Public Utility Land Grab Hits a Snag

In Springfield, Missouri, the city-owned utility provider–City Utilities–recently attempted to seize a parcel of downtown property in order to build a bus terminal. The owner, Becky Spence, planned to build a luxury hotel that would have been the tallest building in Springfield if completed. KOLR/KSFX reports:

Spence says when CU made it known it wanted to take her land, she tried to compromise.  She says she met with CU managers, offering a portion of the land for the bus terminal.  The rest would be for her hotel.

Spence says City Utilities rejected the offer.  She says she was surprised when CU brought up eminent domain because a study commissioned by CU to find an ideal piece of land ranked her property pretty low on the list.  That’s because the land sits 22 feet below street level.  The bus station is required to be on street level.

Spence says she declared bankruptcy as a last resort, knowing that eminent domain cannot touch a land protected by bankruptcy.

“It provides one more legal step that they have to go through, one more hoop that they have to jump, before they take my land,” says Spence.

It is a sad state of affairs when property owners must declare bankruptcy in order to prevent government theft. Adding insult to injury, her property–being 22 feet below street level–is completely inadequate for the “public purpose” of the proposed project. However, things may be looking up for Ms. Spence. The Springfield City Council has taken an interest in her case, and City Utilities has announced it is now considering building on land already owned by the city.