Fear of eminent domain



After an emotionally charged debate, on April 3Grover Beach City Council voted against paving the way for a proposed major redevelopment project in the heart of town.
The council voted three to two against an agreement that would have forced the owners of a used car lot on the northeast corner of Fourth Street and Grand Avenues to sell or redevelop their property with Ron Perkins of Colbalt Construction, or face the possibility of eminent domain litigation. Perkins envisioned a $23.5 million, four-story hotel and condominium project at the corner dubbed the “gateway to the city.�
For more than a year, city staff and Perkins unsuccessfully attempted to contact the property owners, Martin and Susan Polin, to discuss redevelopment of their property. The Polins own 16 properties on Grand Avenue and an additional 70 in SLO County. Perkins provided the council with photos of blighted and underutilized Polin properties. Council members were skeptical that the Polins would redevelop the corner. “I have been here a long time and I don’t remember Polin ever redeveloping any property,� said council member Dave Ekbom. “He is a development banker.�
Mayor Larry Versaw and Ekbom voted in favor of the agreement and the project. Chuck Aston, Steve Lieberman and John Shoals voted against; the latter two favored of the project, but voted to protect property owner’s rights.
About 70 people attended the meeting to voice opposition or support for the project, and several times the council had to quell emotional outbursts from the crowd. Of the 29 who lined up to give their opinion, 17 were opposed, primarily because of the threatened use of eminent domain.
The emphasis switched from property owner rights to the serious financial woes of Grover Beach in the last round of the intense debate. Though the city’s streets are in dire need of repair, there are no plans to remedy the problem as the city is currently running  a  deficit. “Aside from fixing our streets, what services do we cut first?,� Versaw asked. “I sometimes regret I’m your mayor, because these decisions are painful. I hope redevelopment is the path we go down, or it is a cloudy future otherwise.�

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