The American Legion takes on Ralston, Neb.

bigbox.jpgThe city of Ralston, a suburb of Omaha, wants to develop the former Lakeview Golf Course, but apparently the property in question isn’t enough for town officials. Town officials, prodded by the developer who bought the golf course property, are weighing whether to include the property belonging to American Legion Post 373.

The Ralston Legion notified in late April that the city would hold a hearing to decide whether or not to designate its property blighted. Members of the Legion were suspicious, according to the Ralston Recorder:

“How can they include us in a study without telling us?” asked Post 373 Commander Benny Sievers. “That makes me doubt their sincerity on any other dealing we have with them.”

Legionnaires showed up to a meeting an expressed their dismay politely.

“We don’t appreciate being deemed blighted, especially without someone telling us,” Ralston Legion finance officer Ron Deming told those assembled. “We don’t know why the city wants to designate us that way. We would prefer not being termed blighted.”

The developer, without telling the vets, the property would be eligible for seizure via eminent domain, reassured them only that it was a designation that would allow the developer to receive more funding for the development through tax increment financing, which include a big-box store and high-density residential buildings.

City officials, however, do seem to be sympathetic to the Legion’s concerns, while others seem to be somewhat condescending towards the group. But “blighting” the property still poses problems, as it would for any property owner:
“If they don’t want their building included, we’re not inclined to do that,” Krause said. “If we do or don’t include that building in the blighted area, it won’t make any difference as to what we want done with the property.”The Legion could encounter a problem in the future if it wanted to sell the building. In order for a buyer to qualify for tax-increment financing, the process of declaring the property blighted would have to be repeated.Still, the Legion is wary of the city and isn’t intending on backing down from getting answers until they are safe from the threat of eminent domain.

Still, the Legion is wary of the city and from getting answers until they are safe from the threat of eminent domain.Still, a cut-and-run attitude was not to be found at the veterans’ meeting. They all agreed that rolling over and complying with the request to stay on the blighted list was not something they could swallow. Deming said it would be like giving up and letting the building, which had served as the post’s home for more than 50 years, be taken away from them.
“Us give up?” Sievers said. “We’re not going to give up. That’s nuts.”

The Ralston city council meeting on the blight designation will be held tonight.