Friday, July 07, 2006

St. Anne's Parish vs. Arvada City Council in Eminent Domain Showdown

[Be sure to read the post immediately above this one, as well as my recap written a week later]

My Sunday parish is facing an eminent domain decision in the City Council over a parking lot supposedly needed for a new library. News report summaries:

Arvada City Manager Craig Kocian said the city then began building its new library with a verbal understanding with the parish about use of the lot.

"I think some people would be surprised you went through this without a signed agreement for parking," CBS4 investigator Brian Maass said to Kocian in an interview.

"We literally operated in good faith with the parish," Kocian said. "They indicated they would be glad to collaborate and be part of the parking solution and we took them on their word on this."

Bob Frie, the church's lawyer, said they have tried to work out a deal to lease the land to the city, but he said the city keeps changing the terms.


"It seems to me that we've made them angry and they are going to strike back," Frie said.
CBS4, Denver

The city of Arvada is working toward condemning a church property in Olde Town to build a parking lot for the new Arvada Library set to open this fall.

Arvada City Council approved an ordinance to use eminent domain if needed to acquire the lot owned by Shrine of St. Anne's Catholic Church. A public hearing is set for 7:30 p.m. on July 10.


"The message I'm getting loud and clear is that the City Council's made up its mind," Frie said. "They're condemning this even though the city owns a piece of property of equal size that is adjacent to this and could build their parking ramp on that structure."

The city land near the church is planned as a site for future housing, city officials have said.
Jeffco News

The church's lawyer Bob Frie is a former mayor of Arvada, so the church certainly has experienced counsel.

I initially approached this case with agnosticism. I like libraries, after all. However, there are several oddities which have swayed me against the city council. The government had enough foresight to allocate land for future housing, yet apparently it did not have enough competence to secure parking for a library which has been under construction and planning for several years. The imminent opening of the library ensures these decisions will not be made with due deliberation.

Further, there seems to have been a surfeit of bad information. One of my relatives, an employee of the county library system, thought the land deal had been settled for months. Yet not too long ago the parish pastor announced in the bulletin that announcements of any settlement were incorrect. City Manager Mr. Kocian's words about a good-faith verbal agreement seem to be simple hearsay, insinuating bad faith when there is no corroborating proof that any deal with the proper church authority was even reached.

The city government describes itself thusly:

Citizens of Arvada depend on their city government to provide a variety of services delivered in a professional manner and in an efficient and cost effective way. In Arvada those services include police officers, street maintenance, transportation and traffic control, clean water, a waste water system, accessible parks and trails, thoughtful planning of new neighborhoods, and more.

Perhaps to its array of talents the city should strive to add thoughtful planning of old neighborhoods.

Missing in most of the coverage is the fact that the parking lot and land services not only the parish but the parochial elementary school. I worry for the future of the school if it should lose its closest parking spaces and any space for future expansion. The streets could also become prohibitively crowded during popular holy days, weddings or funerals.

The parish website is here, though unlikely to be updated. The parish's history is available in a chapter from Tom Noel's Colorado Catholicism available here. Noel informs us that Walker Nickless, the new bishop of Sioux City, Iowa, was pastor of St. Anne's back in the 1980s.

The latest report suggests further information will be distributed by the parish on Sunday. I plan to attend the city council meeting scheduled for Monday and to report in this space any substantial developments.

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