Eminent-domain battle won't happen here, officials say

Carson City will not become New London, Conn.

The eminent-domain battle waging in the Connecticut community between private property owners, city government and a commercial developer will not be duplicated here, Carson City officials said Tuesday.

Carson City Mayor Marv Teixeira said Tuesday that eminent domain is a last resort used judiciously for the right reason and it should work out to be a "win-win for both parties."

However, Teixeira has alluded to using the power of eminent domain to seize property owned by Max Baer Jr., the former "Beverly Hillbillies" star who seeks to develop the old Wal-Mart on South Carson Street into an expansive Jethro's Beverly Hillbillies Mansion and Casino.

The threat hasn't jaded the former Hollywood star. Baer continues to seek to develop the property into his casino, even though he is not yet commenting on how he is going to do that with two uncooperative neighbors, Glenbrook Co. and J.C. Penney.

"Ownership is what differentiates us from Socialism," Baer said.

Baer bought the Wal-Mart property for $4.3 million in August 2003 and hasn't been able to start development because of the stalemate. The shopping center rules prohibit the development of a casino. Baer bought the property because he believed the other two property owners in the center would amend the rules.

New London is the small city in Connecticut that is the origin of the Kelo v. New London case. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week in this case that the local government could seize private property, the power of eminent domain, that would then be sold to a private developer for redevelopment. The case was brought by homeowners in a neighborhood community near the Thames River. Officials plan to demolish the neighborhood to make room for an office complex.

The New London decision concerns homes, which Teixeira said he doesn't ever see happening in the area.

"As far as Mr. Baer, let's just see what the future has in store and we'll take it one day at a time," Teixeira said.

Joe McCarthy, Carson City economic development redevelopment manager, said he read the New London majority opinion and it's not something that gives local governments authority to take private property for commercial development.

"The court decided that it's a local issue and communities have to establish their own policies on eminent domain," he said. "The court deferred to New London's decision that the area is severely depressed and needed revitalization."

He said eminent domain should only be used in significantly blighted areas. It has to be a public process and a last resort, and it's seldom used commercial redevelopment. Carson City has never used eminent domain.

Baer said the people will never accept a decision passed down by five judges on the Supreme Court. New London was a 5-4 ruling.

"I think eminent domain is a bad idea," he said. "It borders on Socialism. Unless it's restricted to those things like parks, freeways, schools or something for the common good. But if you extend it so far that to take property for additional tax revenue, you open the door for anything to be taken. That the people won't accept."

n Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at bbosshart@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212.


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