The village of Waterville has started eminent domain proceedings to take over a former restaurant downtown, demolish the building, and turn the site into a parking lot.
Village council voted 4-1 on Monday to begin eminent domain proceedings for a property at 11 North Third St. along the Anthony Wayne Trail. Councilman Joe Beckler was absent and Councilman Norm Witzler dissented.
Eminent domain allows governments to seize private property for a purpose that serves the public interest. A court must review each eminent domain claim and decide whether it is valid and determine fair compensation for the municipality to pay property owners.
"Our goal would be to negotiate the purchase of that property," village Administrator Jim Bagdonas said. "Even though we're taking this action to set up the eminent domain procedure, we certainly would hope to reach an agreed-on price and cancel the eminent domain proceedings."
The property, which has been owned for more than 20 years by Culvur and Marie Knollman, includes a vacant gray building that used to be a restaurant. The Knollmans have hired attorney Marvin A. Robon to fight the eminent domain process.
"They really have no interest in selling," Mr. Robon said. "They want to find a tenant for the building."
Mr. Bagdonas said the city has received a federal Community Development Block Grant for $78,500 to pay for buying the building, demolishing it, and paving a new parking lot. He said the former restaurant has been vacant for several years.
"Additional parking is going to be beneficial for the downtown," Mr. Bagdonas said. "That is a key corner leading into the village. Getting more parking and improving the appearance of that corner are our two main goals."
For eminent domain proceedings to continue, council would have to pass another resolution approving legal action.