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Council Votes 7-2 for Eminent Domain

November 7, 2018

The building at 75 Arcand Drive, with Lowell High looming in the background. (SUN FILE PHOTO) Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

LOWELL -- The City Council voted to take 75 Arcand Drive by eminent domain Tuesday night, a month after the council approved a $2.6 million loan order to pay for the medical offices -- a 62,293 square-foot property that’s key for the downtown high school project.

The council voted 7-2 for the land taking, with City Councilors Rodney Elliott and Rita Mercier in opposition. Elliott and Mercier supported a new high school at Cawley Stadium last year, but that plan did not go forward after a citywide ballot referendum vote went the way of downtown.

The eminent-domain vote Tuesday night was without any discussion.

City Manager Eileen Donoghue said after the meeting that the taking was another positive step in the process.

The next step is paying the property owners. The city has been speaking to the doctors’ attorney, she said.

“That (payment) will hopefully happen relatively soon,” she said. “We’re trying to see if there’s the possibility of resolution as we move forward.”

The owners of the medical building can challenge the assessment from the city, resulting in litigation, but that will not stop the high school process, Donoghue has said.

The city has to comply with the schedule set by the Massachusetts School Building Authority. The city has to file the land-taking with the state by February.

The state will not compensate the costs associated with the land-taking or the relocation of the affected tenants. Funding for this will come from the city, specifically via bonds.

“Everybody’s pretty much set on the need to do this, in order for the project to be successful,” Mayor William Samaras said after the meeting.

Another step in the process includes the relocation plan for the six doctors who are getting displaced. The state has approved the plan.

However, questions remain about where the doctors will end up, as well as how much the relocation will cost. The final relocation costs won’t be known until the doctors relocate.

The estimated relocation costs are in the $4 million range, according to the city’s consultant. The doctors’ consultant is estimating around $6 million.

In the city’s relocation plan, nearly two-dozen potential properties to relocate the doctors were listed. The doctor’s lawyer, Peter Flynn, has said the sites the city listed are not suitable.

The doctors at 75 Arcand Drive are: Dr. Evan Coravos, Dr. Stephen Reichheld, Dr. Christopher Ross, Dr. Michael Szarek, Dr. Aaron Watman and Dr. George Montminy.

Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun.

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