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Clayton property owners launch initiative petition to block redevelopment

By Kevin Lavery, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – The Clayton Committee to Stop Abuse of Eminent Domain opposes plans by the Centene Corporation to build a new office and retail complex the company says would yield more than 800 new jobs.

Group attorney Laura Dierberg Ayers says that would displace about 100 workers in an existing building, and that the city is using legal tools to declare the property blighted.

"And we really object to the fact that someone feels that they can come in and whatever carrot that they're dangling before the city of Clayton take our property away," Ayers said. "At what time does no not mean no?"

Both Clayton and Centene officials say the process includes safeguards to help owners relocate.

While the city has given the company eminent domain authority, Centene spokesman Bob Schenk says they're hoping not to use it.

"The mayor and the board of aldermen ensured that Clayton property owners would be protected by having a number of safeguards built in," Schenk said. "And we have added to that by ensuring them that we will assist them with their relocation. But at the end of the day, it's about a nearly $200 million investment into a region that has lost several corporate clients in the last couple of years.

Ayers and Schenk made their comments Tuesday while appearing on KWMU's talk show program, "St. Louis on the Air."