For several years, the Riverwalk Project has encountered setbacks and modifications. Because of a "perceived" conflict with the River Hospital, a few former village board members thought it was a good idea to alter the route of the project and at one point cancelled it all together. Cooler Heads prevailed and it seemed that the project was finally on the course to completion when talks between the Village Board and the River Hospital resumed last year. The Hospital promised to restore the decaying seawall that skirts it's property at the rivers edge. The seawall is an integral part of the Riverwalk project. The Hospital made good on it's promise, by completing the $92,000 restoration project this past spring.
Everything seemed to be going well, until last Friday night when the amicable discussions of easements were replaced with talk of hostile take overs through the process of property acquisition by Eminent Domain. Joe Russell, Chairman of the B.O.D. River Hospital said that Eminent Domain procedure by it's very nature is a hostile taking of private property by a government. This typically occurs when the negotiations for the acquisition of the property have failed. The easement negotiations in the case of the River Hospital have not failed because they have not even commenced.
Village board members were shocked and confused when they realized their amicable talks with the Hospital were severed. It was clear to all that attended the public hearing that the board was completely blind sided by the process of property acquisition as described by Nancy Mullen of R.K. Hite Inc. R.K. Hite is in charge of appraising and negotiating compensation for owners of properties that the Riverwalk will traverse. Ms. Mullen stated that just compensation will not be less than the highest appraised fair market value for the property. In the case of the River Hospital, the appraisal may come in at $500,000, neither the hospital or the village can negotiate that amount down.
Ben Moore III C.E.O. of the River Hospital was also shocked by the sudden change in friendly negotiations. Moore stated that we would like to see this project go [forward], We have been working on this for a long time with the village. Easement negotiations with the village have been in good faith. And in that good faith we committed $92,000 to restore the seawall and now we hear it is going to be seized. We think that is grossly unfair and inappropriate to happen.
Bloggers Note: At the time of the meeting, I believe certain representatives of the River Hospital really believed that village board members knew all along about what the eminent domain procedures entailed. The Village Board clearly did NOT! I also know that a small group of people tried to bully Mayor Jury with accusations and threats. Even going so far as to call the village board a bunch of idiots. Officially I do not know who you are, but you do! The way you conducted yourselves was at the very least unprofessional.
Link to the audio of the legal preamble portion of the Hearing Eminent Domain
Link to the audio of the public comments portion of the Hearing Eminent Domain