Council OKs eminent domain for IKEA traffic

Posted 12/16/10

In anticipation of IKEA’s scheduled arrival next year, the Centennial City Council has cleared the way for exercising its eminent-domain powers to …

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Council OKs eminent domain for IKEA traffic


In anticipation of IKEA’s scheduled arrival next year, the Centennial City Council has cleared the way for exercising its eminent-domain powers to help build a turn lane in conjunction with the popular furniture retailer.

IKEA is likely to generate significant traffic in the area near Park Meadows mall when the 415,000-square-foot store opens a year from now. The business is expected to serve as an anchor to about 3 million square feet of nearby retail and other commercial uses west of I-25 between Dry Creek and County Line roads.

“I would project on opening day of IKEA, backing-up traffic in the mainline of I-25, probably a couple miles in each direction. [That] is what we’re expecting and trying to avoid and mitigate as best we can,” public works director Dave Zelenok told the council at its Dec. 13 meeting.

According to a city report, Chester Street’s southbound traffic frequently blocks access points to some businesses adjacent to the IKEA site during peak travel times. Zelenok expects IKEA’s arrival to increase the frequency and severity of the back-ups.

To help reduce congestion, city plans call for a proposed right-turn lane on southbound Chester. The lane would facilitate vehicles exiting the cluster onto westbound County Line.

City officials have initiated discussions with Bank of the West, the property owner, to purchase the necessary 1,000 to 1,500 square feet of land. Such talks are the “preferred method” to negotiate a sale, according to Mike Connor, Centennial’s deputy public-works director.

“It is doable for us to complete that project, provided we can control the timeline,” Connor told the council. “While we would prefer the acquisition of the property through good-faith negotiations, eminent domain is necessary in order for us to control that timeline.”

Eminent domain, the forced sale of private property to a government for “public good,” is permitted under the Centennial Home Rule Charter passed by voters. Six of nine councilmembers must vote to approve such actions and “just compensation” must be paid to the property owner.

Eminent domain would only be exercised if timely discussions failed. At that point, if an Arapahoe County court were to approve the city’s eminent-domain petition, the judge would appoint a three-member commission of Arapahoe County landowners to determine the property’s fair market value.

“Even though it’s difficult, there is a true public need here,” Mayor Cathy Noon said. “It’s our desire to do this [by] negotiation with the property owner, but the eminent domain does help us control the timeline.”

District 3 Councilmember Rebecca McClellan said there was also a safety-related reason for Centennial to potentially take unilateral action on the matter.

“[The intersection] of Chester and County Line makes our Top 10 accident-report list and has for some time. So I do recognize the urgency,” she said. “But it would have been our preference to get a little heavier on the negotiations before bringing up the issue of eminent domain.”

Only District 2 Councilmember Keith Gardner voted against the ordinance after he questioned city staff on potential alternatives.

Although Gardner did not elaborate on his vote, he briefly cited Kelo v. City of New London, the controversial U.S. Supreme Court case in which “economic development” was found to be a legitimate justification for eminent domain.


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