Red Lion votes again to use eminent domain in parking lot dispute

RED LION, Pa. - Borough Council once again voted to use eminent domain Monday in a property dispute with a neighboring business owner, but this time, the verdict may last.

The 4-3 vote clears the way for the borough to use eminent domain to claim a portion of the property next to a borough-owned parking lot on the unit block of West Broadway.

Council had called a special session to discuss the issue again after their vote in December was nullified through a veto by outgoing Mayor Steven Kopp.

Borough council President Tony Musso says he expects new Mayor Walter Hughes to sign off on the ordinance.

"I think people feel that we're taking part of this building," Musso said. "We are not taking any part of the building. We are giving a right of way to the parking lot, a public parking lot."

Several community members spoke out against the use of eminent domain, led by Scott Thompson, who owns the neighboring property, which houses the former Zarfos furniture store, with his wife.

Their company, ArthurLee LLC, successfully sued the borough, with a judge agreeing that the borough trespassed on their property while completing the parking lot.

A hearing for relief was scheduled for Wednesday, prompting Monday's special meeting. "It's an egregious misuse of eminent domain," Thompson said. "Eminent domain has a purpose and for good purpose, it can be used for the betterment of the community. In this case, they're using it to remedy their own mistakes and that is not a good use of eminent domain."

The borough is obligated to compensate the property owners, but Thompson said they will challenge the vote in court if necessary.