OSU Bulldozes Eminent Domain House

Tuesday, November 20th 2007, 12:05 pm
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- Oklahoma State University has bulldozed the final piece of property it needs for a $316 million athletic village. The destruction Tuesday afternoon of the tiny ranch house a half-block from the Stillwater campus comes after a year of legal battles over the right of the university to seize the property through eminent domain, or the taking of private land for public use.

This summer, a Payne County judge ruled the school could take the 631-square-foot house and recently refused to issue a stay pending an appeal that would have prevented OSU from removing it.

Harlan Hentges, an attorney for property owners Kevin and Joel McCloskey, is appealing the judge's decision to the state Supreme Court, a process that could take several years. If the brothers win on appeal, they could get control of the property back, despite university construction on it.

"Our position hasn't changed," Hentges said Tuesday. "There are consequences for bulldozing a house you don't have the right to bulldoze."

Hentges said he has informed the attorney for the university's Board of Regents that if they bulldoze the house, and the McCloskeys ultimately prevail on appeal, they will seek damages.

OSU spokesman Gary Shutt said all along, the university made fair offers to area property owners and reached agreements on all but the McCloskey house.

"The courts ruled in our favor every step of the way," Shutt said. "We're happy to have this behind us so we can move ahead with what will be a great addition to OSU."

The McCloskeys have maintained their home was worth more than OSU's offers of $50,000, $54,000, $59,000 and $62,000 because of its proximity to campus and the task of finding a similar property to replace it. Their final counter to OSU asked for more than $89,000 for the property.

They also claimed the university had no authority in the first place to force them to sell the land because its governing body, the Board of Regents, violates a 1944 state law that that says farmers must have a majority on the governor-appointed board.

In April, a judge ruled the brothers could not challenge the validity of the regents, which initiated proceedings to acquire the home.

The planned athletic complex includes an indoor practice complex, outdoor practice fields and a baseball stadium. It is due in large part to a $165 million gift from oilman alumnus T. Boone Pickens, the biggest donation ever made to an NCAA sports program. Eventually, OSU wants to install outdoor practice fields where the home stands.

Related Stories:

12/22/2005 OSU President Regrets Treatment Of Nearby Stillwater Residents

2/21/2006 Document Indicates OSU Planned Eminent Domain Use

7/28/2006 Regents Give OSU Authority To Use Eminent Domain For Athletic Village

12/12/2006 Stillwater Eminent Domain Court Hearing Postponed

2/5/2007 State Supreme Court Denies Request To Remove Payne County Judge

3/1/2007 Garden Planned At Stillwater Eminent Domain Site

7/12/2007 Trial Will Decide OSU’s Eminent Domain Issue

7/22/2007 Eminent Domain Trial To Begin

7/23/2007 Contested Property Trial Begins