City approves use of eminent domainOne business owner stands in the way of new county building.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
The words “eminent domain” are not often heard in Cloquet, so at Tuesday’s Cloquet City Council meeting people paid attention.
“This is used very sparingly,” said Cloquet Mayor Bruce Ahlgren about the term that allows government officials to acquire land in connection with projects which meet certain criteria for the betterment of the city. “But the new [Carlton County community services center] building has been identified as critically important.”
As part of the plan to build a new facility on Avenue B in downtown Cloquet, city officials committed to acquiring certain pieces of property in the area.
Although city officials have been working with property owners and county officials to broker deals in time for a fall ground-breaking, this seems unlikely with one owner in particular, according to City Administrator Brian Fritsinger.
City officials and Wes Vork, owner of parcels along Cloquet Avenue between 11th and 12th streets, have reached an impasse in negotiations, Fritsinger said. During recent discussion, the conversation included the possibility that the city would need to consider the use of eminent domain to close the deal.
For his part, Vork said Wednesday that while he suspected they might end up in an eminent domain situation, he did not “instruct” the city to begin eminent domain proceedings, as stated in the resolution passed unanimously by city councilors Tuesday.
Councilors passed the resolution as required to start the eminent domain process, which will be followed by the filing of a petition with the Sixth District Court stating the proposed public purpose.
The land in question essentially surrounds Vork’s Royal Building, which houses several businesses including Curves fitness center.
“Obviously, when they want to take your property up to, if not under, the back wall of your building, it is a huge concern,” he said, “and while I am disappointed that [the city is] choosing this route … I think it is best for all that this isn’t negotiated in the media.”
Because the new building will keep some 180 jobs in Cloquet and beautify the town, Ahlgren is in favor of eminent domain in this case.
“It’s one of those things cities have to do in order to get projects moving,” he said.