Stadium Land Fight Goes to Court

As Major League Baseball continues to deliberate over whether to accept the D.C. Council's baseball stadium spending cap, another player will enter the stadium game today at 9:30 a.m. That's when D.C. Superior Court Judge Joan Zeldon will conduct the first hearing on the fight over land for the stadium project.

As you might recall, the District government is using eminent domain to take possession of about 17 plots that are privately held near South Capitol Street SE and the Navy Yard. Most of the land owners are fighting the city in court. Although city lawyers in October seized the titles to the properties, Zeldon has yet to rule on the District's motion last month asking her for the right to remove the property owners and take full possession of the land. The city asked for that legal authority to be granted Feb. 7.

Today, lawyers for the city and the land owners will appear before Zeldon. Also, Zeldon requested that a representative of DC CFO Natwar M. Gandhi discuss whether the city is ready to issue construction bonds for the project. Gandhi has said he will issue bonds only after MLB endorses the council's spending cap, which would give final approval to the lease agreement. Under the council's legislation, MLB has until March 6 to make a decision about the spending cap and stadium lease.

Whether Zeldon will rule on the case before MLB makes its position known is unclear. Most land-use experts say the city is likely to prevail in its attempt to take possession of the land. The city needs access to the land as soon as possible because the stadium is supposed to open by March 2008--a tight timeline under any circumstances.

UPDATE at 1:15 p.m -- Judge Zeldon has made her statement in the case.

By David Nakamura |  February 24, 2006; 7:00 AM ET
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The stadium need to be relocated 250 feet east, or cancelled and replaced with a refurbished RFK Stadium on the East Capitol axis, as the existing site complicates the AWI tunnel and blocks the Mall-like linear park proposed by National Capital Planning Commission's 1997 publication extending the Legacy.

Such bad planning can only ultimately lead to a backlash against the groups that said nothing to warn the public about this planning bait and switch.

Posted by: Douglas Willinger | February 24, 2006 07:45 PM

We all know that progress means change, but some of the questions we should be asking ourselves include what role the government should have in promoting private development, and when do the means justify the end? I think itís fair to say that the authors of the Constitution didnít envision eminent domain as a vehicle for social change, so we need to ask ourselves when, or if, itís the right thing to do.

Now, Iíll be the first to agree that the area for he proposed stadium isnít being utilized to its fullest potential benefit to the city, but does that mean we should allow the government to step in and take peopleís homes, businesses and jobs away in order to give them to someone else? Is it OK to take those properties because the city will be able to generate more tax revenue for social programs, maybe provide more jobs? In addition to homes and warehouses, the area also includes several adult venues. Maybe you donít approve of those activities; itís certainly a topic subject to debate, but the question becomes, is eminent domain an appropriate means to change the character of a neighborhood? Would it be different, for example, if we had low income housing for the elderly on the location, and planned to take that away? Are there other, better ways to guide private development?

Posted by: SW Resident | February 26, 2006 10:11 AM

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