Commissioners Approve Eminent Domain for Justice Improvement Plan
The Benton County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution on Tuesday to use eminent domain to move forward with obtaining a 28-acre plot of land for the proposed justice facilities project.
For several months leading up to the Board’s decision, the county negotiated with a representative of McFadden Ranch, LLC, to purchase approximately 28 acres of an 85-acre site. The objective of the negotiations, which began in September 2021, was to reach a negotiated purchase of the property. However, they were not able to reach an agreement.
Eminent domain is a defined legal process by which governments can acquire private property when it is deemed necessary. If eminent domain is ultimately used a jury will determine the value of the property which the county will be required to pay the current owners.
Neither the Board’s adoption of the Resolution of Necessity, nor proceeding with eminent domain, precludes the county from negotiating a purchase of the property with the owner. The county views eminent domain’s inherent possibility of a negotiated settlement as an advantage, one that provides ample opportunity for the two parties to reach an amicable agreement. At the same time, eminent domain affords the county the opportunity to access the 28-acre parcel before resolution of the eminent domain action, so that any legal process will not jeopardize the project’s timeline dependencies.
Nick Kurth, Manager of the Justice System Improvement Program said in an update on the project to commissioners that any further delays in the project would postpone the vote for funding getting on the May 2023 ballot.
The facilities proposed in the Justice System Improvement Plan include a new correctional facility, courthouse, sheriff’s office, and emergency operations as well as a mental health crisis center. The project is expected to cost around $100 million.