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Eminent domain may be used for Olde Town parking lot
954 S. Main St. NE, image via Google Earth

The city now has eminent domain as leverage in its attempt to turn an Olde Town property into a new parking lot, as City Council approved the tactic on July 15.

Negotiations are already underway for the Main Street Center commercial building and adjacent parking lot at 954 S. Main St. NE, both owned by John Lunsford of Fayetteville. But, City Manager Tony Lucas told the News, Lunsford and the city aren't agreeing on a price. So the city wanted to put a taking by eminent domain on the table.

"It's a precedent to condemnation if we have to file a court action," Lucas said. "[Lunsford is] on notice of this course we can take."

"Olde Town desperately needs parking, as everyone knows," Lucas said, and the city has been eyeing the property as a new lot for more than a year.

Part of the site is frequently used to park vehicles and gear for local movie shoots. The city aims to buy it, tear down the commercial building, and construct a 150-space surface parking lot.

The city has funds to build the lot now, Lucas said. Parking decks would be a possibility on the site if demand and funding came in the future.

The city estimates the land and building's market value to be worth around $400,000 total, Lucas said.

"We're prepared to offer him a fair price," Lucas said, while the owner is understandably seeking "premium dollar."

Lucas noted that if the city did file for taking the property by eminent domain-which involves compensating the owner at fair-market value-it is not a sure thing. It would probably involve a lengthy legal process in court.

The resolution approved by the council authorizes city staff to negotiate for the property without further approvals and to hire a firm of attorneys to press the deal.