Letter to the Editor

Eminent domain near the new middle school

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

I am writing to address a comment that was made during the March 9 Milford Council Meeting by an Okoboji School District employee in regard to the city of Milford using eminent domain to take property from her family in the late 1990s. This comment came about because the Milford City Council had passed a resolution taking a formal position against the Okoboji School District Board of Education's action to use eminent domain to take private property.

First there is a process for eminent domain that a public entity must take. It requires a resolution to start the process, a public hearing, possible establishment of a commission and it may end up going to court for possible appeals. The process of eminent domain is not a quick or simple process.

For a local governmental body like a county, school or city, the first step for eminent domain is an approved resolution stating the purpose for the eminent domain and then hold a public hearing. Any resolution and public hearing needs to be part of public records and at minimum would be reflected in the meeting minutes. The meeting minutes are permanent records for the public to be able to look back at actions and motions of the governmental body.

City staff and I have spent several hours reviewing minutes, resolutions and other documents from 1994 through 1998. As mayor I am issuing this statement, "The Milford City Council made no motions, considered no resolutions and made no mention of use of eminent domain for the Milford Community Center Project. All of the properties (8.5 lots in total) were purchased before the end of 1997 from negotiations between the Milford Community Center Association and the four property owners. The negotiations with all properties took less than three months."

The comment made at the Milford City Council meeting on March 9, was made because the Milford City Council passed a motion against the Okoboji School Board of Education resolution to use eminent domain on two properties in the city of Milford. According to minutes, the Okoboji Community School Board of Education met on May 13, 2019, and during this meeting is was moved to approve a "Resolution approving the project and authorizing consideration of acquisition of real estate and potential use of eminent domain on properties at 1602 6th Street, Milford and 803 H Avenue, Milford." The resolution further details the "project" is known as the 2019 Okoboji Community School District track and field improvement project and is described as follows:

"Construction of track and field improvements, including parking lot and maintenance/storage facility for the use, safety and/or benefit of students and staff of the district." Since the school resolution passed, the Okoboji School District has reached an agreement with the property owners at 1602 6th Street. The property at 803 H Avenue, owned by Don and Judy Brinkley is still possible for eminent domain.

The Milford City Council resolution was from March 9, 2020, and the council passed a "resolution against the use of eminent domain by the Okoboji Community School Board." The resolution further details the Okoboji School District has over 4 acres of grass to the north and west of the Okoboji High School that could be used for additional parking areas or structures.

The Brinkleys have lived in their home next to the current Okoboji High School for over 50 years and are now in their 80s and the Okoboji School District is looking to take their home (on 1/3 of an acre).

Mayor Steve Anderson