Judge taps the brakes on Douglas County’s eminent domain proceedings for downtown building

September 20, 2018

A judge has tapped the brakes on Douglas County’s effort to take a downtown building by eminent domain for a proposed county building project.

Douglas County District Judge Peter Bataillon issued a temporary restraining order Tuesday against the county taking title to architect Bob Perrin’s building at 420 S. 18th St. The order puts the eminent domain process on hold until Bataillon considers Perrin’s argument that the county doesn’t have the standing to use eminent domain authority to force him to sell the building to the county.

Perrin contends that the eminent domain action would have to be done by the Omaha-Douglas Public Building Commission and would need the City of Omaha’s approval.

Perrin made the arguments in a lawsuit filed Monday in Douglas County District Court. He’s asking the court to block the county from acquiring his property.

Bataillon also told Perrin on Monday that he had to allow a court-appointed panel of appraisers, an environmental assessment team and relocation experts to inspect the property in preparation for setting a price. Perrin said he allowed the team into the building Tuesday.

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The way the process works, once the appraisers set a price and the county and the judge in the eminent domain case sign off on it, the county could submit a check for that price, receive the title and take possession of the property.

That would mean the county could demolish the property. The Douglas County Board wants the property as part of a site for a new courthouse annex and youth detention center. Perrin turned down the county’s offer to buy it for $900,000. He has said he wants to preserve and renovate the building.

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Bataillon’s action means the appraisers can do their work to determine a price but can’t actually set a price yet, said Perrin’s attorney, David Domina. The order is good for 10 days, or until a hearing can be conducted.

The county agreed to the temporary restraining order.

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