The [Boynton Beach] Community Redevelopment Agency Tuesday approved an agreement that it join the City Commission to take more than 15 properties in the Heart of Boynton neighborhood by eminent domain.
The agreement, which still must be approved by the city, would set in motion a process to condemn properties along Martin Luther King Jr. and Seacrest boulevards. The project is the first phase of a plan to redevelop the area.
"It's something that should have been done three years ago," said Jeanne Heavilin, agency chairwoman.
After months of negotiations, the agency convinced fewer than half of the more than 30 property owners in the neighborhood to either sell or go along with the plan. Roberts Restaurant, the EZ Market and Triumph the Church of Kingdom of God, at Martin Luther King Jr. and Seacrest boulevards, are among the properties recommended for acquisition by eminent domain.
Board member Don Fenton, who cast the only "no" vote, said it was wrong for cities to take people's property for economic reasons.
"I simply will not vote to put people out of their homes," he said.
Other board members pointed out that most of the properties slated for eminent domain are churches, businesses and vacant lots. All the single-family homes have already been purchased, they said.
The allegation that people will be driven out of their homes "is just utter nonsense," Vice Chairman Henderson Tillman said. "I'm appalled by that."
Property owners will get fair-market value for their land under eminent domain. Those who sold earlier to the CRA received more than fair market value for their properties, plus relocation money.
CRA members said negotiations with the property owners will continue, but the agreement sets the conditions to declare eminent domain. It also says that expenses associated with the process will be paid by the CRA.
"There will still be notices, negotiations and a waiting period," City Manager Kurt Bressner said. "The soonest anything would happen would be the end of the year."