No interest in eminent domain in school siting

No interest in eminent domain in school siting

CHAMPAIGN — The Champaign school board has no interest in using eminent domain to acquire property around Spalding Park for a new high school, school board President Laurie Bonnett said Thursday.

"We don't want to force anybody out. If someone looks to sell us their home, it's not the same thing," she said.

She said the board is exploring alternative ways to address space needs with the city and other governmental agencies, though she declined to elaborate.

"If it's not something we could do on our own, it's going to take different groups coming to the table to make something happen. We're trying to be creative," she said.

Champaign City Attorney Fred Stavins said it's "rare" for a governmental body to enter into an eminent domain lawsuit in negotiations with property owners. Those that do get that far usually involve a business, he said.

Governmental bodies are required to go through good-faith negotiations with property owners, and offers are based on fair-market value for the property, through an appraisal, he said.

"Most public entities would try to work around it," he said. "It's extremely unusual not to have a fair price for a piece of property."

When the city constructed the "big basin" along Healey Street east of First Street as part of the Boneyard flood-control project, it worked out agreements with hundreds of property owners and only one or two wound up in a condemnation proceeding, he said.

"We'd go out and help people pick out a house. We landscaped a couple of houses for people so it looked like their old house," he said.

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