FLORENCE, Ky. — The city of Florence wants to expand public parking and begin a stormwater relief project in the 200 block of Main Street. But efforts to acquire the real estate from the Church of Scientology of Greater Cincinnati have been unsuccessful and eminent domain, the power of the government to take private property and convert it into public use, may prove to be the only remaining option, city officials said.
“The purpose of this is to provide more public parking and then there’s some downstream stormwater issues that need to be mitigated, so there would be some sort of underground detention facility installed as a part of this,” Hunt said regarding the city’s plan. “At the end of the day, we just can’t get where we need to get with it.”
At issue is a section of parking lot – not a building. Discussions between the city and the church began in 2020, Hunt said.
The church is working with the city on the matter, Church of Scientology officials said.
“We fully support their project,” Olivia McDuff, a public affairs staff member at the Church of Scientology International, said. “We’ve always had good relations with the city. We’re very involved with community work and we think the city’s initiative on this is great. They obviously want to improve the area, so we want to be part of the solution on that.”
The eminent domain proceedings filing will be executed by city attorney Thomas Nienaber in circuit court in the next few days, Hunt said in an email to LINK nky.
“We don’t like to go this route,” Hunt said. “But that’s where we’re at with this. The city does own property that abuts this, where there will be an additional parking lot that will allow for additional public parking through and through. It’s well over 100 (spaces).”
The city has no choice but to initiate eminent domain proceedings, Nienaber said.
Once the petition for eminent domain is filed, the court will appoint three commissioners who will assign a fair market value to the property, with that money then paid into court, Nienaber said.
“It’s kind of a two-step process,” Nienaber said. “One, to determine whether or not there is a public purpose. The second part is to determine the fair market value. The public purpose is obvious here – we need it for parking and water mitigation.”
The church can, during the pendency of the fair market value aspect of the proceedings, go to the clerk and withdraw that money from the courthouse that is assigned to the property through the commissioners, Nienaber said.
“Hopefully we’ll get it resolved at that point,” Nienaber said.
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