by Jason Ludwig
The Arizona Board of Regents unanimously approved on Thursday ASU's request to initiate eminent-domain proceedings for the empty property at 740 E. Apache Boulevard that once was the site of Timberwolf Pub & Grill.
The motion came despite the objections of local real-estate lawyer and ASU adjunct professor Grady Gammage, Jr. and the property's current owner, Ray Evans.
Rich Stanley, ASU's University Planner at the meeting of the board, said ASU will move forward with its desires to expand the Barrett Honors College on the property.
"At this point, we have been unable to reach an agreement with the owner of the property," Stanley said.
The University has commissioned two appraisals on the property, the first valuing the land at $1.2 million and the second valuing it at $1.7 million.
ASU wants the land, which is surrounded on all sides by University property, to expand the honors college. A University memo stated the owner was unwilling to sell for less than $2 million, and "the only way to acquire the property for the fair market value will be through an eminent-domain proceeding."
The memo also said "the property owner is amenable to a sale via eminent domain and has indicated that he is willing to allow the sale price to be determined in this way."
Gammage, addressing the Board from a letter read aloud by a spokesperson on Evans' behalf, condemned the use of eminent domain as a means of acquiring the land and denied that Evans was "amenable" to setting the price that way. Gammage said Evans did not want to sell the property at the university's offered price of $1.6 million because it was "10 percent less than the University's own appraisal," and that he believes the actual value of the property is between $2.75 million and $3.5 million.
Gammage closed by saying that the letter did not represent "a friendly condemnation proceeding," and noted that Evans had retained counsel with the intention of fighting eminent domain acquisition.
"The statement that the property owner wanted to retain and develop the property is not consistent. The idea... is a new one to us," Stanley said.
ASU President Michael Crow said he would try other methods of acquiring the property, adding that mediation and further appraisals were possible.
"Only as a last resort [will we] exercise the right of eminent domain."
Crow said ASU wants to pay the value of the appraisal that it gathered.
"This is a dispute over price," Crow said. "At the end of the day it always comes down to price. We can use eminent domain to set that price."
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