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City’s eminent domain suit for NGA land expanded

courtesy National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
The proposed site for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in north St. Louis.

The city of St. Louis’ work to gain control 100 acres of the north side is not over yet.

This week the city amended its eminent domain lawsuit, adding 13 more properties. The original suit, filed late last year, included 31 parcels.

It’s part of the city’s dogged efforts to win the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s new $1.6 billion facility. St. Louis is competing with St. Clair County, which has offered nearly 400 acres of farmland to the federal government free of cost, later promising another $115 in infrastructure. Earlier this month, the city did the same, waiving an estimated $14 million cost for its urban land. Currently the NGA is located south of downtown St. Louis.

Yet the city has to get agreements for the more than 550 parcels located in its proposed site. Officials say many of those named in the lawsuit have agreements with the city.

"There are very few that we have, quite honestly, in which there is a dispute on value," said Gerard Carmody, an eminent domain attorney representing the city. "There are a few, but the vast majority of the parcels we’ve filed on relate to title issues."

(You can read about one couple that’s fighting the sale here.)

A hearing on the amended suit is scheduled for April 4. Carmody said getting the judge’s approval to use eminent domain is really the key issue.

"What the NGA is concerned with is our right to acquire all of these [properties], that it be in place by their decision date," he said. "We believe that is the case."

Three commissioners appointed by Circuit Court Judge David Dowd will determine the value of the property after viewing it and getting evidence from owners in a court hearing expected in April. Judge Dowd has set a May 19 deadline for the commissioners’ determination.

Carmody said the city hopes the commissioners will file their report sooner.

Both the city and property owners have the right to appeal the commissioners’ decision and seek a jury trial, he said.

NGA director Robert Cardillo is expected to release a preliminary decision about where the facility will move on April 1. There will be a public comment period following that, and the final decision is expected in the late spring or early summer.

Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman

Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.