Waiting for eminent domain in El Paso

Opponents of the city of El Paso’s threat to use eminent domain in its Downtown Redevelopment project attempted to have the city council pass an ordinance revising its blight definitions to reflect those that would have governed the state had Gov. Perry not vetoed the reform bill at the state level. The city council is pretty much split down the middle on the issue with the mayor, who is pro-eminent domain, having the tie-breaking vote, so it wasn’t surprising to see that the measure failed on a 4-3 vote. One of the leaders of the residents’ opposition group spoke before the council:

“If your intent is to take nonblighted property, just let the people know,” said Jerry Rosenbaum, a property owner, businessman and opposition leader.

From the time the Paso Del Norte Group unveiled the Downtown plan in 2006, the city’s ability to force the sale of property to make way for someone else’s business was said to be crucial to the plan’s success.

Mayor John Cook and other plan supporters have promised that eminent domain would be used only as a last resort, but property owners contend that the mere threat of its use would coerce them to sell.

“You’re saying your plan depends on eminent domain,” Rosenbaum said.

It is somewhat fortunate for property owners that there is a moratorium on eminent domain until November of this year. However, as the weeks go by, residents wait in limbo as the city gets closer to the date when they can begin to condemn. There is much to protest against here, and people are trying to do just that.

El Paso’s Newspaper Tree has more.