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Susan Williams, “Do we have an eminent domain problem in Knox County or in Tennessee for that matter.”
Mike Ragsdale, “I don’t think we have a large problem in Tennessee at all. When you look at the projects in Knox County that we have done each one have been accomplished without the use of eminent domain. I think that’s very very important. I think what has really happened is that some people across America have in fact abused that privilege. They have taken private land from private citizens to give to private developers for that kind of gain. I think you have to be cautious on that going forward. But in Knox County I don’t think we have an issue and we certainly won’t during the second term of my administration.
Don Bosch, “Are there any pending lawsuits over eminent domain taking of property in Knox County to your knowledge?”
Mike Ragsdale, “None that I know of.”
Don Bosch, “And to your knowledge has County government every taken private property through the use of eminent domain and turned it over to another private developer or private property owner.”
Mike Ragsdale, “Not to my knowledge and not certainly during our administration.”
Don Bosch, “And so Steve I want to direct this to you, this is one of the things I have heard you speak a lot about and I think it a bit of a tempest in a teapot in our community because I have followed this very carefully and I just can’t find any use or abuse of eminent domain as it relates to taking private property, certainly from the County standpoint and giving it to another private property owner. Why is this an issue here?”
Steve Hall, “Well, I tell you what the issue is, Rex Davis had a piece of property over here on Leslie Street, the Turner’s had a piece of property a piece of property right across the street. Was eminent domain used? No. But what you have is the heavy hand of City government coming in and saying hey were going to take this property, you make the best deal, you are going to deal with us now, or you can sue us. That’s fine to say you can sue people if you are an attorney, but when you talk to the Turners they said we will give you $120 thousand dollars and they [the City] actually told them you can go to court and get another $50 or $60 thousand dollars. But an attorney would end up with most of it.”
Don Bosch, “What did they do with that property”?
Steve Hall, “They say they are going to build a Food City, but it is still sitting there pretty vacant, they tore down the buildings down.”
Don Bosch, “But again, they sold it, as you say it, through a heavy handed negation, but none the less they sold it of their own volition with out being forced.”
Steve Hall, “Yes, but they were making a deal with the proverbial gun to their head. They didn’t want to.”
Don Bosch, “But Steve again, they weren’t forced, they made a deal, and they had rights and options within the law, what I said last week, is on eminent domain one of the great things is that if you don’t agree with what the government takes your property for you get the right to a jury trial with 12 citizens in that box who generally don’t the idea of eminent domain as none of us do. And you get to your case heard. I represent people that have their property taken.
Steve Hall, “You still lose your property.”
Don Bosch, “Potentially. Yes that is correct”.
Steve Hall, “Do you know of any case where they didn’t lose their property? Where they got their property back?”
Don Bosch, “I actually can tell you of cases where governments have not taken the property because they did not want to litigate or fight the issue of whether they could take it or not. That has occurred several times in the past City administration when Victor Ashe was Mayor.”
Tennessee Municipal League Executive Director Margaret Mahery said it goes too far in restricting local governments.
TML still believes no changes are needed in state law because it would already prohibit the type of situation that was used to condemn land under Connecticut law in the Kelo case, she said.
"We are not in on the consensus," said Mahery, referring to Fowlkes' bill. "We believe that our local governments use eminent domain very judiciously and very cautiously.
"Our cities do everything they can to negotiate with property owners," she said. "But when that runs its course and we cannot come to an agreement, we need to have eminent domain in our tool kit."
Mahery said, for example, that forbidding a city from using eminent domain outside its urban growth area could negatively impact city-county partnerships in an industrial development.
"Police spokesman Darrell DeBusk says it began about 3:00 a.m. when the suspect's elderly mother called 911 from the house he shares with her at 1500 Exeter Avenue. She said her son, 57-year-old Alfred Nance, had fired a gun.
Gunshots also greeted the first officers at the scene so the police department brought in its special operations squad.
No one was hit and police helped Nance's mother escape. "She was in a bedroom. Fortunately, it was a first floor bedroom," DeBusk says. "We were able to get her out through the window.
Negotiators tried talking Nance out of the house by phone. "That was met with limited success," DeBusk says. "Sometimes he would take the phone off the hook
for extended periods of time. To try to keep communication open, we used a vehicle to get in close to the house and we used the PA system to communicate with him."
As the standoff entered its fourth hour, Knox County school officials sent additional security people to Maynard Elementary School, about 200 yards from the house, and locked the perimeter doors.
Nance is a teacher on a voluntary leave of absence from Maynard. His leave began in October 2004.