Ogden city may use eminent domain for Dee Elementary

Feb 10 2013 - 11:39pm

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OGDEN -- A new Dee Elementary School in Ogden may require the city to take some inner-city homes through eminent domain.

The city council has approved a resolution that authorizes the city to enter into an interlocal agreement with the Ogden School District for the property acquisition and development of a new Dee Elementary School, which would be built on

5 acres west of Liberty Park, on the west side of the 2100 block of Madison Avenue.

As part of the agreement, the school district would transfer the existing Dee School site, at 550 22nd St., to the city Jan. 1, 2016. The city would then develop new inner-city housing at the site.

The city says the new school will improve the private investment in the area, expand the community's economic base and generate additional tax revenue that will help fund needed service in the area.

Ward Ogden, the city's deputy community development director, said the area near the Dee School has an owner-occupancy of 16 percent, with the rest of the area's residents being renters. About 46 percent of the residents are below the poverty line.

The city has also committed to making improvements on Madison Avenue between 21st and 22nd streets, and to fund improvements that would allow for the shared use of Liberty Park. The cost for the improvements is estimated to be $162,000.

With the city acting as acquisition agent for the school district, several properties at the site of the new school will have to be acquired, using eminent domain if necessary. Several Ogden residents would be displaced as a result.

Amy Wicks was the lone dissenting vote among the seven council members.

Wicks said the Ogden School District campus is less than 0.04 miles from the current Dee School and has space for the new elementary school.

"I think we have the opportunity to build a great community school without taking properties through eminent domain," she said. "Eminent domain should be a tool of last resort, and I don't think in this situation it is when you have a property that's so close that would be a viable alternative."

Wicks also said she disagrees with using city staff and resources to that end.

During a public comment period for the resolution, only a few residents living near the proposed Dee Elementary School spoke, all saying they approved of the project.

A schedule for the project shows that the next year will be spent acquiring the land for the school.

Financing will likely be secured between January and May of 2014.

Construction on the new school will tentatively take place from May 2014 through August 2015.

It is anticipated that the school will be open for the 2015-2016 school year.

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