eminent domain city of milford Annette Billings

Milford City Council drops Billings’ eminent domain case

Katie KazimirAbove the fold, Government, Headlines

eminent domain city of milford Annette Billings

Annette Billings thanks people last week for attending a City Council meeting to support her in the eminent domain case, which the city abandoned Wednesday.

The Milford City Council Wednesday night ended its attempt to take property from Annette Billings to use for a park and voted to end the eminent domain process.

Councilwoman Katrina Wilson made the motion to abolish the city’s right to take private land for public use during a special session Wednesday evening. 

The crowded City Hall chamber erupted into applause as six council members voted “yes” to the historic motion.

“It’s amazing the turnout and support,” Billings said.

There were no votes against the motion. Two councilmen chose to abstain: Daniel Marabello and Michael Boyle, both of Ward 1.

“As much as this was a black mark for the City Council, it was an amazing testament to the power of citizens coming to the rescue of their fellow citizens,” said Billings’ lawyer Ron Poliquin.

Billings was served a lawsuit Jan. 25 notifying her that 8.08 acres of her land, which was in a family trust, was being condemned so Milford could use it to complete a park and bike/pedestrian path to connect its four wards.

“I never dreamed in a million years it would end up like this,” Billings said Wednesday evening.

eminent domain city of Milford Annette Billings

THIS MAP SHOWS HOW ANNETTE BILLINGS’ PROPERTY, TO THE LEFT IN WHITE, ENCLOSES THE PROPERTY THE CITY BROUGHT FROM HER BROTHER, WHICH IS MARKED IN LINES SLANTING TO THE RIGHT.

Wilson said the decision made by City Council to explore the possibilities of extending Milford parks was based on the city’s comprehensive plans and aimed at enhancing community space.

“While I fully support the idea of expanding our parks. I want to make it clear that I do not condone the notion of taking land unjustly,” she said.

The eminent domain move outraged many Milford residents who thought it was wrong for a government to be able to take private property, even for parks.

It was a hot topic on social media and one Milford real estate agent even had a billboard erected that accused the council and city officials of theft.

Others created a webpage documenting the eminent domain case. More than 100 showed up to a council meeting last week and again on Wednesday night to show their opposition to the move. 

The city argued this week that taking the property through eminent domain was legal — even if the property was outside city limits — and that Billings would have been paid $20,000 for property that was not even on tax rolls. 

The city needed the property to be able to access the 19-plus acres it bought from Billings brother for more than $500,000.

Residents who supported the move felt like the council was being bullied. The city said Billings’ supporters had verbally attacked council members and city employees.

“To those employees who have been attacked for simply carrying out their duties, I extend my sincere apologies. It is unfair to them to be targeted in this way,” said Wilson.

“I don’t think there was a single person who was for Milford and against Billings,” said Sue Lindale, an avid bicyclist who opposed the bike path.

Lindale and her husband Tim said most cyclists wouldn’t have used the proposed bike path because it would not connect to any roads Milford cyclists used.

Going forward, Wilson said constructive dialogue and cooperation are key to finding solutions to city issues.

“I urge you to refrain from adopting a negative tone that may come across as bullying or intimidation,” she said.

 

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