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Suit argues public loses in Allentown property seizures

The government acquisition of private property in Allentown will only benefit private investors, according to a developer's newly filed lawsuit. The legal maneuver against the city's eminent domain actions stands to disrupt officials' plans to open a $100 million downtown hockey arena in two years.

The man who brought the suit was once a renter in the now-condemned Dime Savings & Trust building on North Seventh Street, a structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The litigant is also a developer who thinks the city has overstepped its authority where property ownership is concerned.

The owner of the historic Dime Bank earlier this year handed over the property to the Allentown Commercial and Industrial Development Authority, the agency in charge of the financial backing for the proposed arena. The property owner received $870,000.

The developer contends that the city violated eminent domain rules that frequently prohibit government officials from seizing properties that are not rundown. The ex-Dime Bank tenant claims his former home did not fit the description of being ruined.

The suit argues that, if it wants to exercise the power of eminent domain over a non-blighted property, the city must prove that its condemnation is for the good of the public. The city is under fire for funding a private, for-profit arena that the public must pay to enter.

The unbuilt arena's planned opening in 2013 could be upended if a court puts the brakes on the project. Thirty-four downtown properties were bought by Allentown officials to make way for the minor league hockey arena.

Source: The Morning Call, "Could lawsuit stall arena project?" Devon Lash, Nov. 4, 2011

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