City considers using eminent domain to keep major employer - KMOV.com

City considers using eminent domain to keep major employer

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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV.com) – A bill that would allow the city to buy land in north St. Louis using eminent domain to create room for a new home for the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) is moving forward.

The bill, if passed by the full Board of Aldermen, would enable the city to buy land in the 3rd and 5th Wards so it can be cleared to entice the NGA to stay in the City of St. Louis. The agency currently has offices in Soulard, very close to the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, and has been looking at different sites around the St. Louis area as a possible new home.

Many aldermen have voiced concern about using eminent domain to seize some of the homes that sit on the land. Friday, they agreed to move the bill forward on the condition that the Board of Aldermen would have to approve using eminent domain for each individual property.

“That changes the game. The LCRA can’t go negotiate with these people and say ‘sell to us or we’re going to take the house anyway.’ They don’t have that authority,” said 21st Ward Alderman Antonio French.

Many who live where the new GEO building would be built want the area to remain residential.

“We want our community to be preserved and to be revitalized. It is a residential area and that’s how it is zoned right now, and that’s how what we would like it to continue to be,” said resident Karen Taylor. 

The bill has moved out of committee and will be taken up by the full Board of Aldermen. GEO is expected to announce which site it will choose for its new headquarters in March.

 

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(KMOV.com) -- Neighbors on North Market Street call a certain house on the block, the "big house". Built in the late 1800s, it stands three stories tall, boasts two kitchens, and multiple bedrooms.  It was also home to three generations of Karen Taylor's family.

"It's all the stories.  Its our oral history.  It's the love.  It's the values that were put forth and lived before us," said Taylor while taking a News 4 crew on a tour of the expansive home. 

Taylor's 79 year old mother still lives in the house and acknowledges the neighborhood has seen many changes over the years.  Neighbors have passed away or moved on and many other homes have fallen into disrepair.  Taylor says their family home is still used for reunions, holidays, and she wants to see future generations enjoy it.

"Our family home is definitely a priority.  What's happening in the community is definitely a priority.  Even though it is 'blighted', we are not blighted," added Taylor.

Taylor delivered a similar message to the aldermen of the Housing, Urban Development, and Zoning Committee on Wednesday morning as it discussed Board Bill 263. 

If passed, the bill would pave the way for the city to acquire land in the 3rd and 5th city wards in hopes of enticing the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency to move jobs to those neighborhoods.

The NGA says it has outgrown its current location - near the riverfront and south of downtown St. Louis.  The agency is shopping for a new site to build a new facility for its three thousand employees and considering Mehlville, Fenton, St. Clair County, and North St.Louis. 

The city of St. Louis, facing the possibility of losing over 3,000 high-paying jobs and the city earnings tax money that comes with those jobs, is bidding for the NGA's new site.  And, the city is looking at acquiring more land.

"It's a tight timetable.  By the end of the year, they have to have the land requirement," said 5th Ward Alderman Tammika Hubbard.  She's sponsoring Board Bill 263 and Ward 3 Alderman Freeman Bosley Senior is a co-sponsor.  

Hubbard says the city needs to make a big move to keep the NGA jobs in the city and in the neighborhoods in her ward.  The bill includes an eminent domain component and some aldermen argued that the city should consider other options.

"I wouldn't do it to my grandmother or Ms. Johnson who lives next door to me.  So, I definitely can't do it in any other community," said Ward 27 Alderman Chris Carter.

Hubbard says the city would help residents relocate and that eminent domain would serve as a last resort to pave the way for redevelopment.  

Even if the city acquires the necessary land, there is no guarantee that the NAG would pick North St. Louis as its new site.  

Wednesday morning, the bill didn't make it past committee and the full board of aldermen won't be asked to vote on it this week.  Alderman Hubbard said she'll likely look at the bill again and offer more detail on the acquisition plan, saying the city has too much to lose if the NGA picks a different site.

The NGA says it'll make a decision by March, 2016.

 

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