June 17, 2004
The Washington, D.C., law firm that stopped Mesa from seizing a brake shop is ready to fight for a group of Tempe landholders also facing condemnation.
The Institute for Justice is reviewing the case and prepared to step in and stop Tempe from condemning properties to make way for an outdoor shopping center, said Tim Keller, a lawyer in the firm.
"If the city wants to take our land, we welcome the fight," said Del Sturman, one of the six property owners who contacted the Institute. "This will be an eminent domain issue."
Developers Brad Wilde, Miravista Holdings and Vestar are attempting to buy 50 parcels of land near the northeast corner of Rio Salado Parkway and McClintock Drive. Tempe has threatened to use eminent domain against any holdouts.
The developers are asking the city to rezone the 148 acres for retail, office and restaurant space.
The Redevelopment and Review Commission voted at 12:45 a.m. Wednesday to recommend that the City Council approve the zoning proposal.
The council’s first public hearing on the proposal is 7:30 p.m. today at City Hall, 31 E. Fifth St.
Council members will vote on the proposal at 4 p.m. June 23 at a special meeting.
A petition signed by property owners in the area could force the council to have five votes to approve the proposal instead of four. The city clerk is still trying to verify the signatures, turned in Tuesday.
If the efforts to rezone the area fail, the project could be delayed for a year. City officials said they will not use $7 million in federal money to environmentally clean the area unless it is rezoned.
City Attorney Marlene Pontrelli said the money would be refunded if the rezoning proposal is killed. She also said the project could not begin without cleaning the environmental hazards.
Councilman Ben Arredondo said he did not know how he will vote on the issue, but added that a lot of questions would have to answered before he moved to condemn private property.
The institute defended brake shop owner Randy Bailey against Mesa’s attempt to take his land so another businessman could build a hardware store on the site. In October, the state Court of Appeals ruled the project did not meet the public use requirement of the Arizona Constitution.