A full spectrum of voices on a contentious issue are now entered into the public record
By Andrew Harris, pictured is Dr. James Edmonston addressing the village board
The “village hall” in Wellsville was full, with a light overflow, for what was the public hearing of the year. The subject of eminent domain is always contentious, and the property involved impacts many local residents, businesses, and visitors.
Anyone who wanted to speak to the board on the subject of using eminent domain to compell a private landowner to sell a parking lot, had full opportunity. About forty people attended the meeting and many exercised the privilege of addressing the board. Comments were limited to five minutes and after over an hour of public statements, everyone had an opportunity to be “on the record.”
Neither the “pro-eminent domain” and the “anti-eminent domain” voices were overwhelming. Statements by lawyers from both sides clearly laid out the position of their respective clients. Mr. Otero had his full five minutes to speak to the board directly, clearly frustrated that the negotiations had faultered. Toward the end of his statement, Otero rhetorically asked the board, “What are we doing here?”
Prominent village residents spoke to both sides of the debate: Should the government force the sale of private property in this circumstance ? To summarize both arguments:
YES: This parking lot has been used as an open parking lot for decades, many businesses and patrons depend on it, and to lose the parking space would threaten downtown commerce.
NO: This is government over-reach, the negotiations were poorly done, and there are many other parking lots that that village could purchase, some of which are actively for sale.
We asked Mr. Otero, principle of Iris and William LLC, the owner of the parking lot, for his reaction to the meeting:
“In spite of this meeting being held on a major holiday, I would like to thank all who attended.”
At the beginning of the meeting, the attorney representing the village of Wellsville, Emanuela D’Ambrogio, of Hodgson Russ LLP, made a point to announce that anyone from the public may submit a full written statement for the record within 48 hours. Those comments can be delivered to the Village Clerk in person during village business hours(23 North Main Street) or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is next ?
After the 48 period of allowing public comments to be submitted to the village as required by law(see above,) Mayor Shayler explained the board has a decision to make:
“Once we have recieved all the public input and the board has a chance to review those comments we will decide whether to move forward or drop the eminent domain action.”