On Tuesday, June 20th the Stafford County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to move forward with eminent domain proceedings to purchase Crow’s Nest. (Read the news story.) This follows the Board’s previous action of making a $30.5 million offer (see below under “Recent Developments”) to Stafford Lakes LP (aka K&M Properties) for a portion of the property.

Eminent domain is a legal action governments can take when a property owner is not willing to sell at a fair price. The purpose of the legal proceeding is to get a “fair market value” for the property. A panel of commissioners, who are local landowners, is appointed by the circuit court to determine just compensation for the property owner. (Read an op-ed and a letter about eminent domain and Crow’s Nest.)

The next step is for Stafford County to file a petition for condemnation in Stafford Circuit Court. The property owner then has 21 days to respond. If the experience of the Department of Transportation, which has filed numerous petitions for condemnation in Stafford Circuit Court, is a good indicator, it can take a year or longer for the petition to be settled.

It’s regrettable that this step was necessary. Stafford County made a fair offer, based on an appraisal, and apparently the property owner was unwilling to negotiate in good faith. By taking this step, the Board of Supervisors demonstrates that it is serious about protecting at least a part of Crow’s Nest, and is willing to protect taxpayers by not paying an exorbitant price for the property.