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16
Feb

Arena board gets OK to use eminent domain to take two properties if needed

The board overseeing financing and construction of Lincoln’s $340 million arena project approved the use of condemnation — or eminent domain — to buy two pieces of property for the project.

After an executive session — a portion of the meeting that is closed to the public to talk about real estate negotiations — the Joint Public Agency unanimously voted to authorize the use of condemnation to “take” property owned by Alter Trading Co. (which owns Alter Metal Recycling, a scrap yard south of the Harris Overpass) and the Watson-Brickson Lumber yard owned by Jaylynn, a limited liability corporation if necessary.

Assistant City Attorney Rick Peo said the city and two property owners have been negotiating for months on what will be a “fairly complex” relocation. He said alternative sites for the scrap yard and lumber yard are difficult to find, and negotiations are “coming to impasse.” Railroad track work must begin this year, and the JPA needs to either acquire the properties or terminate rail services by May 8 to stay on schedule, Peo said. That’s why he said the “possibility of condemnation” is needed to get legal title to the land by then.

“This is a timing issue,” said Dan Marvin, who coordinates arena work for the JPA.

JPA member Tim Clare — a University of Nebraska regent — said he did “due diligence” and talked to the “players” involved in negotiations, and he said the property owners’ representatives were “very complimentary” and understand the situation. He said condemnation would only be used if necessary.

Peo said a condemnation hearing date would be scheduled to award damages, but negotiations would continue in the meantime.

“It buys you time,” he said of condemnation authority.

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