DANVILLE — Although some aldermen expressed general dislike of a city’s ability to use eminent domain to “take” a person’s property, the Danville City Council unanimously voted Tuesday night to use that power for three properties in the footprint of Carle’s planned $50 million medical facility.
Alderman Bob Iverson, Ward 7, said he really doesn’t like the whole eminent-domain idea, but he also believes the city should do everything it can to eliminate blight.
“I deeply feel for this lady,” he said, referring to an owner of one of the three remaining properties that have not yet sold.
Earlier in the meeting, the council unanimously approved an agreement with Haven Gaming LLC to build a proposed casino resort, as well as the necessary zoning regulations for the 42-acre site along Interstate 74, east of Danville, on the Indiana border. The next step is for Haven to apply to the Illinois Gaming Board for its state casino license by the Oct. 28 deadline.
The eminent-domain resolution approved by aldermen Tuesday night cited a blighted neighborhood as the city’s reason to exercise its power per state law. The resolution states that the Danville neighborhood west of the city’s downtown — where Carle wants to build a medical facility on about 17 acres, displacing about 66 properties — contains buildings that are dilapidated and “deleterious uses that are a detriment to the public health and safety.”
Negotiations between the city and affected property owners began around the first of the year, with only two property owners not agreeing to sell.
Tamara Lopez, 45, is one of them. She’s also one of the few people in the project footprint who lives in the house she owns, in a neighborhood dominated by dilapidated rental housing, abandoned properties and vacant unkempt lots. The other property owner, Allen Dixon, owns a vacant lot and a building used for storage.
Two others listed in the city’s resolution signed agreements to sell in the last couple days, according to Mayor Rickey Williams Jr.
Lopez, who arrived at the end of Tuesday’s meeting, said she has been offered $45,000 for her three-bedroom, two-bath brick house, where she’s lived for 25 years. She said she can’t get a comparable house for that price and has countered with a request for $100,000, but that’s not been accepted.
Williams Jr. said Tuesday that she has been offered $55,000.
Alderman Brenda Brown, Ward 1, said that when the REG biodiesel plant in Danville wanted to expand, some of the residents whose properties were purchased by that company had lived in their homes for decades, too, and didn’t want to move. And they got less money than Lopez has been offered, she said.
“They were given chump change,” said Brown, who added that she wishes someone would offer $55,000 for her house. She said the Carle project will be a benefit to the community, while the REG facility is a project that could be a detriment to people’s health.
Alderman Steve Foster said some of the properties along Logan Avenue, including the Lopez house, have been slipping down the hill overlooking Ellsworth Park for years, so selling her property could be good for her.
“It might be serendipitous,” he said.
Williams said he also hates eminent domain, but the problem is the city has a project that’s for the greater good of the city.
“It is our great hope we would not need to exercise eminent domain,” he said.