The City of Omaha has moved to seize a controversial north Omaha property through eminent domain.
A city petition filed this week in Douglas County seeks to condemn roughly 70 acres of concrete rubble, overgrowth and dirt. It is wedged between a Carter Lake golf course and some of the city's most impoverished neighborhoods.
The lawsuit names Virgil Anderson, head of Anderson Excavating Co., and his wife, Virginia, as owners of most of the property, though it also cites several estates, a Canadian railroad company and one of Anderson's longtime business partners as entities that have a potential interest in the property.
Former Mayor Jim Suttle wanted to redevelop the site into the Ames-Locust Industrial Park to create a potential job magnet for the area.
Mayor Jean Stothert, during her term on the City Council, questioned the potential use of eminent domain and asked that the city negotiate for a fair price with the property's owners.
The petition says that the city “negotiated in good faith” with the property's owners but that those negotiations have failed and the two sides are “unable to agree” on a sale price.
Pursuant to state law, a judge has appointed three people to serve as appraisers for the property to determine its ownership and value.
The appraisers will conduct a site visit and hearing that allows the city and property owners to argue over the property's value and who should obtain it.
The city can pay the money that appraisers deem suitable for the property to the court, then take over the land's title. The landowner or city can contest the price and appeal to a jury, city attorneys have said, but that would not delay the city's ability to seize the land.
The entire process can take months.
The city had offered about $1.1 million for the site earlier this year, based on city appraisals. Officials had said Anderson's counterproposal for the land was close to three times that amount.
The impasse prompted the council to delay approving a redevelopment plan that would authorize tax incentives for the property and to authorize the government to use eminent domain to acquire the site.
Anderson had sought to negotiate a sale, his attorney has told council members, but wanted to do it without the threat of eminent domain.