Landowners try to hold up eminent domain proceedings

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Pelham attorney Jim Pino has filed a motion to stay a pending condemnation proceeding in Shelby County Probate Court in which the city of Alabaster seeks to acquire property within its Development Plan through the use of its power of Eminent Domain.

Pino filed the motion to put on hold condemnation proceedings against property in the Interstate 65, Exit 238 Urban Renewal and Urban Redevelopment Plan pending the outcome of a federal case on behalf of defendant Emma Spence, deceased and Lille B. Spence, et. al.; Mary Hall, deceased,; Ernestine Oden, Clarence Oden, et. al; James E. and Brenda Hall,; Ernest W. Writh,; and Elizabeth Swain, et. al.

He filed the motion on behalf of those defendants he represents in the probate court case on Sept. 12.

Probate Judge Patricia Fuhrmeister has set a hearing on the motion for Tuesday, Oct. 21 at 1:30 p.m.

A notice of service hearing was held in connection with the condemnation proceeding on Sept. 24, and the condemnation case was set to be heard by Fuhrmeister on Thursday, Nov. 20.

However, Pino filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Alabama, Southern Division on Sept. 5, seeking:

* A declaratory judgment that the designation of the plan area as blighted under the Community Renewal Plan adopted by the city is invalid and that there exists no valid Urban Renewal or Redevelopment Plan involving plaintiffs’ property.

* A judgment that the &uot;blight&uot; determination is a violation of the landowners’ fifth amendment rights.

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

* A judgment that defendants’ actions violate the plaintiffs’ right of both procedural and substantive due process for failure to comply with Alabama law regarding the adoption of a redevelopment plan.

*&160;A judgment that the defendant’s actions surrounding the condemnation proceedings were coercive in nature and violate Alabama law.

Also sought are:

&uot;A preliminary and permanent injunction barring the city from taking any action against plaintiffs’ property including, but not limited to, taking plaintiffs’ property by eminent domain based upon its finding that the planned area is ‘blighted’ as well as enjoining the condemnation proceedings currently pending in Shelby County Probate Court …&uot;

Pino’s lawsuit also requests actual damages and other compensatory damages as a jury may assess, as well as punitive damages against the defendant Shelby Land Partners LLC.

The federal suit also requests that the defendants pay all costs in the prosecution of this action, including a reasonable attorney’s fee.

Pino filed the federal court action on behalf of landowners James E. Hall, Brenda A. Hall, Clilfton Taylor, Mattie L. Taylor, Earnest S. Wright, Mary L. Wright, Clarence Oden, Ernestine Oden, Elizabeth Swain, Lillie Spence and Carrie Spence.

&uot;These defendants have filed preliminary objections to these proceedings in their answer raising issues which are identical to those presented in the federal court case. In the interest of judicial economy and fairness to the parties, these defendants ought not be required to litigate these issues in two separate forums,&uot; Pino wrote.

Pino also attached answers filed on behalf of defendants he represents to the city’s condemnation case in probate court.

Included among those answers, &uot;The plaintiff has taken coercive action and employed coercive tactics in an effort to compel these defendants to accept the price officered.

&uot;Such coercive actions include, but are not limited to, arbitrarily advancing the timetable for the condemnation, placing unreasonable limits on the amount of time these defendants had to consider their offer, giving these defendants an ultimatum that if defendants did not accept their offers given by the developer, the plaintiff would send out bulldozers to demolish the defendants’ home and threatening that if these defendants did not accept the plaintiff’s offer by a specified deadline, the plaintiff would take their land and the defendants would receive less money for their land than that offered by the developer.&uot;