June 30, 2004
Landowners refusing to give any ground for the proposed Tempe Marketplace have 20 days to accept, reject or counter the city’s initial bid to buy their property.
While letters delivered this week to landowners make no mention of eminent domain, rejecting the offers would move property owners closer to a showdown with the city.
The move comes as Mayor-elect Hugh Hallman plans to meet today with developer Brad Wilde and property owners to help broker a solution. “I can’t guarantee success,” Hallman said, but he added that it’s important for both sides to start talking.
The offers mark the first time Tempe has entered negotiations with the nearly 25 holdouts who have rejected private offers from Wilde, Miravista Holdings LLC and Vestar.
“This is to facilitate action between the developers and property owners,” said Tempe development services manager Melanie Hobden. “But we are still hopeful that the developers can make deals.” Tempe mailed 10 appraisals Friday, she said, but she did not know how many went out Tuesday afternoon.
Before condemnation proceedings can begin, city officials and the developers must go before the City Council to get approval. The next scheduled council meeting is July 22. That meeting will be the first for Hallman and Councilman-elect Hut Hutson, who will be sworn in during a July 15 ceremony. Recently, Hallman said he would consider using eminent domain against any landowners holding out for unreasonably high prices.
He previously said that he is hesitant to condemn properties and would consider such action only in special cases. Likewise, during his campaign speeches, Hutson repeatedly said he was against eminent domain except for the area involving the proposed marketplace.
Last week, the council unanimously voted to rezone the 148 acres on the northeast corner of Rio Salado Parkway and McClintock Drive for retail, restaurant and office space. There has been talk of referring the zoning change to a public vote, but so far a referendum committee has not been formed.
Many Tempe business owners fear the development will hurt the downtown area, as shoppers would prefer driving to an air-conditioned mall with plenty of parking.
Last month, the council approved an agreement that includes tens of millions of dollars to build the $225 million mall. Arizona’s first Dave & Buster’s and an 18-screen Harkins movie complex have already committed to the development.