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Former Phelps Hospital Declared Blighted Property, Town Approves Eminent Domain

Ken Anderson

A special meeting of Phelps electors last week overwhelmingly approved, 50-2, declaring the former hospital along Highway 17 as being blighted property and approving 50-2 for the town board to seek obtaining the site by eminent domain.

The property is currently in private ownership under TomCat holdings of Colin and Debra Crawford and has been an eyesore for a number of years. Apparently attempts of negotiating a purchase has not been fruitful, according to Debra Crawford who was in attendance.

“The town has not fairly negotiated with us, and this is not a fair process,” Crawford said. “The town is rushing to judgment. We’ve owned the property for four years and we’ve asked the town several times for assistance.”

Residents in attendance openly questioned “how long do we have to look at this” urging a vote to start the eminent domain legal process. Several asked about the cost to taxpayers and town chair Steve Doyen indicated the town offered $300,000 for the site and it is estimated it would cost $300,000 to tear the buildings down and clean up the site.

An environmental audit found asbestos in floor tile with an estimate of additional $7,000 to properly dispose of the tile.

Doyen said there will be legal fees with his thoughts of at least $25,000 which could be a lot more if jury trial happened.

“This is one step in a process but a step that puts a sense of urgency to eliminate this blighted property,” said Doyen.

The electors present approve both proposals of declaring the property being blighted and to start the eminent domain process, both on a 50-2 vote. The board felt the action would encourage more negotiations with the Crawford's.

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