August 22, 2008

Eminent domain may be used to take property for new schools

There’s a growing likelihood that the city will use eminent domain to buy at least one of the two proposed sites for new schools.
Relying on eminent domain to take the sites eyed for the new 900-student schools in Forestville and West Bristol may prove “the fairest and most appropriate way” for the city to take ownership of the land needed, said Tom O’Brien, the Board of Education spearheading the effort.
The city has two independent appraisals of each of the locations under consideration for the schools, officials said, and would have a hard time justifying paying more than the highest value assigned to either site, officials said.
But taking the property by eminent domain would allow the property owner to try to convince a judge that the price ought to be higher, O’Brien said.
The sites selected for the schools are the former Crowley dealership on Pine Street and a former sand pit owned by Scalia Construction off Barlow Street.
Only one of the four relevant appraisals has leaked. A secret appraisal done in January by Aldieri Associates of the 36 acres on Barlow Street pegs the land’s value at $1.5 million.
It isn’t clear why the other appraisals have not been released since the property owners have seen them, several officials said. Real estate negotiations can, by law, remain secret.
O’Brien said that the state is willing to pay 73.9 percent of the cost of the school project, including the purchase of property for the buildings.
However, it won’t pay anything at all for anything the city pays over and above the figure in the highest appraisal for either parcel, he said.
That means that if the city can’t convince a property owner to sell the land for the highest appraised figure, it only has three options: to pay more out of its own coffers, to use eminent domain or to pick another site.
If the city uses eminent domain, the state will pay 73.9 percent of whatever price a court eventually pegs as the land’s value, which could be substantially higher than any of the appraisals have figured.
As a result, at least one of the property owners – Scalia Construction – has indicated it would prefer to try to get more money in court than to accept the appraised value for its land, several officials said.
It isn’t clear if Crowley is content with the appraised figure or not.
City councilors and the two school building committees working on the project are slated to hold a joint session in the coming weeks.
Chris Wilson, a Board of Education member who sits on the West Bristol School Building Committee, said the goal is “to move the process forward” by sharing information.
The school panels are currently advertising for architects who can produce the detailed work that will be needed for construction on both sites.
The long-term plan calls for closing Memorial Boulevard Middle School and three older elementary schools – O’Connell, Greene-Hills and Bingham.Students in the other two middle schools, at Northeast and Chippens Hill, would not switch to a K-8 system when the new schools open, educators have said.
It appears the soonest that construction could begin on new schools would be the summer of 2010, which would put the earliest possible opening day for new schools in 2012.
The last time the city relied on eminent domain for a significant project was the seizure of the Bugryn family’s Middle Street land to create a new industrial park. It wound up taking years and a lengthy court case to resolve.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at


Anonymous said...

Very interesting. Thanks, Steve!

Anonymous said...

Here we go again with Eminent Domain! Hasn't the City learned anything from prior recent experiencce?? How many years will this be tied up in Court? What will it cost for attorneys, appraisers, erc.? Unbelievable!

Anonymous said...

Many thanks to Tommy "Gotbucks" O'Brien for explaining to the sellers the best way to extort more money from the taxpayers.

Court resolution should only add a few years onto the process.

With Arty negotiating and Tommy O advising the sellers we are in great shape.

Moving Bristol For"Ward"... to hell in a hand basket...

Steve Collins said...

Setting the price could be in court for awhile, but once the city owns the land, the case won't delay school construction.
And I think most people would agree that taking land for schools is something quite different than taking land for economic development.

Anonymous said...

No one in the west end goes to school anyway. What a waste of taxpayers time and money.

Anonymous said...

O'Brien is shooting off at the mouth when he shouldn't. He has no say in the matter of the city taking anything by eminent domain.

It took the City how many years to pull complete eminent domain thing from the Bugryns?

O'Brien should just deal with the funeral home and nothing else. He shouldn't be allowed to make decisions for people that are actually alive.

Anonymous said...

I thought one of the reasons for choosing the Scalia site was b/c the city coudl avoid eminent domain. If we have resort to this, then you might as well pick a better site. Our leadership is ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

I think this would be an appropriate time to use eminent domain....especially since Crowley seems to have his golden plan held out waiting for a $4million dollar payout for his grossly overvalued property. If that land was worth what he is seeking for it, don't you think a commercial developer would have purchased it by now?

stop O'Brien now said...

I believe the man is certifiably nuts.

Anonymous said...

Use the mall site instead of Scalia. No eminent domain needed because nobody wants it.

Perhaps we can get some of our 8 million back from the state and construct something that improves the appearance of our downtown.

Odin said...

The reason the Buggryn eminent domain thing delayed construction of the industrial park is because there was federal money involved, and the fed's said they wouldn't give us the money until that was resolved. We owned the land from day one, but without construction funding in the bank the city wisely did not sign any contracts with a construction company. That's not the case here, so there won't be the interminable holdup.

Anonymous said...

The closer the Rt. 72 project gets to completion, the more the Crowley parcel will be worth for commercial development because there will be an exit right there on Lincoln Av which will make it more viable. Ken Crowley knows that and that's why he's holding out.

Anonymous said...

The city should use eminent domain to take O'Brien Funeral Home. Then make it into a new home for the board of education.

Anonymous said...

The Bugryn thing was atypical of how these usually go and can mostly be attributed to former Mayor Nicastro being a moron.

Anonymous said...

you would think ken crowley would donate the land to bristol for a school, and it could be named:

"Crowley K-8 School"

if you're not happy, he wants to know !!!

-billy from bristol