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Lehigh County officials use eminent domain to take Dime bank

Allentown officials are determined to stay on schedule with plans to buy out and demolish structures in the way of a proposed $100 million ice hockey arena. Demolition crews are set to start clearing the way in November for the Phantoms, a Philadelphia Flyers' minor league team.

Allentown officials secured $35 million in the spring to buy up properties and prepare the construction site. City officials recently moved to make Dime Savings and Trust bank a condemned property. The North Seventh Street building is the second property the city wants to claim by eminent domain.

Officials at Dime bank, which is housed in a structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places, say they are surprised by the city's legal proceedings. The property owner said he believed negotiations with the city over a fair price for the structure were still underway.

Allentown's community and economic development director issued a statement that the city would make an effort to come to terms with property owners, but warned that eminent domain actions were possible. The director declared that the city would not negotiate pricing through the media.

Last month, Allentown officials abandoned talks with a real estate firm, the owners of a property in the 700 block of Hamilton Street. The city entered into an eminent domain action to take the building.

Property owners have about a month to object to the city's actions. If no objection is registered, city officials may assume ownership and let a court work out the value of the property. Dime bank officials have not revealed whether they plan to fight the city's legal maneuvers.

Allentown officials claim they have settled property prices with owners of 25 of the 34 properties targeted for demolition. Six city property purchases have been registered with the county Recorder of Deeds Division.

The planned 8,000-seat ice hockey arena is expected to be completed within two years.

Source: The Morning Call, "Allentown claims 2nd property for arena," Scott Kraus, Sept. 8, 2011


While the eminent domain abuse dialogue often centers on policy issues involving the right to take (economic development or blight), the most blatant abuse occurs when the condemning authority makes “low ball” offers. PA would go a long way towards leveling the playing field between property owners and the condemning authority if they passed legislation allowing attorney fee recovery for property owners affected by eminent domain: http://www.condemnation-law.com/blog/eminent-domain-legislation/2329/eminent-domain-abuse-and-attorney-fee-recovery/

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