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Club wants to go to court

The Oldsmar Civic Club isn't going out without a fight.

Monday, the club filed an official response in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court to an eminent domain case filed against the club by the city last month.

The club could have let the 20-day response period lapse, which would have automatically allowed its building to go to Oldsmar _ at the city's offering price.

The city wants to build a $2.9-million library on the club's site at the southeast corner of St. Petersburg Drive and Dartmouth Avenue. The club wants to stay put.

In the club's seven-page response, it claims the city abused its power and did not fairly negotiate with the club prior to filing its eminent domain case. They also assert the city is not offering enough.

The city estimates the club's value at $71,500. But the club contends fair compensation is more like $1-million, said attorney Bryan Kutchins, who is representing the group.

Kutchins points to an agreement the club entered into with the city in 1994. As part of that deal, the city paid for $75,000 worth of renovations to the club building and agreed to maintain the property until 2044 when the city would take ownership. In turn, the club donated 3{ acres to the city where the club sits. The city's cultural arts center shares the space with the club.

Kutchins said when the city decided it wanted to break the lease agreement to make way for the new library, it defaulted on the land gift.

"You give us a home for 50 years and you get the land," said Kutchins, describing the agreement. "Now they've breeched that agreement and we should be paid for the land."

The right for municipalities to exert eminent domain comes from the Fifth Amendment, which allows private property to be taken for public use, as long as just compensation is awarded to the owner.

In the club's response, it requests a judge deny the city's claim. But if the judge sides with the city, the club wants a jury to determine compensation. The two parties go to court March 30.

Nicole Johnson can be reached at 771-4303 or njohnsonsptimes.com

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