City Council to discuss acquiring property

By Gus Bode

The Carbondale City Council will decide how the city will acquire some desired land during tonight’s City Council meeting at 7 p.m.

Carbondale possesses the eminent domain authority to acquire property for public use, but the city wants to buy six parcels of land to make available for private redevelopment.

“The use of eminent domain for redevelopment projects is something that hasn’t been done in Carbondale for 20 years – but it is something common throughout municipalities,” said City Manager Jeff Doherty.


Although the authorization of eminent domain is sometimes seen as the last chance for negotiations, Doherty said that is not always the case.

“It is not uncommon to be authorized to use eminent domain if that is what is needed to acquire the property, “he said. “Many times we are successful in negotiations and are not required to use it.”

The property the city wants to acquire is located on the corner of East Walnut and South Marion streets. Currently, five rental properties and an empty lot occupy the desired area.

Barrett Rochman, who owns two-thirds of the desired property, wants to sell. However, the other property owner, Robert Irvin, wants to retain the land but might be willing to part with it if the price is right.

“We have the right to keep our property,” Rochman said. “But I own two-thirds of that property, and I would love for it to go to a better, higher use for the city.”

Rochman called Irvin an “obstructionist” whose only goal is to get more money from the city.

“The city worked diligently and tried to be reasonable. I know Mr. Irvin from the past. He will be totally unreasonable. He wants a quarter of a million for his property.”


The equalized assessed valuation of the property owned by Irvin was $24,000 in 2002.

The Irvins declined to comment on the negotiations.

The location is an important factor in deciding whether to adopt the eminent domain authority to acquire land for private development, according to City Councilwoman Sheila Simon.

“This is not typically done outside of a TIF district,” Simon said. “But the city has gone through the process of saying that this is a blighted area. We want to see development there. This is one of the things that the TIF district sets up the opportunity to do.”

The TIF district is an economic development tool that enables local governments to restore run-down areas and jumpstart economically sluggish parts of the city. It allows the city to make improvements to the property and provide incentives to attract private investment and improve existing businesses – without tapping into general funds or raising local property taxes.

Rochman said now is the time to allow for the development to occur.

“They have a buyer for this,” Rochman said. “There are people who are ready to buy, build and to add to the tax base. You’re hearing about the poor guy getting bulldozed by the big bad city. This isn’t the case at all. The big city wants to provide something to service the whole city.

“This is commercial dollars and cents. We are renting in that area; we are making money in that area. We are not being ripped or stripped of our property without real good compensation.”

The Carbondale City Council will meet at 7 tonight in the Carbondale Civic Center. The public is encouraged to attend.