Alabaster property owners file federal suit

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 9, 2003

Property owners whose property has been designated as &uot;blighted&uot; and who have been taken to probate court by the city of Alabaster have filed a federal lawsuit against the city and Shelby Land Partners LLC.

City officials filed in Shelby County Probate Court recently to exercise their right of eminent domain to acquire property in the area they wish to develop commercially.

The property owners’ lawsuit, however, seeks a permanent federal injunction barring the city from taking action against the plaintiffs’ property including taking the property by eminent domain, citing first and foremost, the U.S. Constitution’s 5th Amendment right to property.

Attorney Jim Pino of Pelham and Jack Harrison of Hoover have filed suit in federal court against the city of Alabaster and Shelby Land Partners LLC on behalf of James E. Hall, Brenda A. Hall, Clifton Taylor, Mattie L. Taylor, Earnest S. Wright, Mary L. Wright, Clarence Oden, Ernestine Oden, Elizabeth Swain, Lillie Spence and Carrie Spence.

Pino said he is seeking injunctive relief for his clients to &uot;keep the city of Alabaster from taking or threatening to take my clients’ property by eminent domain.&uot;

According to the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Alabama, filed last Friday, &uot;The Plaintiffs allege that the city is using its claim that the plan area (1-65, Exit 238) is blighted as a pretext to justify taking plaintiffs’ homes for the purpose of turning plaintiffs’ properties over to private developers who desire their land, including Shelby Land Partners, and ultimately to Colonial Property Trust. The developers will demolish plaintiffs’ homes and replace them with an 800,000 square foot shopping center, including a Wal-Mart Supercenter and other commercial enterprises.&uot;

The lawsuit states that the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution &uot;prevents the city from taking private property for the private use of another private party.&uot;

&uot;The plaintiffs do not wish to sell their properties and are affected and aggrieved by the said actions of the defendant,&uot; according to the suit.

Alabama law sets out necessary requirements which must be addressed by a redevelopment plan.

&uot;Among these requirements is the mandate that the plan provide, unless already available, decent, safe, and sanitary dwellings in equal number of substandard dwellings to be cleared from the area, at rents within the financial reach of the income groups displaced from such substandard dwelling.&uot;

The lawsuit alleges the city ignored that


Among relief sought, the plaintiffs seek:

* A

judgment that the &uot;designation of the plan area as blighted under the Community Renewal Plan adopted by the city is invalid and that, accordingly, there exist no valid urban renewal or redevelopment plan involving plaintiffs’ property.&uot;

* A judgment that &uot;the attempt by the defendants to use this improper blight designation to take plaintiffs’ property violates the Fifth Amendment.&uot;

* A judgment that &uot;defendants’ actions violate the right of equal protection guaranteed to the plaintiffs under the 14th Amendment.&uot;

* A permanent injunction barring the city from taking any action against the property, including

taking the property by eminent domain based on its &uot;blighted&uot; status.&uot;

* An order awarding damages based on a jury assessment. The lawsuit also seeks punitive damages against Shelby Land Partners LLC.

* An order forcing defendants to pay court costs.

Alabaster City Attorney Greg Morris said, &uot;We are still reviewing the lawsuit filed by Mr. Pino ,and it would be inappropriate for us to make any comment at this time.&uot;