Eminent domain off the table until court rules

Eminent domain off the table until court rules
City Attorney Jim Banks

Officials are taking a wait-and-see approach with disputed ownership rights to Wales Alley and a portion of The Strand in Old Town bound for the Virginia Supreme Court, said City Attorney Jim Banks.

The ongoing battle between City Hall, the Old Dominion Boat Club and newcomer Virtue Feed and Grain over control of the alley and adjacent street flared up over the summer when Banks revealed officials had offered $150,000 for the property, which includes a small side parking lot.

At the time, Banks put eminent domain squarely back on the table as an option before city officials. Banks says City Hall will wait for the Virginia Supreme Court to settle the issue before taking any steps forward, with or without eminent domain. The court isn’t expected to wade into the fight until early next year.

All three parties are appealing separate portions of a recent circuit court ruling that ODBC had no ownership claim to the contested alley, but affirmed the right of club members to use the passage, which the city leased to Virtue for use as an outdoor dining area.

Negotiations with the boat club are ongoing, Banks said.He added there is no discussion of using eminent domain to take any other portion of ODBC property, including the organization’s parking lot once included in the city’s proposed waterfront plan as a potential public park.

“The city council’s official position is that they respect [ODBC’s] property rights and they would be happy to negotiate with the boat club, and I think the long-term plan is they would like it to have greater public access there,” he said. “They just don’t want to use eminent domain.”