Duluth district may resort to eminent domain for Piedmont schoolThe School Board plans to discuss the possibility at its Monday business committee meeting, and a closed meeting will be held before the School Board meeting Nov. 16 to discuss negotiations.
By: Jana Hollingsworth, Duluth News Tribune
The Duluth school district may use eminent domain for the first time to acquire property for the $296 million Red Plan.
The School Board plans to discuss the possibility at its Monday business committee meeting, and a closed meeting will be held before the School Board meeting Nov. 16 to discuss negotiations.
The undeveloped property, wanted by the district for the new Piedmont Elementary School, is owned by Scott Kuiti. The land is behind Piedmont Plaza, which Kuiti also owns. The district wants the land to provide safe access to a playground and to ensure safety of the approach to a loading area, according to a statement from the district.
“The district has been working to negotiate a reasonable purchase price with the property owner since spring of 2010, and negotiations appear to be at an impasse,” the release says. “The district will continue efforts to work with the property owner to negotiate a reasonable agreement.”
The district says it will take steps this month to acquire “all or a portion of an undeveloped parcel of land near Piedmont Elementary School through continued negotiation or the legal process of eminent domain.”
Eminent domain is the ability of government to take private property for a public use through court action. What the property owner is paid is determined by the court, and the process can be lengthy.
The district has said in the past that it hoped to avoid the use of eminent domain. Superintendent Keith Dixon said in August that eminent domain has financial and emotional costs, and was one reason the district paid $250,000 for a Lincoln Park house appraised for less than $100,000 rather than use eminent domain.
Since February 2008, 57 property owners have agreed to sell property to the district.
The district bulldozed a portion of Kuiti’s property in June without an agreement in place for a temporary easement, which it had requested. The district is seeking less than 1,000 square feet of property from Kuiti, but wanted about 5,000 square feet total for temporary construction access, Kuiti has said. The district said the bulldozing was premature, and there was miscommunication with the contractor. At the time Kuiti said “the price just went up” for the parcel. Kuiti didn’t return calls Friday night.
The eminent domain item is on the agenda with a placeholder, which means it could be pulled or modified. If it remains, members will vote on the measure Nov. 16.