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Eminent domain rarely used in City of Odessa - Odessa American: City Of Odessa

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Eminent domain rarely used in City of Odessa

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Posted: Saturday, October 6, 2012 12:30 pm

John Ben Shepperd serves as a major thoroughfare in northeast Odessa, and City of Odessa officials are hoping to expand its reach southward to serve industrial parks.

While construction will soon begin on the roadway’s expansion on city-owned land directly south of Interstate 20, negotiations to further expand JBS to FM 3505 have hit a bump in the road.

The Odessa City Council recently approved the use of eminent domain to attain a right-of-way easement for 11.38 acres of land currently owned by Flint Hills Resources.

Eminent domain enables the City of Odessa to face Flint Hills in court in order to possess the land for public use.

City land is more commonly acquired through negotiations between landowners and city officials.

Eminent domain is rarely used by the City of Odessa, which last used the power during negotiations for a pipeline easement.

“It has been several years since we have used eminent domain to obtain anything in the city,” City Attorney Larry Long said. “We are almost always able to work out a fair deal with property owners (before using eminent domain).”

Eminent domain and condemnation proceedings are not the preferable route to incorporate land, because it could be more expensive and stall the progress of projects, Long said.

“You may be on the property for some time before you know (the outcome of the proceedings). It may be more than you anticipated and more than is budgeted,” Long said. “Cities and counties always work under budgets, so it is preferable to establish a price and negotiate with the owner and obtain ownership that way.”

Usually, when private land is incorporated into Odessa, city officials go to the Ector County Appraisal District to find a value for the land, Long said.

“We see what the property is valued at and then that would be what the offer is, thinking that is a fair representation of the price,” Long said.

An estimated value of the 11.38 acres could not be found, because the land has yet to be separated from adjacent tracts that Flint Hills also owns, Ector County Appraisal District Chief Appraiser Karen McCord said.

With Flint Hills refusing the city’s offer, the two entities will now go into condemnation proceedings .

Long said he has already drafted a petition that establishes the value of the land. The petition will be filed at the Ector County Court at Law and three commissioners, usually other landowners, will hear from Flint Hills and the City of Odessa, Long said.

Following the proceedings, the commissioners will decide a value of the property and the city can choose to offer that amount, Long said.

Long previously said that he hopes the land would eventually be offered to the city as a donation. However, he also said that the city could do “an exchange of value” where the city offsets the price at which Flint Hills thinks the land is worth.

Negotiations will continue through condemnation proceedings, Long said.

“We never close the negotiations,” Long said. “At any time we come up with an agreement, we will just handle it that way.”

Flint Hills representative Katie Stavinoha said that going into condemnation proceedings is not a sign of discord between the company and the City of Odessa.

“Flint Hills Resources and the city are certainly working well together on the issue,” Stavinoha said. “The company certainly expects the property to be transferred in accordance of law.”

City officials hope by the time roadwork is complete in the first phase of the extension that the 11.38 acres of land will already be incorporated into Odessa, Long said.

The JBS extension will continue the road through the remainder of the Grow Odessa, formerly Odessa Industrial Development Corp. industrial park.

“When the park was designed, it was designed with (JBS) in there,” Grow Odessa President John Willis said. “We already have development down there, but folks that have bought property understood that the road would one day come through there.”

Grow Odessa is funding $800,000 of the $2.4 million project, and the Odessa Development Corp. is funding a majority of the construction for $1.6 million.

“JBS has always been anticipated to be a major thoroughfare,” Long said. “What we’re going to build initially isn’t up to that scale, but it will be a major route into the city and will allow for development on both sides of the property.”

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