WICHITA, Kansas (KSN) — New sports facilities at one Wichita high school means some homeowners are being forced out. Some say they will take it to court. “This could have been handled differently,” says John Layton who lives near North High School. “They told us they were going to get the house one way or another.”
Layton is one of ten property owners who have not come to terms with USD 259 on the sale of their homes. The school district wants the homes gone so it can build much needed parking spaces, new athletic fields and make other improvements. “North High sits on a very crowded space,” says USD 259 school board member Lynn Rogers. “Those kids at North High deserve to have decent facilities.”
And with ten homeowners near North High School not selling, the school district is using the power of eminent domain to acquire those homes. The district previously made offers on the properties. No terms were reached. “Fair market value,” says Rogers. “But they are not selling.”
“No. I didn’t even know what it was,” says Layton of the process of eminent domain. “I still don’t quite understand it. Basically, it seems to me it’s a way of kicking people out of their houses.” Which is true, according to legal analysts.
“The power of eminent domain is often a sad hardship on families who have understandable historical and emotional attachments to their homes,” explains legal analyst Dan Monnat. “Eminent domain is an inherent power of any sovereign state or nation Which allows the sovereign to take or confiscate or expropriate property.”
Some school board members say they are hesitant to use that power. “We’ve not used it often,” explains Rogers. “This is only the second time in the ten years that I’ve been on the board.” USD 259 last used the power of eminent domain in 2005. Linwood Elementary was proposed for building and expansion, but some of the property sat on city park property. Park enthusiasts wanted the park land to stay. It ended up in court, and the school won.
“I guess we will see what comes next,” says Layton. “We will talk to our neighbors here and see what they want to do. This could be a fight.”
KSN TV – By Craig Andres