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Dane Co. Exec Says Eminent Domain Decision Reflects A Trend

By: Dana Brueck
By: Dana Brueck

You might think your home is the best use of the property it sits on, but if government disagrees, you could lose it.

The U.S. Supreme Court has expanded the powers of eminent domain, but Dane County's executive says the court's decision does not surprise her.

Nearly two years after Dotty Dumpling's Dowry opened in a new location ... Burger business continues to sizzle.

Owner Jeff Stanley says "overall, it's wonderful."

But how owner Jeff Stanley got to Frances Street and University Avenue still leaves a bad taste in his mouth.

"What cities do is they take property and businesses and then try to get them out of there for unjust compensation," he says.

Back in 2001, the former Dotty's crumbled.
Eminent domain allowed the city to condemn Stanley's restaurant to make room for the Overture Center.

"I'm happy this is bringing more culture, beauty and people into the city. What I'm angry about is how they took my business and said tough and give you nothing."

That is why this week's Supreme Court decision expanding the power of eminent domain worries Stanley.

Justices ruled 5-to-4 that government can take private property for private development as long as the landowner is given just compensation.

"Most cities are brutal about just compensation," Stanley says.

Dane County executive Kathleen Falk says the decision reflects a trend. Nowadays governments often rely on private developers for a boost.

"Given how hard taxes hit people, they appreciate what the private sector is trying to do ... to help invest in communities and that will be what we need in future," Falk says.

But she says Dane County has worked with people willing to sell so far.

"When we buy parks for example, we do not condemn or take anyone's land," Falk says.

Still, the Supreme Court's decision suggests Dane county could ... for the purpose of economic development.

"Anybody that follows Americana realizes this is a blow against John Q citizen and what we believe is our liberty and our rights," Stanley says.

The court's decision comes from a case involving Connecticut homeowners and city leaders who wanted their property for a business park.

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