(The above is an artist’s rendering of a possible development.)

Citing the need for action on a multi-million dollar Columbus improvement project, Mayor Robert Smith and the Columbus City Council approved beginning eminent domain action on two occupied houses and 10 vacant lots or houses in the Burns Bottom area downtown Columbus.

John Acker, president of the Columbus Redevelopment Authority (CRA), asked the Columbus City Council on Tuesday to consider eminent domain action on the 12 properties. In each of the cases, the land and/or house have been appraised and the owners have been offered the appraisal value but have chosen not to sell. After considering the action, the City Council passed the request with a unanimous vote to proceed.

The CRA has worked for over four years to develop the area of Burns Bottom in downtown Columbus to make the combined properties available to developers for new housing and multi-use projects.

There are 74 pieces of property involved in the eight-square-block area. The area is bordered on the South by Second Avenue North to the North by Seventh Avenue North and bordered to the East by Fifth Street North and to the West by Third Street North.

The eminent domain action request was strongly considered by the CRA before making the request. Following the meeting with the Columbus City Council, John Acker said: “I truly regret and deeply wish it had not come down to this action tonight. We do not take lightly the magnitude of this action, but we have exhausted all other means. We have attempted to work with these property owners since early 2015, in that four and one-half-year span we have offered open dialogue and a desire to reach a fair and equitable settlement. Every attempt has been made to work with the property owners and come to a satisfactory conclusion. I am grateful to Mayor Smith and the Columbus City Council for their unanimous vote Tuesday evening.”

“It truly saddens me deeply, but in my opinion this neighborhood has not invested in itself and kept up the properties in a sufficient manner to increase home and property values,” he said. “The City of Columbus and the Redevelopment Authority are doing their very best to enhance and grow our city in order to reach its maximum potential. The CRA feels that we must press forward through these growing pains while realizing short term discomfort is worth a long term positive solution. We would ask that all of our citizens and stake holders join with us in striving forward to reach the extraordinary results we all desire.”

”This request is truly a last resort option and we hold out hope that the properties can be purchased without any legal action,” Acker added.

The CRA is made up of five members appointed by the mayor and city council. They are Acker, Robert Rhett, Mathalie Porter, Mark Castleberry and Mark Alexander. The board was formed in 2014 and currently has holdings of over $400,000.

The Packet will have more on this story in next week’s print edition.