wag N’ Tail, said they reached an agreement with the developer to keep their building on a corner of the proposed hotel parking lot

“The eminent domain was a unanimous vote and that’s what we’ve been fighting for these last few months,” she said. “We accomplished it. I hope that we stirred something up where this won’t happen to someone else.”

As the controversy heated up, Jim Dacey, the Chairman of the Auburn Industrial Development Agency, told Fox News last month that the property owners were “being offered more than a fair price for their property,” and that offers were “generous above current appraisals.”

Auburn officials said they were not trying to “take” anybody’s land, and that the property owners were being fairly treated in the process. A 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling declared it legal for cities to use eminent domain to force the sale of private property to another property owner, as long as the result was for the public good. In the last five years, that decision has proven to be a controversial ruling. The Pioneer Companies, the developer, did not return a call for comment.

In the end, the Auburn agency officials decided not to use eminent domain, as Kazanivsky remains a holdout. He told Fox News that he has an offer for his property from the developer. If he does agree to sell, the project could then potentially go forward without the government forcing him to give up his property.

“They made a good choice,” he said of the Auburn officials. “For anyone who owns anything, it’s a victory.”

-This is another segement in the Fox News Channel, “It’s Your Land,” series. If you have a property rights issues, tell us! Our e-mail is:

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