La Vista city officials say eminent domain would be the last option if the city needed to acquire land to facilitate its 84th Street Redevelopment Plan.
Such a decision wouldn't be taken lightly, City Administrator Brenda Gunn said. Eminent domain is a legal power of a government to seize land for public use provided it provides reasonable compensation for the property.
“Eminent domain is always your very last resort,” Gunn said. “There's no plan to do that at this juncture, but it's always been available to the council should they choose to use it.”
An amended version of the redevelopment plan was approved July 16 by the La Vista City Council after the Planning Commission reviewed it.
Historically, the City of La Vista has dealt with property managers who aren't maintaining structures such as parking lots, access roads and pot holes.
“Any property, if left unattended for a period of time, is going to have issues,” Gunn said.
Eminent domain was added to the redevelopment plan in case it is needed in the future, Gunn said. The city is obligated to include eminent domain in the plan if there's a chance the city might use it to force the transfer of land.
“That is the very last option you would ever even consider, but if that is a possibility — and you want to have it in your toolbox — you have that in the plan,” Gunn said. “You can't go back.”
City officials haven't reached a point where acquiring properties would be necessary. The city is working with numerous developers to plan the next step to implement the plan, which includes determining how to fund the project.
The current focus remains on past issues with property owners, Kindig said. Those issues include vandalized buildings and other noticeable damage.
The La Vista City Council would determine whether acquiring the properties would, at some future point, be necessary, Kindig said.
The 84th Street Master Plan calls for the demolition or replacement of small scale commercial buildings.
In accordance with the Nebraska Community Development Law, the city could only acquire the land for the purpose to fix or prevent the recurrence of blighted and substandard conditions.
Upon acquiring the land, under the authority of the redevelopment plan, the city can improve, clear or prepare the property for redevelopment.
La Vista might run into several speed bumps in advancing its vision for 84th Street because the city doesn't own the commercial properties. The city can work on persuading the property owners to lease, sell or redevelop their shopping centers.
One of the properties includes where the former Walmart property stood, which is owned by Stan Kroenke, a billionaire who owns several sports teams including the St. Louis Rams, Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche.
Many of Kroenke's shopping center developments are anchored by Walmart, according to Forbes magazine. His wife Ann Walton Kroenke is the daughter of Bud Walton, the co-founder of Walmart.
La Vista hasn't made any communication with Kroenke because the city hasn't reached that point in its redevelopment efforts.
“I would be really curious to know if he really realizes he owns property here,” Gunn said. “I've never met him. I've never had any conversations with him.”
But that doesn't mean the city isn't keeping a watchful eye on the property.
“This property is very real to us, but for (Kroenke), they own many properties across the country,” Gunn said. “This is just one of many.”